Picture this. A small business owner who sells handmade jewelry wants to expand her customer base. She learns about marketing tactics like paid advertisements and social media marketing. But with her limited resources, she can’t try everything out. So, how does she make the best of her marketing budget?
As a small business owner, you might also be facing this dilemma: Out of many marketing channels and techniques, how do you choose a strategy that works best for your business?
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to waste your time and money by trying out each of them. Creating a small business marketing plan will help you pick strategies that best fit your products, target audience and business goals.
In this article, you will learn how to create a marketing plan and how it will benefit your small business.
What is a small business marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a roadmap that gives direction to your marketing activities. While creating a marketing plan, you’ll analyze your business goals, target audience and competitors to come up with the best marketing strategies.
A marketing plan also helps you allocate a marketing budget, define a time frame and set key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your marketing efforts.
Now, let’s see how to create a marketing plan for your small business.
How to create a marketing plan
Creating a marketing plan is a step-by-step process where you must consider your target market, competition, budget and business goals. Let’s explore each of these steps in more detail.
1. Determine where you stand in your marketing
If you own a small business, there’s a good chance you are already marketing your products.
While creating a marketing plan, you can build on these strategies rather than starting from scratch.
First, make a list of your marketing channels. For example, you might be using:
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Paid advertisements
- Influencer marketing
Against each marketing channel, note the marketing strategies you use. For example, you might share coupon codes with your email list or send an email when a new product arrives.
Now, for each marketing strategy, identify its cost and return on investment (ROI). You must also identify strategies that give you non-monetary ROI, like customer engagement and brand awareness.
After you have gathered this information, you can analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of your current marketing strategy.
Identify the strong points in your existing marketing strategy. You might have assets like an extensive email list or a great slogan. You might also have marketing experts on your team or an influencer who endorses your products. While creating a marketing plan, capitalize on these assets.
As a solo entrepreneur, it might be challenging to find time and resources to market your products. If you are just starting a business, you might only have a small social media following.
It’s essential to identify your limitations to create an effective marketing plan.
Your current marketing strategy could have elements that you can improve on. For example, your website might have a lot of helpful content and the potential to attract search traffic. You might post great content with social media handles but need to capitalize on them. These are your marketing opportunities.
There could be external factors that challenge the efficiency of your marketing campaign. For example, one of your competitors might be a corporation with a huge marketing budget or social media following.
The SWOT analysis of your current marketing strategy tells you which strengths to capitalize on and which opportunities to pursue. It also helps you prepare for challenges and work towards eliminating your weaknesses.
2. Perform market research
Successful marketing campaigns often use four important elements: Product, price, place and promotion. These are known as the marketing mix or the four Ps of marketing.
Market research can reveal useful information about your product and its price:
- Products with high demand
- Market segments with low competition
- The competitors’ pricing strategies
You can use this information in different ways. For example, instead of marketing all your products, you may focus on the products with high demand or low competition. If your products are priced higher than those of your competitors, you may try discount pricing.
3. Identify your target audience
When you create a marketing plan, it’s crucial to know your target audience. A marketing strategy that works for a customer group might not work for another group. So, you need to tailor your campaigns for each group.
Identifying target customer groups and creating buyer personas is an essential part of creating a marketing plan. A buyer persona 502 represents an ideal customer from a specific demographic.
Here are a few attributes to consider while defining customer personas:
- Income range
- Personal challenges
- Motivation to purchase
Let’s look at a real-world example. Heuritech, a predictive analytics company, conducted research on buyer personas. They found three buyer personas among sustainable fashion consumers:
- Slow fashion activities: Consumers who buy products manufactured with due respect to people, animals and nature
- Vintage aficionados: Consumers who like vintage pieces and spend time in thrift shops
- Hybrid adopters: Buyers who go with the latest fashion trends
A clothing brand can use these personas to customize its marketing campaigns. For example, content marketing that tells the story of a sustainable product will influence the slow fashion activities persona. Influencer marketing will work better for hybrid adopters who look out for the latest trends.
Defining customer personas like this will help you create marketing messages and choose channels that suit each group.
4. Analyze your competitors
When you create a marketing plan, you must know who you are up against. Your competitors also design strategies to attract new customers, so you need to do better than them.
First, list your competitors that sell the same or similar products and solutions. Next, you need to find answers to the following questions:
- Who are your competitors’ target audience?
- What marketing channels do your competitors use?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses in marketing?
Here are a few ways to learn about your competitors and the relative pros and cons of their marketing campaigns:
Check out their websites: Go through your competitors’ websites to understand what values they highlight. For example, they might project themselves as a sustainable brand. Read through their vision and mission statements, testimonies and customer list. Identify if you have any unique features that none of your competitors have.
Analyze their social media accounts: Browse your competition’s social media handles to understand which platforms they use the most, where they have the most followers and what kind of content they post.
Assess their SEO: Use search engine optimization (SEO) tools, like Semrush and Ahrefs, to identify the keywords your competitors target on their websites and their top-performing pages.
After completing your competitive analysis, you’ll know what sets your brand apart. In turn, this allows you to formulate your business’s unique selling proposition (USP). The USP is a short statement that highlights the unique features of your brand.
Let’s say you provide 24/7 customer support over the phone while your competitors only offer email support. This feature could be the USP that convinces someone to buy your products. While creating a marketing plan, use messages that emphasize your USP.
Competitor analysis also allows you to explore marketing channels your competitors don’t use. For example, if none of your competitors use TikTok, creating TikTok videos 502 could be a smart marketing tactic, as your videos would be the only ones on the platform targeting your audience.
5. Set your marketing goals
While creating a marketing plan, it’s essential to know what you’re hoping to achieve through your campaigns. Your overall goals may be:
- Creating brand awareness
Make sure to define these as SMART goals. “SMART” stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. For example, don’t just say, “We need to increase sales,” but say, “We need to increase sales by 10% by the end of the first quarter.”
Setting SMART goals will help you clarify which marketing strategies make the most sense to achieve your business’s objectives. If your goal is to drive immediate sales, email marketing might be better than social media marketing. Whereas, if you want to increase brand awareness, social media campaigns will probably work better.
6. Allocate the budget for your marketing
According to Gartner’s 2023 marketing survey, businesses have allocated 9.1% of their total revenue to marketing.
Your marketing budget could be higher or lower based on your revenue and business goals. However, it’s essential to include a budget in your marketing plan. It ensures that your marketing campaigns won’t take money away from crucial areas like research or manufacturing.
Your marketing budget should include the costs for:
- Hiring marketing agencies and creators
- Software tools
- Conducting and attending events
Being a small business owner, you might also need to budget your time for marketing. If you’re handling most of the operations, spending too much time on marketing could end up hurting rather than helping your business.
7. Determine marketing channels and strategies
Now that you know your target audience and competition, it’s time to choose your marketing channels and strategies. You have many offline and online marketing 429 channels to choose from, including:
- Owned channels: Business website, email and social media handles
- Paid channels: Paid advertisements, TV commercials and influencer marketing
You also don’t need to stick to one marketing channel. According to Statista research, 75% of SMBs use at least two marketing channels.
You can determine your marketing channels and strategies based on the two Ps of marketing: Place and promotion.
The best place to meet your target audience is to go where they go. For example, if your target audience is business executives who hang out on LinkedIn, it’s best to run LinkedIn advertisements. If your target audience is teenagers who spend their time on Instagram, you must focus on creating Instagram posts and reels.
The places needn’t always be online. If you’re a tech start-up and your potential customers buy software during tech shows, putting up a stall will help.
Place determines which marketing channels you should use, and promotion determines the marketing strategy. Let’s say you sell cosmetics and get a lot of engagement on your Instagram reels. In that case, it might be a good idea to do a makeover reel with an influencer to engage your target audience.
If you get a lot of conversion from the call-to-action buttons in your blog articles, it makes sense to invest in search engine optimization and paid advertising so that more people will see the article.
8. Create a marketing timeline
After choosing marketing channels and strategies, it’s time to create a timeline for your marketing campaigns. You may create a week-by-week plan for each marketing campaign that includes:
- The marketing task
- Start and competition dates
- Marketing goals
Creating a marketing timeline and sticking to it will allow you to plan campaigns, improve coordination among marketing teams and achieve marketing goals in a timely manner.
9. Define key performance indicators (KPIs)
It’s not enough to create and execute a great marketing plan; you also need to measure how your marketing campaigns are performing. KPIs are metrics that measure the success of your marketing campaigns.
KPIs can be monetary or non-monetary:
- Total revenue generated
- Number of sales in a period
- Customer acquisition cost
- Website traffic
- Customer retention rate
- Number of social media followers
For each marketing campaign, you should define KPIs based on the campaign type and your marketing goals. For example, the KPI for social media marketing could be the number of new followers you want to have by the end of the month.
10. Measure and adjust the marketing plan
Marketing is an ongoing process, and you must routinely review your campaigns. You could run weekly or monthly reviews to see if you’re on track.
So, how do you assess the performance of your marketing campaigns? You need to measure the value of the KPIs of your campaigns. For example, you could review:
- Search engine ranking and website traffic
- Social media following and engagement
- Sales and conversions
You can also use tools like Google Analytics or social media analytics tools to measure the performance of your marketing campaigns.
If your campaigns don’t hit the target, you might need to change your strategy. For instance, if your Instagram posts aren’t generating engagement, you could switch to reels, as they drive twice the impression rate that Instagram posts and stories do.
Benefits of a small business marketing plan
A marketing plan will help you make well-informed decisions rather than trying random marketing tactics. But that’s not the only benefit it has to offer. Let’s take a look at some of the additional benefits of crafting a small business marketing plan down below.
Provides a marketing roadmap
A marketing plan is an actionable roadmap based on your goals and audience. It gives you a clear direction and timeline to execute your marketing strategies. It also ensures everyone involved in the marketing campaign is on the same page.
Controls marketing expenditure
A small business often has limited resources, so it’s crucial to divide these resources optimally among business operations. If you use multiple marketing channels and strategies, you might inadvertently end up overspending.
A marketing plan comes with a budget, forcing you to keep your marketing expenses in check. It also helps ensure your marketing doesn’t eat into crucial operations like research, manufacturing and sales.
Offers business insights
When you do market research as a part of your marketing plan preparation, you end up with a better understanding of your business. For example, marketing research gives you clearer insights into the following:
- Target audience
- Market trends
- New market segments
Final thoughts: How to create a marketing plan: A 10-step guide
A small business marketing plan is a roadmap that allows you to create marketing campaigns that suit your business goals and target audience.
A well-defined marketing plan helps you execute your marketing campaigns on time. It also allows you to measure the performance of your marketing plan. Lastly, a marketing plan is essential to ensuring your business gets the maximum ROI for its marketing initiatives.
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Small business marketing plan: FAQs
A marketing plan is a roadmap that helps guide your marketing efforts. It lays out the strategies, timeline, goals and success metrics for your marketing campaigns.
Creating a small business marketing plan provides numerous benefits, including:
● Helping you develop a better understanding of your marketing campaigns
● Planning and controlling your marketing spending
● Offering insights into business opportunities, such as new market segments and trends
You can create a simple marketing plan by defining a timeline for your marketing activities. For each activity, set goals, allocate a budget and measure the activity’s performance.
Product, price, place and promotion are the four Ps of marketing. They help you create a marketing plan that’s customized for your business goals and target audience.