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Those who succeed understand the strategy of the game...

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Hello...my name is Stuart. In 25-plus years in the marketing/communications industry I have seen a lot change.

I have played a role in businesses that have seen great successes, and I have played a role in businesses that have failed, or at least failed to meet or address huge opportunities right in front of us. I think it is important for my clients to understand that I have seen and learned valuable lessons from both sets of experiences. What many people in my field do today is only preach what TO do and not place an equal emphasis on what NOT to do, or let happen.

My quick backstory is that I've always been a designer/artist at heart, so that is why I gravitated toward a study of graphic design and illustration in college. As a graphic designer I found myself creating brochures and materials for my employer's clients that looked great, but had no chance of actually producing sales/results of any substance. The look was on, but the messaging was off. It wasn't long before I started making recommendations and "how about this instead" suggestions to our clients that made an impact on the effectiveness of the promo-piece, and their bottom line. I learned a lot from these early experiences and it shapes much of how I work today.

In the present, I find myself in more of an art director role when working with designers by supplying a Tactical creative "blueprint" of what needs to go where for the client's print, web, broadcast and other collateral materials. And my role is more of a coach and "marketing architect" that pulls all of the players together into a more cohesive and focused team in order to run the plays that will get us all across the goal line, or as a conductor that gets all the musicians playing the same song...with feeling.

I am a firm believer in and teacher/facilitator of these two core principles:

1. Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan. You must start/re-start with a Strategic Plan that is inclusive of a Tactical Plan. In short, a plan/structure that defines WHERE you want to go with an outline of HOW you are going to get there. To put it another way, once you know where you are going it is much easier to pack for the trip and pull out of the driveway excited and with purpose.

2. Content is King. Your message is what makes the sale...no matter what it is you are selling. Your message forms and leaves an impression that you will either build upon, or find yourself fighting to overcome. Like it or not, It defines you. How do prospective customers rank you among the competition? Do you unknowingly come off as wishy-washy? Do you look and read as competent in your field? Doing it right can be tricky, and doing it wrong can be disastrous.

So why did I name this company "Strategic Planning Specialists"? The primary reason is because a Strategic Plan and approach should be the FIRST concern of every business; before marketing, sales, advertising, communications...anything. Anything less is placing Tactics before Strategy and that is dangerous ground to tread. Remember that approximately 80 percent of new businesses fail and I'm betting this is a primary factor in many of those failures.

Is SPS a one-man show? It can be, but that is rarely the case. In my years I have developed a comprehensive range of associates who all have specialized skill sets and play well-defined roles. If a client's need calls for their particular expertise, then I will add them to the team. In the typical agency model, the client will be charged an overhead percentage to cover the salaries and associated costs of having specialized talent on-staff - whether the client needs them or not - and may very well mark-up their hours again before the invoice goes out. In the SPS "virtual agency" model, subject matter experts are called upon when needed and their fees are not marked up one or more times. In the end, this is much more cost effective and allows the client better access to more qualified assistance.

So, that's a little of the "About Us" backstory for Strategic Planning Specialists. If you believe SPS can provide a level of assistance for your company or product, just drop an e-mail to me at your convenience and let's talk.

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Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Customer Service Training, Web Usability Studies. Cultivating loyal, Promoter customers and recruiting the best of Passives while minimizing the negative and profit-siphoning impact of Detractors and low end Passives is critical to your management of sales and ongoing success. If you don't understand much of the previous sentence, then know that you need to.

SPS will facilitate what best suits your need and coordinate results into actionable plans and measurable results.

”Stuart Arnold is a top-shelf guy and a consummate professional.  I have never worked with a more focused, enthusiastic, practical, and knowledgeable marketing expert.  His people skills, creativity, and vision for your organization make him a game-changing asset.  Without question, I give Stu my highest, unqualified recommendation.”

Eric Dobson, Ph.D. – CEO Angel Capital Group

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"Every time someone mentions Stuart's name I say, 'Stuart Arnold is THE MARKETING GURU.' I have never encountered anyone with such vast knowledge and expertise of marketing, but every aspect that touches marketing, including branding, advertising, social media, public relations and more. From concept to results...he gets the job done."

Bridgett Turner-Gambrel – general manager, Forcht Broadcasting

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"I recently attended Stuart Arnold's talk on marketing a small business. I walked away with a better and clearer understanding of what it really means to market my business. The material Stuart shares is comprehensive, but what most impressed me during the talk that night was his passion and his presentation method. He breaks down the material in such a way where a layman like myself can easily grasp and implement the concepts immediately. His method is not an esoteric regurgitation of 'pitching' a product, but rather an interactive talk between he and you. It's informative, instructional and concise.

"Anyone can pick up a 'sales method' book, and there are plenty on the market, but what makes Stuart's presentation unique, interesting, and most of all useful, is he speaks the language of people - not salesmen. In fact, Stuart is not a 'salesman' - he is a marketing mentor. Within 20 minutes of interacting at his seminar, you'll feel like you're getting an education that money can't buy. You'll not only improve your sales, you'll improve your understanding of your business."

Jeff Powell – owner, Brie's Brews

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"Stuart facilitated the effort for our company to update its strategic and marketing plans and did an excellent job for us.  We brought our Kentucky and Florida division directors and department supervisors in for several days of planning and Stuart did a great job of keeping us on track and on task. The result was a fresh strategic plan that our team was very excited about and a marketing plan that re-focused our priorities and resources on the best opportunities.  In a time where competition in the vast majority of industries is fierce, Stuart helped our company to think outside the box and to explore ways in which we can differentiate ourselves from our competition.  Stuart’s information and knowledge that he passed on to our organization has enabled us to endure and excel in an aggressive business climate as well as to shape and plan the future of our company."

Josh Branscum – Branscum Construction

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“We are most grateful for your presentation at our graduation program. It was energizing and received high marks from our Ky. Entrepreneurial Coaches Institute (KECI) participants. I thought your presentation was illuminating and very well done. The whole experience at KECI was extremely valuable for everyone, especially you...you were motivated and all about sharing.””

Ron Hustedde – Director, Kentucky Entrepreneurial Institute / University of Kentucky

Jerry Smith – Director, Delta Center for Economic Development / Arkansas State University

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“Stuart was invaluable in helping us write and edit our case studies, white papers and general content…as well as re-design the content architecture for our website.  He kept us focused on our intent and core message to better position our updated business model.  Stuart was a great help to us…and an outstanding asset.”

Jay Pittard – CEO EaseCap Financial Solutions

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"I can't understate the value that Stuart and his SPS advisors has contributed to the effort of bringing my new product to market.  He has worked side-by-side with me in dealing with the product development company, coordinated all our marketing materials, packaging, photography, writing, website content and more.  I am always in the loop on every activity...and I am confident that every aspect of my product and investment is being handled by a pro...."

J. Hunter – Bullpup Unlimited

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"Stuart's strength lies in his ability to understand the daily challenges a small business faces and then use his knowledge and experience to plan a cohesive and effective strategy. I have seen Stuart work his way through several complicated, even dire, client situations to find a path to success. He is a professional who possesses a unique combination of optimist and realist...and is one of few people I have worked with who truly understands the meaning and importance of the word "strategic."

Rex McDonald, Ph.D. – CEO Praxis Innovations

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"I listened to Stuart speak at a small business conference and what he had to say spoke directly to me and the challenges I was facing with my small electronics business.  Within one year my store was the market leader and my closest competitor wanted to sell his business to me.  Stuart is an innovative and out-of-the-box thinker...his enthusiasm for making my small business successful renewed my own excitement."

J. Collins – High Voltage Electronics

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"In his sessions, Stuart has proven very effective at engaging participants and helping them stretch their normal modes of thinking to new, productive places. I would definitely recommend him as an effective resource for any company.” 

K. Norvell – program manager, Ky. Small Business Development Council

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“I want to thank you for all the hard work you have done for the clients that I have sent your way and for the passion and professionalism that you have shown in working with entrepreneurs and start-up companies. Your understanding of the market, strategic thinking skills, and relationship building nature has been a real plus for us and it would be my pleasure to continue our working relationships. Count us as a referral source and potential customer going forward.”

B. Wilson – entrepreneur development coach

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“My company needed direction and focus....  Stuart defined and created that for us in a matter of a few days. We were very impressed with his effort and methods...his effort saved us thousands of dollars....”

K. Carroll, president - Kelaco Properties

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The foundation of any effective and impactful marketing, communications, public/customer relations effort is having a plan to a desired end.  

Maybe you are reading this because of a frustration with poor results in one or more of these areas. Are your sales lagging?  Have you lost momentum?  Is the competition eating your lunch?  Is the market just not "getting" your message?  If this is the case, then I would suggest what you need to do is re-visit the foundation, but this time from a Strategic Planning perspective. 

As the famous Lewis Carroll quotation from Alice in Wonderland goes, "If you don't know where you are going, then any road will take you there!" Too many businesses and organizations wander down the path of partial-versus-purposeful planning and unnecessarily compromise their future success. Jim Rohn, one of the world's leading motivational speakers, philosophers and entrepreneurs, is credited with what I consider to be a simple yet inspirational and foundational truth: "Part of success is preparation on purpose."

It is important to understand that I'm talking to you right where you are.  It doesn't matter the size business you own or manage, the concepts, principles and value in Strategic Planning remain true. 

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What type of organizations benefit from Strategic Planning?

Any for-profit business or non-profit org that is concerned with improved performance against competition and/or budget projections and expectations.

What are the primary benefits of Strategic Planning?

•  Establishes and defines a direction with goals, expectations and action steps within a timeline.

•  Provides a roadmap the entire org can understand, relate to and rally behind.

•  Provides the foundation for impactful assessment and/or metrics that can guide future course corrections.

•  Fosters cohesiveness between leadership, associates and board members through a common direction.

•  Allows for continuity through changes in executives, associates and board membership.

Why use an "outside" facilitator?

•  An experienced facilitator can help keep this important process from becoming little more than an extended staff meeting with little impact.

•  Facilitated sessions are based on a methodology built from successful outcomes and geared to challenge the organizational status quo and its conventional thinking.

•  Facilitation is an excellent deterrent to typical in-house pitfalls, such as the majority of the discussion being hijacked by a few dominant personalities, or a discussion topic taking much more than its allotted, or deserved, time.

Also, objective perspectives from outside the organization can often uncover or provide a new point of focus for easily overlooked synergies.  Many times enabling the client to overcome the common problem of "We can't see the forest for the trees" is the most valuable contribution I can make!

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