How to create a marketing plan for your small business

10 minutes

You've put your heart and soul into your business, so why not share it with the world? A marketing plan will help you increase your customer base and build brand awareness, giving your company a competitive edge in the modern marketplace.

In this post, we'll help you learn the basics of crafting a marketing strategy, and show you how to create a marketing plan that fits your business goals – and your budget!

What is a marketing plan?

Think of a marketing plan as a roadmap for your business. Your destination is determined by your specific business goals, and the marketing plan provides the steps you need to achieve these goals and evaluate the overall effectiveness of your marketing campaign.

Most marketing experts say that your marketing plan should include the "7 Ps" of marketing, which include:

  • Product (what you're selling)
  • Price (what it costs)
  • Promotion (your communication strategy)
  • Place (where to direct your customers)
  • People (your target market)
  • Process (how customers can buy your product)
  • Physical evidence (what the product can provide for your customers)

This can be a useful template when you're thinking through your broader marketing plan or creating your own marketing plan templates.

How to create a marketing plan template

To execute your marketing strategy, you may find it helpful to craft a marketing plan template. Every marketing campaign you design may look different, but you'll still be working through a similar process.

Keep in mind that the marketing strategy design process tends to be iterative, which means that you'll want to continually revise your marketing tactics based on your initial results.

You can ask your marketing team to help you fill out certain portions of your marketing plan template or you can invite your entire team to help you design a marketing campaign from start to finish.

You can take the following steps to generate a marketing strategy template for your business.

1. Write an executive summary

Technically, your executive summary will go at the end of your plan, but it can help you to craft it first, since you'll use this section to guide the goals and tactics outlined in your marketing plan.

Your executive summary should communicate your marketing goals succinctly and briefly describe how these goals align with your company's mission statement.

Having this executive summary in place can help keep your team on the same page regarding your marketing strategy and how it serves the broader objectives of your business.

2. Define your goals

What are your goals? What are you trying to achieve with your marketing plan? The answer to these questions will determine the scope and direction of your entire marketing plan, so make sure to be as clear as possible.

Many marketing experts recommend forming "SMART" goals. The acronym "SMART" helps you formulate marketing goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

For example, you might set a goal to double the sales of gift cards during the last quarter of the year. This goal fits the parameters of SMART goals, since it is specific, measurable, and time-bound to a specific sales season.

Setting your own SMART goals can improve your chances of success. Setting out your goals can also make it easier to devise smaller steps needed to achieve a larger vision. This process will also make it easier to communicate your marketing goals to others.

Here's a tip: Try to reduce your marketing goal to a single sentence. You should be able to articulate your marketing goals on a 3x5 index card. Otherwise, you may find yourself working with goals that are too broad or too hazy to be achievable--or useful.

3. Determine your marketing budget

How much are you willing to spend on your marketing efforts? The Small Business Association recommends that businesses set aside 7-8% of their total budget for marketing. If you're planning to introduce two campaigns a year, you may want to set aside 4% of your operating budget for your initial marketing campaign, reserving a portion of your budget for the future.

During lean periods, it's not uncommon for business owners to slash their marketing budget so they can focus on essentials. But that's often a mistake. Forbes highlights the way that marketing strategies have become essential for the small business community since these plans help distinguish smaller companies from their larger competition.

This means that marketing should never be an afterthought; instead, it should be an important part of your larger business strategy. A successful marketing plan will ideally translate into increased revenue and allow you to grow your customer base.

4. Identify your buyer persona

Next, you'll want to spend some time creating buyer personas for your business. Exactly what is a "buyer persona?" Basically, you're describing the type of customer you hope to reach. This includes the kind of behavior associated with your target market based on demographic data and overall consumer trends.

In other words, this is your chance to learn more about your target audience. You may be able to find some basic market research on the web or you can use a portion of your marketing budget to perform your own market research.

For instance, soliciting customer surveys might help you learn more about your existing customers, which can help you identify patterns that can be applied to others as well.

This will also help you identify which social networks your target audience prefers to use. If you run a store that sells video games, you're unlikely to reach a younger crowd using Facebook alone. You'll want to find marketing channels that appeal to your target audience, helping you attract more prospective customers.

What if your business appeals to multiple customer segments? You'll need to learn more about each demographic group. If their tastes and behavior are wildly different, you may need to craft individualized marketing campaigns for each demographic group or find the broadest way to spread the same message across multiple social media networks.

While a one-page marketing plan template won't have much room for a lot of data, you can always create a separate buyer persona template to further understand your target customers.

5. Analyze your competitor

As much as each person would like to think of their business is unique, there are countless others who operate in your industry. Conducting a little competitive analysis can help you see what other businesses are doing to connect with your target audience, allowing you to explore different ways to connect with your desired audience.

Naturally, the reverse is also true. Learning from the failure of your competitors can prevent you from making the same mistakes. It can also help you make adjustments to connect better with your customers.

6. Perform a SWOT analysis

In addition to looking at other companies, it's helpful to perform a "SWOT analysis" within your own company. Exactly what is a SWOT analysis? The acronym "SWOT" helps you identify your company's:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Knowing your company's strengths and weaknesses can help you understand how your business stacks up against the competition, as well as what makes your company or product unique in today's marketplace.

Don't perform this step by yourself. Ask your leadership team to participate in a SWOT analysis meeting. Some of their feedback can be painful (especially when identifying weaknesses), but their honest input will help you better understand your company.

7. Organize a marketing team

Solo entrepreneurs may have to forgo this step and instead devise a comprehensive marketing plan that they can run without the aid of a marketing department. But if you have multiple employees, you can put together a marketing team that can help you clarify your goals and execute the various responsibilities associated with your marketing campaigns.

At the very least, this allows you to delegate the tasks including your marketing plan among a whole team of employees. This can be particularly useful when your marketing strategy demands the use of multiple marketing channels or social media networks.

8. Create a digital marketing plan

In all likelihood, your marketing strategy will make extensive use of social media marketing. But many business owners find themselves wondering what social media networks to use for their marketing plan.

Your social media marketing strategy should first be influenced by the demographic data you gained while crafting your buyer persona in Step 4. This will help you to know which social media channels your target audience prefers.

Facebook, of course, remains the most popular, but many businesses have turned to some of today's other popular social media platforms to connect with a wider audience. You may consider social media networks like:

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
  • Linkedin
  • Snapchat

Remember, younger social media users tend to prefer watching videos over reading blog posts. Make this part of your social media strategy by including lots of videos on your social media pages. At a minimum, make sure your social media posts contain lots of colorful images for maximum exposure.

Your social media marketing strategy can be summarized here on your marketing plan template, but you might also want to create a separate digital marketing plan template to help you create content or devise a content strategy to manage what you post on social media, and when.

9. Design other marketing tactics

Social media marketing is cheap and relatively simple, but not every business will rely exclusively on social media exposure in 2022. Forbes points out that with so many consumers uprooted by the recent pandemic, direct mail marketing has once again proven to be effective at reaching a broad network of customers.

Your marketing plan might also include other digital marketing strategies that bridge the gap between in-person and digital interactions, too. For example, email marketing strategies can be used to drive customers to your storefront. You can sign up existing customers to receive future offers and promotions right in their inboxes.

10. Review and revise your marketing

One of the most important parts of your marketing plan template involves the way in which you plan to measure success. Earlier, we highlighted the importance of setting "SMART" goals, which helped you set specific, measurable marketing goals for your business.

This means that your marketing plan should include key performance indicators to help you stay focused on your marketing objectives. You might evaluate your marketing plan based on key components such as:

  • How much money is my business generating?
  • Am I gaining more social media followers?
  • Do I have enough customers included on my email marketing list?
  • Am I selling more of a particular product or service because of my efforts?

These key statistics can help you determine the marketing ROI (return on investment), and ensure that your marketing dollars are helping you achieve your larger business objectives.

You may discover that you're operating a less-than-effective marketing plan. When that happens, try to identify what went wrong and why. You may not be connecting with your desired audience segments or your overall marketing strategy might need some fine-tuning. These hard lessons can be used to refine your marketing goals for your future plans and ensure that your marketing activities achieve their desired outcomes.

Tips for creating an inbound marketing strategy

As you're probably aware, today's consumers are already bombarded by marketing messages from a variety of companies. With this in mind, your goal should be "inbound marketing." Inbound marketing refers to getting your customers to come to you by offering them something of value.

Think carefully about your unique selling proposition. What does your company offer that no one else can? Think about questions like:

  • How will my product make my customers feel?
  • What will my product allow customers to do?
  • How is my company changing the world?

This last point shouldn't be overlooked. Consumers are more likely to support a business that shares their social or environmental values. Communicating how you support the community or the environment can generate goodwill with your customer base and translate into marketing success.

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