You probably know that a marketing plan is a must for your business. After all, marketing is what helps you spread the word about your business and get new customers. And you can’t have successful marketing without a clearly defined and well-thought-out plan. But, if you’ve never created a marketing plan before, it can be difficult to know where to start.
To help small business owners who are serious about putting together a marketing plan, we’ve created a simplified six-step process that will help you achieve real results:
- Assess your current business situation
- Determine what you’re able to invest
- Outline your marketing goals
- Identify your target audience
- Determine your marketing tactics
- Put together an action plan that prioritizes tasks
We’ve compiled these steps into a free marketing plan template you can use to get started right now.
Let’s walk through each step in detail so you have everything you need to create a marketing plan for your small business.
Step 1: Assess your current business situation
Before you get started outlining the meat of your small business marketing plan, it’s important to take stock of where you are now so you can determine the best marketing goals and objectives.
This is the ideal time for a good ole SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
A SWOT analysis is helpful when creating your small business marketing plan because it allows you to take an objective look at your business and determine areas where you’re doing well right now and areas where you might want to improve.
For example, you might already have a good social media presence, so that would be a strength, but you’re not getting as many website visits as you think you should be, which could be an opportunity.
Once you conduct your SWOT analysis, you might also consider taking a look at your top competitors and analyzing what type of marketing they seem to be doing, where they’re doing well, and where you could stand out. For example, when you search for your business’s keywords, are PPC ads for their business showing up?
By taking a good look at your business as well as your competitors’ businesses, you can set a solid foundation for the rest of your marketing plan.
Step 2: Determine what you’re able to invest
Now that you’ve analyzed your current business situation, it’s time to figure out how much you’re going to be able to invest in a marketing plan for your small business. This will help guide and direct the remainder of your planning.
Set a budget
Marketing costs money. So you need to be realistic about what you’re able to spend to invest in a successful marketing plan.
If you’re unsure how much money you should be spending on marketing, most new businesses allocate 12-20% of their gross revenue while established businesses allocate 6-12%.
It may seem like a large chunk, but the return on your investment will be worth it with the right small business marketing plan!
And even if you have little-to-no budget to spend on marketing, any little bit can help you take your business to the next level. (Plus, there are some great free and low-cost marketing ideas you can try.)
Budget your time
How much time are you able to invest per week in marketing? It’s really easy to let your marketing slide as you focus on running your business but having a specific goal will help you keep track of how you are doing relative to your plan.
In terms of how far out you should plan, a year is not a bad place to start. If this is the first time you’ve put together a marketing plan for your business, you should understand that you may need to do some course corrections over time. Don’t completely flip your marketing plan every month, but you also don’t want to go an entire year without taking stock of what’s working and what’s not.
Step 3: Outline your marketing goals
Now it’s time to get down to business! Once you have a solid understanding of your opportunities and weaknesses as well as your budget, you can start writing your marketing goals.
Marketing goals should be SMART. Check out this chart for details on what SMART stands for:
An example of a SMART marketing goal would be something like: Increase website visits by 5% in six months.
This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specific.
When it comes to writing your marketing goals, you might consider some broad marketing objectives that many small businesses have.
Here are some common marketing goals examples:
- Building an online presence
- Generating leads (and customers)
- Increasing brand awareness
- Connecting and engaging with your audience
- Growing your online audience
You can determine which of these make the most sense for your business and then make them SMART.
Step 4: Identify your target audience
Before you can solidify your marketing plan, it’s important to know who you’re going to be targeting with your marketing. Your target audience varies based on a number of factors, including your business type, your area, and so much more.
Oftentimes, the audience you’re targeting can dictate the best marketing strategies to use as part of your small business marketing plan. For example, if your target audience is primarily Gen-Z, then print ads are probably not going to be the best way to reach them.
Here are some questions to ask to help identify your target audience:
- Who are your current customers? This includes general demographics such as age, gender, location, and more.
- Who else would you want to reach? Is there any group that you wish you were reaching but you aren’t? You can outline this group and target them with your marketing plan.
- What products/services are your customers buying from you? It’s helpful to understand what your current customers are buying from you so you can incorporate that into your marketing plan–or look for opportunities to show your other products and services a little more love.
- Why are your current customers buying from you? Understanding your customers’ motivations for buying your products and services can give you a deeper glimpse into your differentiators as well as what pain points your business can address.
- What information is influencing their purchasing decision? If you can pinpoint specific information, marketing channels, or people that are either getting them to buy from you or keeping them making a purchase from you, you can better tweak your marketing messaging and address areas for improvement (such as bad reviews!).
- How are your current customers finding you? This is a big data point to understand for your marketing plan! If you can determine how your customers are finding you and becoming a customer, you can build your marketing plan around the channels that are working best to drive leads.
- Where do your current customers spend time online? If you can understand where your customers spend time online, you can also incorporate this data into your marketing plan by investing in the channels that have the best chance of reaching them.
- What do your competitors’ customers look like? It’s important to know what the competitive landscape looks like when it comes to determining your target audience. Take a look at what your competitors’ customers look like to see how you could replicate reaching a similar audience.
Once you have your target audience defined, you can even create buyer personas to better understand who you’re targeting and why.
Step 5: Determine your marketing tactics
Now that you have your marketing goals outlined and you know who you’re targeting, it’s time to determine what will make up your small business’s marketing plan.
Take a look at each of your marketing goals and list the marketing tactics you think you would need or want to reach those.
Let’s use our example marketing goal from above. In order to increase website visits by 5% in six months, there are a number of different tactics we can use, like:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – this will help us optimize our website to get found in search engines.
- PPC – This will more immediately drive users to our website while our SEO is getting up and running.
- Facebook Ads – These will help grow our audience and drive more visitors to our site.
Once you’ve completed this exercise for each marketing goal, you can revisit the budget you set in step two to determine what’s realistic and doable–both from a time standpoint and a monetary standpoint.
This is also the point in creating your marketing plan that you may want to decide whether or not you want to outsource your marketing plan by working with a marketing partner. It may require a little more budget to outsource your marketing, but it will save you time and deliver better results in the long run.
Step 6: Put together an action plan that prioritizes tasks
Congratulations! You now have all the pieces to put together a marketing plan. The next task is to simply write down the tasks that you want to accomplish and prioritize them.
This may seem like an unnecessary step, but nothing could be further from the truth. You want to have a nice to-do list that you can reference any time you have a spare moment to work on your marketing.
You can fill out this chart in our free sample marketing plan!
Creating this prioritized list will make your marketing far more approachable, and it will make you far more likely to get started and stick with it. Once you create your list, put it in a highly visible spot for quick reference and share it with your employees and your marketing partner.
Get started with your small business marketing plan today
No matter how great your small business idea, it won’t stay alive without a solid marketing plan. Now that you’ve created yours, make sure to measure your results and adjust your plan accordingly. Your goals may shift as changes happen in your business, the economy, and your market, but your overall marketing plan should keep you on track for success and growth.
Want more planning tips? Check out these resources:
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