An Easy Way to Start Strategic Planning


 Strategic Planning can be a difficult but necessary process for companies to complete.  Developing a strategy takes time and resources. So why do you need a strategic plan?

  • To set your company up for success by aligning priorities
  • To establish a direction
  • To sharpen your companies focus
  • To create a pathway toward breakthrough success

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations and ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals in response to an ever changing environment. Strategic planning focuses on the future and helps to shape and guide what an organization is, who it serves, what it does and why it does it.   

What is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan is a document used to communicate the organizations goals, the actions needed to achieve those goals and all of the other critical elements developed during the planning process.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to explain strategic planning is by using a simple analogy. The following table illustrates a comparison between strategic planning to planning a vacation to Paris. 

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A Quick Reference Guide to Making Marketing Planning Simple

People often underestimate the power of marketing. Think of it this way, would you take a road trip without a map? You need a well thought-out plan for your business to succeed.   I have written hundreds of marketing plans. When I ask my clients what’s stopping them, the # 1 response is, they are intimated by the process or don’t know where to begin.  Here is a simple outline I hope will take the pain out of marketing planning.  

Here are some basic down and dirty elements of a marketing plan:

If you are interested in discussing or developing a marketing plan contact Jodi Cross at CNMI. Jodi may be reached at or visit for more great marketing ideas.  

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High Performance Public Relations: Getting the most out of your PR Agency

Public Relations can be hard to measure, expensive to maintain and difficult to sustain. So how do you select the right agency for your business objectives and keep the stories coming? Public Relations deals with intangibles such as ideas and words. Those ideas come to life through articles, influence spheres on social media, blogs, broadcast media and digital information streams. A well-orchestrated Public Relations campaign can be great for your image and enhance your overall marketing efforts.

Selecting the Right Firm

When selecting a firm think in terms of a partner. Do your research. Does the firm have a good reputation? Do they understand your business? Do they have other clients in the same category? Ask a few editors to recommend a firm. If you have a PR firm in mind, ask the editors for their opinion. Believe me, they won’t be shy about sharing their feedback with you. Before you make your final decision, ask to meet the team. I remember being very impressed with the senior partner who pitched us but when it came down to meeting the account executives they were very inexperienced and new to the firm. Delve a little deeper before you judge and find out if the account person has been on your side or the editors’ side of the business. If you see new faces to frequently and your account executive changes every year, consider billing your firm for training fees. Keep in mind, the right firm will be excited about your business and be thrilled to work with you.

You found the perfect firm, now what? You have your perfect match and you’re ready to go.

• Be sure to provide a comprehensive background on your company. Include your marketing objectives, key initiatives, business mix and target audience demographics to your firm. The more they know the quicker they can start to conceptualize ideas.

• Manage the process. Feed them good ideas, stay in contact and set up regular reporting and meeting schedules. Don’t over emphasize status updates. Monthly reports, bi-weekly calls and quarterly strategy sessions are good benchmarks. Don’t waste precious time on updates the focus should be on outreach efforts.

• Ask for candid feedback. If you firm tells you it isn’t newsworthy count that as a good sign. You don’t want to be wasting time on idea’s that won’t get any traction.

• Monitor results. Don’t confuse round up story with feature stories. Is your firm getting you key placements with your defined target audiences? Snooki’s blog may appear in the monthly round up report but is that what your customer cares about? Provide a dedicated PR phone number for placements so you can see tangible results, give the PR agency unique URLs to go with specific packages and monitor your analytics for results and social media for engagement.

• Regroup, repurpose and review. Check to make sure you are communicating efficiently and effectively. Communication is a two-way street. If you haven’t received any ideas or suggestions from your PR firm in a few weeks, find out why. Is your account executive able to repurpose stories for multiple use? They should be able to pitch key angles to horizontal, regional and international publications. Do they post on social media on a regular basis to get more spin on key placements? Once you have a long term relationship established review expectations, establish new goals and recap wins. If you have invested $50,000-$75,000 in PR and haven’t had a front page cover story, ask why.

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Planning Overtakes Procrastination

Planning Overtakes Procastination

By: Jodi Cross

Check Mate! I have declared war on procrastination! The piles have been building for months and my “to do” lists have a list of their own but nothing seems to get done. The key to ending the madness is planning.

Start by organizing your to-do lists and make priorities:

Make a list and write items down in categories

  • Breaking things into Personal or Professional action items


Think of issues as:

  • Critical-these are things that must be done in an urgent time frame or their will be consequences.
  • Important-these items are action that must be taken but there are not   urgent consequence.

Layout tasks on your actual calendar

  • Schedule action items into small tasks.
  • Set deadlines and stick to them.

Avoid getting caught in the perfect trap 

  • Perfectionists can be the biggest procrastinators of all, it is part of their winning formula. Instead focus on progress.

Minimize Interruptions and distractions

  • Set a time to get projects done. Check your emails during certain windows during your day to avoid distractions.
  • Compartmentalize work flow and return calls later. Stays focused on projects and see them through. Once a task is completed check your email list and return your calls during set times throughout the day. This will make your time more productive.

Build in rewards

  • Think about big and small rewards you can give yourself if you finish a project.
  • Use positive, pleasurable outcomes to motivate you to complete a project.
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Does Discounting Hurt Your Image?

Does Discounting Hurt Your Image?

By: Jodi Cross

With all the Groupon’s, Living Social’s, Coupon Clippers and web sites offering discounts, how do you know what is right for your business? More importantly, does discounting build loyal customers or hurt your image? The answer isn’t as simple as it may seem.

Discounting drives immediate sales transactions and more visits by loyal customers at a lower rate but it can also hurt your profit and reduce your margins. When dealing with mass marketing sites like Groupon and other sites, they take their cut on top of your offer, which doesn’t leave much of a profit.

There is an upside to discounting, immediate traffic, but you want to avoid the discount driven bargain hunters who will never become your loyal customers. Many customers wait for the discount to engage with your product or service. In essence you are training them to wait for a sale. Think about the retailer Macy’s, they constantly have sales and send out coupon. It has gotten to the point where I won’t even shop at Macy’s without a coupon.

So, how can you convert the discount driven customer to a loyal customer? By getting to know them and winning their business through service and personal attention. Every business should understand your customer base and buying habits. Find out how often the same customers use your product or services? Determine if they are new customers, one-time discount users, frequent or heavy repeat customers.

Use social media and review sites to log comments and see who influencers are. For example on Foursquare there are communities with mayors who are influencers. As a business owner you should know who the influencers are and be working your business cycle to convert “First Time” visitors into regular users. Here are some rules of the road that can help avoid the pitfalls of discounting and help you build loyal customers.

If you are going to run a mass marketing promotion make it a short-term promotion, no longer than six to eight weeks then give it a rest for a few weeks. During that time analyze what your business trends and your bottom line profit.  Did you see a short term lift or did it hurt your bottom line? Did you see the type of clientele from the promotion that would fit your demographic profile and did you convert any of them to loyal customers?

Think like a “Mom & Pop” business. The one’s that remember how you like your coffee or how your shirts need to be pressed.   Build your in-house database of customers, gather birthdays, anniversaries, note their “likes and dislikes.” Create a one-on-one relationship with your customer.

Here are some tips to avoid discounting your brand image if you are planning on doing some special offers this summer.

  • Make sure all promotions have a limited time period to run with an expiration date-6-8 weeks. This creates urgency. Then analyze the results.
  • Disguise your discount with a theme or wrap it in a special event like; Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day specials.
  • Use discounts that support your brand and build your internal database.
  • Use bundling as a way of disguising the discount. Offer a “Tour of Italy” and bundle some spa services that include grape treatments and a glass of wine to entice trial.
  • Look into partnerships as a way to get a discount out to a select group of customers. Friends and Family discounts are very popular during off peak times.

Monitor your customer’s patterns; keep on top of review sites and social media to engage them. If you make your customers happy by providing good service they will tell others and you won’t have to discount on an ongoing basis.

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant and freelance writer, she may be reached at

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What’s In A Name?


Whether naming a person or a product the power of naming has been immortalized for centuries in the bible, through poetry and in rites of passage. Choosing the appropriate name is vitally important, nothing is used more than a name. Take my name for example, in Hebrew Jodi translates to bright, lively and social. Of course there was no way of knowing this when my parents named me but I would say my name does suit me. In some cultures they have a naming ceremony after a baby is born. Naming is taken so seriously in Senegal for example, that they wait a week to observe the baby’s characteristics, temperament and look at the shape of any birthmarks to determine the best name for the child.

Selecting a name plays a critical role in influencing buying decisions of products as well. A great name can enhance a company’s brand appeal, while a poor name can weaken an otherwise excellent brand. When it comes to names, brands only get one chance to make a good first impression. The name must capsulate the features and benefits of a product in a way that the consumers can relate to and understand.

At CNMI, when we develop a new name for our clients, we start with an idea generation session. As we go through our process we consider both internal and external criteria along with aspirational and symbolic qualities. 


  • Ownership
  • Personality
  • Distinction
  • Reputation
  • Differentiation
  • Retention
  • Positioning
  • Share of mind


  • Company self-awareness
  • Culture
  • Alignment
  • Cohesion
  • Individualization
  • Relationship
  • Bonding 

When determining a naming protocol, companies need to examine their target audience and key drivers, as well as how well the name resonates in tone and personality. Once this is done, consider how the name might be abbreviated and look at abstract uses. For example, Chevrolet employees are responsible for calling their vehicles Chevy. At first, management forbid the abbreviated but now it is consider a more modern way to describe their brand. People and companies spend thousands of dollars and multiple hours on the process of naming. Apparently Shakespeare was wrong when he wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” If a rose had been called a Monkshood instead, which means deadly foe, would we love it just the same?

For assistance with naming or marketing projects contact Jodi Cross at

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