As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate. You have to oversee everything from accounting practices to hiring. One of the most critical components of growing your business is your marketing strategy. Developing a marketing plan allows you to identify your target audience and reach your customers. It also clearly outlines the answer to critical questions for your team, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know to boost your marketing efforts. We’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide to the things you or your marketing team need to include when crafting a plan. Lastly, we’ll give a couple of marketing plan examples you can use when designing your own marketing plan.
What is a marketing plan and why is it important?
A marketing plan is a document that outlines how you’ll introduce and deliver products to customers. It tends to highlight your business needs, detailing the steps you need to take to put yourself in the best position possible to sell your products. The document itself doesn’t need to be overly long, as it’s just one portion of your overall business plan.
But completing it will require extensive market research. A market plan is not something you should complete overnight. Investing time up front to develop a high-quality market plan will help put your company in a better position for success down the line. As Dave Lavinsky states in Forbes, “Done properly, your marketing plan will be the roadmap you follow to get unlimited customers and dramatically improve the success of your organization.”
Lavinsky also states that the right marketing plan will help you:
- Identify your target customers
- Define how you’ll reach your target customers
- Outline target retention strategies so potential customers become repeat customers
Whether you have a new product you’re looking to bring to market or are merely looking to change your current marketing campaign, taking time to develop a marketing plan is in your best interest. An effective marketing plan can help you acquire new customers and increase your market share.
Brainstorming your marketing plan
Before you begin to develop your marketing plan, you need to sit down with your marketing team and brainstorm. Below are the first things to consider when doing so.
1. Your business goals
You need to consider your business goals before writing your marketing plan. Which type of product are you focusing on? What are your marketing objectives for running this campaign? How will you measure growth? The goals you define should be objective and measurable. For instance, “Increase sales of product X” is not a worthwhile goal. But, “Increase sales of product X by 10% by the end of Q4” provides you with something tangible that you can work toward.
2. Determine why a customer would (or wouldn’t) come to you
Start by conducting a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. A SWOT analysis allows you to determine your competitive advantages and disadvantages. What are your unique selling propositions? What sets you apart?
Determining why a customer would want to come to you involves much more than merely restating your business’s mission statement. You want to clearly define the purpose behind a customer choosing you over a competitor. Is using your product or service related to social status, everyday living, convenience, or something else? You should know and understand why a customer would choose you over a competitor and why they would choose a competitor over you.
Since this is an internal discussion among team members, it’s better to be honest and upfront. That way, you can address your weaknesses head-on instead of allowing them to hinder you throughout your marketing campaign.
3. Identify your target customers
Your target customers are the people most likely to purchase your product. Take time to figure out what your ideal customer base is. Doing so involves combining both demographics and psychographics.
Demographic information includes age, gender, household income, marital status, homeownership status, and more. Your best, free resource for demographic data is the U.S. Census Bureau. The Small Business Administration’s website also offers links to a handful of online resources for demographic information that you can use as well.
Psychographics involve analyzing consumer lifestyles. You may need to conduct studies to determine the buyer personas of your target market. Psychographics involve asking customers what they think about various activities, statements, and interests. Reasons for their responses could include any number of factors, like a person’s lifestyle (e.g., healthy, active), social class, activities and hobbies, values, attitudes, and personality.
Psychographic information is a little harder to come by without a membership to an analytics organization like Nielsen or Kantar Media. Psychographic data measures audience behavior (i.e., why a customer might buy something).
4. Analyze your competition
The most critical competitors you’ll face are the ones who are directly targeting your ideal consumer. Conduct an honest assessment of your competitors and what they have to offer that you don’t. Also take some time to analyze how they might react to your business. Are they prone to discounting, aggressive advertising, or special offers? What else might they do to maintain their brand awareness and a competitive edge?
How to create a small business marketing plan
Now that you’ve completed your data collection, you need to actually formulate your marketing plan. Here are the key features to include.
1. Executive summary
The executive summary is a breakdown of everything that’s included in your marketing plan. Although the executive summary comes first, you should complete it last when you’ve finished everything else on the list.
2. Mission statement
You’ll also want to include a mission statement in your marketing plan. Although it should probably be similar, the mission statement you use for your marketing plan doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as your company’s overall mission statement. When crafting a mission statement, consider including:
- What you want to do
- Your reason for doing it
- The people you’re doing it for
3. Situation analysis
This is an overview of your company’s current state. This is where you should include information such as what you’re selling, what separates you from competitors, and your company’s best practices. The more information you can add here, the better. You’ll paint a clearer picture for the reader about what makes your company strong and what puts you at a competitive disadvantage.
Not only will you want to include information about your own company, but about other market influencers as well. This is also the place where you want to add your SWOT analysis.
4. Target audience
You’ve done all the work to understand who your target customer is, so spend time writing out a description of this target audience. It should be as descriptive as possible. Don’t forget to include any psychographic data you might have as well.
5. Marketing goals
Transfer the marketing goals that you came up with to this section. Remember, you want to make your goals measurable so that you can see results. Having goals allows you to track progress so that you can make adjustments if need be.
6. Strategies and tactics
Using your marketing goals as a blueprint, determine the strategies and tactics you’ll use to achieve them. These will include the different types of media you want to use and the various advertising or outreach tools you’ll use. This is the meat of your marketing plan. Spend time looking at your audience and determining the best way to reach them. Not every customer can be reached the same way.
You can use more than one strategy as part of an effective marketing mix. For instance, maybe your digital marketing campaign involves using social media to reach your target audience. But instead of utilizing a general, “one size fits all” strategy, you decide to use LinkedIn to reach your older, professional demographic, and Facebook or Instagram to reach college students and others in a younger demographic.
Or perhaps you’d rather a more organic approach, implementing a search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing strategy. Don’t be afraid to utilize various distribution channels when crafting your marketing plan.
7. Determine your budget
Your marketing budget will need to strike a balance between being high enough to make an impact but low enough not to wipe out your start-up fund. Gather costs for the tactics you outlined in step 4. If you have the option of working with multiple media outlets, gather quotes from a few so you can compare and contrast their services and value.
Marketing plan examples
Looking for a little more guidance regarding your marketing plan? The examples below are two of our favorites. They both give a clear indication not only of the type of information you need to include but also how thorough you should be and how you need to organize your plan.
If you’re not familiar with marketing plans, be sure to give these a read before creating your own.
A successful marketing plan can help you grow
Don’t overlook the importance of your marketing plan. If done well, your marketing plan can quickly become a rallying point for you and your employees — something to strive towards and succeed at. It can also be a way for you to focus if you ever find yourself uncertain about which direction to go. Take the time to create a marketing plan that works. You’ll be thankful you put time and effort into doing so.