3.3. Write the Plan in the Right Language


Diagram 3.3: Information feeds thinking to produce plans


Your plan (mission, vision, policies) should be written down and then put somewhere where everyone, particularly you, can see them. Stick a copy to your fridge so you look at what you have planned to do with your business every time you open the fridge door. Stick it on your office wall, in the corridor, in your other offices, the warehouse, inside the van, wherever it will be seen by you and your team. It will then be a constant reminder of what you are aiming to achieve.


Making your plan available to your team and customers demonstrates bravery; you’re telling everyone that you have committed to something. If you respond well to strong motivation, then this is one way to do it. When someone reads your commitments and then asks how it’s going, being able to explain what you have done, how far along the path you’ve travelled and what you plan to do next is a very powerful and satisfying feeling. But beware: answering the question with a shrug and something like ‘Oh, well, we’re not doing that anymore!’ tells everyone concerned that you are not one of life’s great achievers. Success comes to those who strive, but to succeed you first have to survive and that’s harder.


Everyone’s busy, but your job as a manager is to spend as much of your time as possible looking up from what you’re doing, up from the desk, to see where you are going. Look upwards and forwards. In this way, you’ll be in a good position to steer your team, your project, your business. Occasional glances inward and downwards are okay, as long as you remember that your people will be spending a lot of their time doing this and someone better be steering the thing.


One of your main planning tasks is to decide to whom you want to sell your products or services, what you want to tell them and how to go about getting that message to them. This is known as ‘Market—Message—Media’. Identification of your message recipient is the crucial first step; if you don’t do that, then you run the risk of sending the wrong message to the wrong people at the wrong time and that is a waste of your time and resources. Not a good way to improve your business’s chance of survival.


Why is Market—Message—Media important? Well, your customers are the ones who will be paying (indirectly) for everything in your business; they pay the wages for you and your people, they pay the rent, they pay the interest on your business loan, they pay for the marketing campaigns that you run, etc. In short, by buying your goods and services, your customers pay for everything that your business has to pay for, so don’t forget how important they are.


Let’s explore the Market—Message—Media concept in a little more detail. The market represents the people or organisations that you want to buy your goods and services. There are lots of questions to which you need to provide answers, but we’re just going to look at a few as examples.


Table 3.5 lists the kinds of things that you need to be thinking about regarding your market. Acquiring the answers to these questions for your own business can be difficult, but remember, you have many sources of information, both internal and external. Ask for help if you need it and ask your potential customers directly if this is possible. Don’t try and guess what your customers want, ask them.


Who are your potential customers? Do you intend to sell to individual people, or identified groups, or organisations, or all of the above?
What problem do they have that you can solve? The ‘problem’ represents your potential customer’s needs or requirements, and your ‘solution’ is your goods and services. For example, if the problem is hunger, then the solution is food. If the problem is going to court, then the solution is legal representation.
Where are they located? This concerns the physical location of your potential customers. Are they geographically close or located anywhere on Earth?
When do they need your goods and services? This concerns the temporal status of your potential customers. Do they require your goods and services daily, annually, only on special occasions?

Table 3.5: How to determine the market for your goods and services


Download a template here

Download your template here

When you have filled in your template, click on the briefcase to store the document and add any notes about it in your notebook.

The next step in the Market—Message—Media process is creating the message. Identification of your market, which we did above, is a vital first step as it will inform your decisions regarding what message you wish to send. Let’s assume that you’ve established to whom you wish to send your message, we can now explore how that message is formed. The message itself, which is in essence ‘Look what I’ve got? Would you like to buy it?’ is that which you want to tell your potential customers about your goods and services. Again, there are lots of questions that you could ask, and we’ll look at a small selection here.


What do you want to say and how much information do you want to give? What is good and/or unique about your goods and services? Is it cheap, fast, high —quality, reliable, usable straight out of the box, etc.?
What language should be used? Obvious one here: don’t use English if marketing in France, for example. Demonstrate your respect for your potential customers by communicating with them in their own language.
What tone of voice is required? Are your goods and services best represented by using an authoritative tone or a friendly tone? For example, authoritative might be good for legal services, but a friendly tone would be better if selling sandwiches.
Should you frighten or reassure? Are your goods and services best represented by trying to frighten people into buying or reassuring them that it’ll help them sleep at night? Insurance, for example, can be sold both ways.

Table 3.6: How to determine the message for your goods and services


Download a template here

Download your template here

When you have filled in your template, click on the briefcase to store the document and add any notes about it in your notebook.

Very few products are truly unique, so look to see what your competitors are doing. Do you want to do the same? Do you want to do something completely different? As before, if acquiring the necessary information proves difficult, then ask your potential customers directly. Try different messages and see which one produces the best response. Refine your message depending upon the feedback that you receive.


The final step in the Market—Message—Media process is deciding which media (singular medium) you are going to use to deliver your message to your target market. This is important because even if you have the greatest product on Earth, if no—one knows about it, then your business won’t survive. The media are the specific routes that you are planning to use to get your message to your potential customers.  Table 3.7 offers some guidance on the kinds of things that you need to be thinking about.


Should you use words and/or pictures? A message using words and pictures must be seen to be effective. Have you devised a logo like Shell’s red and yellow shell or Apple’s rainbow apple? This message can use any visual medium, e.g., billboards, newspaper adverts, television, tablets, pcs, etc.
Should you use sound? A message using sounds must be heard. Have you devised a strapline, like Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ or Coca Cola’s ‘It’s the Real Thing‘? This message can use any aural medium, e.g., radio, phone, podcast, etc.
When should the message be transmitted? Seasonal goods and services will be most successful if advertised just before and during the applicable season.
How often should the message be transmitted? Being told daily that you should drink more is an effective strategy for bottled drinks companies. This strategy probably wouldn’t work as well for undertakers.

Table 3.7: How to determine which media to use for transmission of your message


Download a template here

Download your template here
When you have filled in your template, click on the briefcase to store the document and add any notes about it in your notebook.

By thinking through this Market—Message—Media process, you’ll identify exactly who you are trying to sell what to, and how. The plan that you develop will allow you to target the right market in the right way at the right time, increasing your business’s chances of survival during the early years as you work to establish a presence in your market and loyalty in your customers.


In this chapter we’ve looked at how it’s important to think through your ideas before leaping straight into implementing them. The fuel that we use for thinking is information and that can come from both inside and outside of your business (see Chapter 6: Reading Your Dashboard Correctly). Regardless of from where the information comes though, the better the quality of that information, the better will be the outcome of your thinking, which is a plan.


In essence, by thinking, you convert information into ideas, which you can capture in a plan. The plan provides you with a vehicle to marshal your ideas in a way that can then be communicated to those who are going to implement them: otherwise known as your team. Without a plan, your ideas stay in your head and your business with either go nowhere or will move very slowly. As information fuels your thinking, your plan fuels your implementation, and we’ll look at that in the next chapter.

Before that, record your thoughts in your notebook and upload your plan to your briefcase below