Practical Small Business Advice: How To Create a Marketing Plan

You’ve got your small business up and running. Maybe you even have your website set up. But what’s next?

How do you get your product to your customers? And how should you invest your time?

You need a marketing plan for small business to answer those questions. If you haven’t developed a marketing plan yet, fear not. 

This guide outlines everything you need in your marketing plan and how you can turn your dream into action items and generate business growth.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How a marketing plan helps your business
  • The components of a marketing plan for a small business
  • How to implement marketing strategies for small business owners

Why You Need a Marketing Plan for Small Business

Running a business without a marketing plan is like getting in an Uber without a destination. 

You need to know where you want to go and choose a strategy that’ll get you there. That’s where your marketing plan comes in.

Although it’s tempting to think of marketing as social media posts and ad buys, there’s much more to it. 

A marketing plan sets the vision for your business over a period of time and breaks it down into business objectives, strategies, and tactics. Your plan will typically define your strategy for the next month, quarter, or year.

When you create a marketing plan, start with the big picture vision you have for your business. Then, break your high-level view into smaller goals and decide what tasks you need to achieve your goals.

Components of a Marketing Plan

1. Market Research

2. Target Market

3. Product

4. Competitive Analysis

5. Positioning/Unique Selling Proposition

6. Strategy

7. Budget

8. Key Performance Indicators

1. Market Research

Every effective marketing plan begins with research. Market research (also known as industry research) is the process of analyzing market conditions and current products to help you find business opportunities and discover your target audience.

If you craft a startup marketing plan, you may discover an unmet need or want in your industry, which then gives you a product idea. 

Otherwise, you can use research to find new marketing opportunities for your existing business. 

Market research requires you to answer questions about potential opportunities, such as:

  • What is the size of our customer base?
  • Based on trends, is our customer base growing or shrinking?
  • What is our current share of the market?
  • What share of the market do we think we can take?
  • Are there unmet needs/missed opportunities in the market?

There are two types of market research: primary and secondary

Primary research includes all research that you conduct yourself, such as interviews and focus groups. Secondary research refers to research that has been done by someone else, including industry reports and studies.

When you study your products and customer base, primary research is beneficial. On the other hand, secondary research can provide valuable information about your competition and larger industry trends.

2. Goals and Objectives

After you’ve identified an opportunity in the market, you need to set the goals for your marketing plan for small business.

A goal is a more general statement, such as, “I want to increase sales.” An objective, on the other hand, adds concrete details to your goal, such as, “I want to increase sales of women’s running shoes by 10% next quarter.”

Begin with your business goals and objectives, and then use those to create your marketing objectives. 

Common business goals include:

  • Becoming the market leader in your industry 
  • Increasing profit 
  • Decreasing costs 

Marketing goals support your business goals. 

For example, if you want to become the market leader in your industry, your goals might be to increase your social media following and generate more sales from your website.

3. Target Market 

As a small business, you have a defined group of ideal potential customers known as your target market. Additionally, every marketing plan for a small business requires a defined target market. 

Your customer base demographics and your marketing plan target audience don’t need to be the same. 

Let’s say, for example, you’re a business that sells athletic shoes for men and women. 

You may find that there’s an opportunity in the market because more women have started running. In that case, the target market for your marketing plan might only be females.

Pro tip: When you select a target market, there are two strategies — sell to a demographic already in your customer base or expand your customer base to include a new demographic group.

4. Product

Once you’ve established the target market in your marketing plan for small business, it’s time to focus on your product. 

First, specify which products this marketing plan aims to sell. Once you have a specific product set down, define how your product relates to your target market. 

Do you need to make changes to the product, or can you sell it to your target market as is?

Pro tip: When you select a product, there are two strategies — sell a current product with little or no modifications or introduce a new product or product line. 

5. Competitive Analysis

Now you have your target market and your product. It’s time to see how you measure up against your competition. 

To figure out who your competition is, ask yourself, “What are all the possible alternatives to my product that someone in my target market would consider?”

Remember, your competition includes the solutions that your target market currently uses. 

After you define your competition, you need to analyze how your competitors perform relative to the target market you specified earlier.

6. Positioning/Unique Selling Proposition

The positioning step is where you define your competitive advantage. After you compare yourself to the competition, you need to summarize your advantage in a statement known as your unique selling proposition (USP). 

A unique selling proposition (also known as a value proposition) outlines what you offer your target market and how you’re better or different from the competition.

Remember, always consider your USP from the perspective of your target audience. Your advantage is only competitive if it’s something that your ideal customer base cares about.

And finally, USPs are not long documents. Instead, they’re brief statements that summarize your niche among your competition.

7. Strategy

Now that you understand what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, and how you compare to the competition, it’s time to talk strategy. 

The strategy portion of your marketing plan for small business includes the tactics you’ll use to achieve your business objectives. 

There are four primary areas of marketing strategy, known as the marketing mix (or the four Ps of marketing). 

The four Ps of marketing are product, price, promotion, and place. Each area has its tactics and should be covered in your marketing strategy. 

Here are some examples of strategies for each area of the marketing mix.

  • Product: Changing packaging, releasing limited edition products, adding services to your products
  • Price: Offering a discount, implementing a credit policy
  • Promotion: Advertising, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing
  • Place: Adding a sales channel, partnering with a distributor

You don’t need to have a tactic for each part of your marketing mix. If you don’t plan to offer discounts or use any price tactics, just note it in your strategy.

8. Budget

As a business owner, you don’t have an unlimited amount of resources. You need to review your goals and objectives and determine a budget for your marketing strategy. 

In most cases, you should generate a positive return on investment (ROI). Put simply, you need to make more money than you spend. 

If your goal is to increase revenue by 20% next quarter, your quarterly marketing budget should be less than the additional income. 

Consider any additional costs in terms of sales efforts or production when you create your marketing budget. 

9. Key Performance Indicators

Finally, before you put your plan into action, you need to list your key performance indicators. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the metrics that you’ll measure to determine the success of your marketing plan. 

Like your budget, your performance indicators depend on your goal and your tactics. 

Let’s say your goal is to increase sales, and you plan to achieve that by improving your website’s conversion rate. Your KPIs are sales volume and website conversion rate. 

You can also measure related metrics like website traffic and the average value of each sale to help you understand the different levers that affect your bottom line.

Remember to take a baseline measurement of all of your KPIs before you begin execution. 

Tips for Putting Your Marketing Plan for Small Business Into Action

After you have your marketing plan, all that’s left is to put it into action. 

We recommend you share your marketing plan for small business growth with the entire team. 

You have a higher chance of success when everyone understands how their work supports significant business goals. 

Once everyone is on board, create a central execution calendar with clear deadlines. It’s helpful to designate a project manager whose job is to keep everyone on schedule. 

If you have a marketing plan that spans several months, it’s best to schedule a few progress check meetings. 

You can use a status update meeting to see if you’re on track with results and budget. If you discover that your results are not aligned with your predictions, you can use a status meeting to rethink strategy and make necessary adjustments. 

And finally, after your marketing plan has been fully executed, you should schedule a review meeting to review performance, measure success, and discuss lessons learned.

Marketing is much more than your website or your Facebook and Instagram posts. It’s the map that tells you where your business is going and how to get there. 

With a proper marketing plan for small business, you can identify jobs to be done and prioritize your time.

 To learn more about marketing and design services that support your small business goals, explore Bluehost professional services today.

Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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