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How to create a marketing plan
Digital marketing

How to create a marketing plan

When undertaking marketing for your small business, you will want to ensure a plan is in place to help you reach your goals and objectives. Fleshing out a comprehensive plan makes it easier to reach your marketing objectives, especially when you know what steps and actions are needed to reach them. But what are those steps and actions you can take to implement a marketing strategy for your small business?

Here’s how you can go about creating a marketing plan for your small business, including the steps you’ll need to take and questions you should consider when strategizing.

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a strategy or step by step process your small business will use to improve the company’s outreach, customer service, and revenue. This plan should contain an overview of your business’s current marketing strategies and goals, as well as future actionable steps and objectives.

Such advertising strategies take place over a period of time- typically in a monthly, quarterly or yearly time frame. A business will need to state its intentions and actionable steps to reach those goals within a specific time frame.

What to Include in a Marketing Plan?

When marketing for a small business, your plan will need to include specific items to ensure your strategy. These are the components of a marketing plan that your business will need to have, which we will discuss further:

  1. Mission statement
  2. Marketing goals and objectives
  3. Internal audit
  4. Market research
  5. Target market segmentation
  6. Customer personas
  7. Actionable steps
  8. Marketing budget
  9. Implementation timeline
  10. Review process

Take into account these marketing tips when creating a marketing plan for your small business.

Marketing Plan Steps

Before you begin the first step in your marketing planning, make sure you have the time and drive to set out your strategy. Have a notebook or binder handy that you can dedicate to your marketing ideas. Write down everything that comes to mind when reading through these steps. No action, goal, or strategy is too small, big, or outrageous.

Once completed, go back and take a closer look at your thoughts and ideas. Choose the ones you think are best or most fitting to your overall strategy. Don’t limit yourself, and you could be surprised by the ideas that flow from your mind into your pen and paper. This will help you create a foolproof marketing plan for your small business. So, let’s begin.

1. State your mission

To get your planning underway, you should first state, in the broadest of terms, what you want to accomplish. What is your primary mission for implementing marketing for your small business? This will be your mission statement.

For example, I will use social media and email marketing strategies to engage audiences and gain more customers and sales. This statement will make up your plan’s foundation, so think about your overarching objectives and how your business can best benefit from your marketing activities.

2. List business marketing goals

Let’s unpack your mission statement and see what specific goals you want your business to achieve. Do you want to boost sales by a certain percentage, hit a certain number of followers or likes on your business’s social media pages, or increase profitability by x amount within the year?

Now is the time to consider and write down the goals you wish to achieve from this strategy and plan. Be as clear and concise as possible as it is these goals that will drive your business’s plan forward. Do not just state, ‘My business will gain more Twitter follows’ or ‘I will improve my social media output.’

Instead, set out key performance indicators and metrics to measure your success by. Restate those goals, ‘my business will gain 100 more Twitter followers within a month by posting more and interacting with current followers’. Or, ‘I will improve my social media output by posting four articles every two weeks.’

Remember, when setting out your goals, make sure they are SMART goals. Such objectives must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound to succeed.

3. Complete an audit

What resources are currently available to you and your business? With your plan taking shape, now is the time to assess your business’s current marketing implementations. Complete an internal audit to determine where your business’s strengths and weaknesses lie and where your plan’s focus should take place to gain the most significant benefits.

Using SOAR or SWOT analysis can help you in this endeavour. Write out your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats when it comes to marketing, and you will be well on your way to marketing for small businesses.

4. Conduct market research

Once the internal audit is complete, you can conduct external market research to find out who your competitors are and how well you compare to them. Such an examination reveals industry-specific metrics and market analysis. See where you stand within your industry and alongside your competition to help determine where you can improve or implement your actions for the greatest success.

For in-depth competitor analysis, you will first need to identify your greatest competitors. Choose the top four or five of your most relevant competitors and dive into their content. What are their marketing strategies? What kind of online and offline presence do they have? How active are they on social media, and what type of content are they sharing? Identify their most popular posts and see how customers are engaging with them. See what works for them and implement the same strategies while adding your business’s personal touch.

You can also research the market your business works within to find out what target customers and audiences want from your products or services. Industry analysis and market segmentation can help complete this research and determine what your target market wants and needs.

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5. Determine the target audience

Using your market research findings, you can create the perfect target audience or buyer persona. A buyer persona is a marketing tool that businesses will use to profile their audiences to learn what drives consumers to buy their products and services.

It might include demographics, goals, preferred marketing channels, frustrations, and motivations.

Your small business can create customer personas for your target market. By identifying these types of people, and their wants and needs, you can more accurately predict and cover what your target customers will ask of your products or services.

6. Develop a marketing strategy

How will you go about achieving the goals you have stated? What actionable steps can you take to achieve these goals? These actions will make up your small business’s marketing strategy.

Ask yourself these questions when creating marketing campaigns:

  • Will you post a certain number of updates on your Facebook or Twitter account per day or week to gain those extra followers as part of your social media strategy?
  • Are you aiming to improve your customer service outreach by interacting with audiences online regularly?
  • Will you use organic marketing or paid marketing services?
  • Who will be in charge of this responsibility- you as the business owner, or one of your employees?
  • Can you specifically hire someone for the role of social media marketing coordinator?
  • Your business can use the market research, personas, and internal and competitor audits to help you answer these questions and identify the actionable steps required to get there.

If you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, or your marketing plan has hit a snag, don’t worry. Try breaking down the steps further. How can you bridge any gaps between your goal and your actionable steps? If your marketing plans seem too daunting to your small business, then you just haven’t broken it down enough into manageable steps.

7. Set a marketing budget

With your plan taking shape and your strategy underway, your business will need to decide how it will fund this marketing plan. The money you devote to your strategy is called your marketing and advertising budget. All companies should possess a marketing budget that will provide them with the funds necessary to market their business successfully.

Your advertising budget will depend on your cash flow and whether you have the funds for a small or large marketing campaign. Your strategy will also dictate how much money will be required to pull off your plan. Therefore, consider whether you will be using free or paid advertising services, implementing the strategy yourself or hiring a professional for the role of the social media manager when settling on a budget amount.

8. Create and stick to an implementation schedule

When do you want to achieve your goals? On what dates will you begin and end a social media campaign? Remember, for your goals to be SMART and obtainable, they must be time-bound.

Setting your business a time frame in which your marketing plans will take place can offset the ambiguity of your goals. Deadlines will keep you accountable and your plan on schedule.

Remember, online content can take up to three months to mature before seeing a significant impact on your search results and visibility. So be patient when it comes to your social media marketing. If you post great content, all it takes is a bit of time before search engines, and customers discover it!

9. Review

A hard marketing deadline also makes the last step in the marketing plan easier.

With your strategy now in place and your implementation schedule underway, give your business the time it needs to pull off your campaign successfully. Once your actionable steps are complete and you feel you have reached the goals you first set out, now is the time to review.

What’s working and what’s not? What can you change to improve your strategy? The review process is essential to a successful marketing campaign. This is the step that allows you to analyze your current standing and see the changes in your revenue or customer service that you aimed to make at the beginning of your implementation. The data you collect can help you determine how to improve and take your marketing skills further than ever before.

Keep Tabs on Your Advertising Budget with QuickBooks

To help your small business successfully implement its marketing plans and stay under budget, why not use accounting software alongside your plan to help you stay accountable.

QuickBooks Online offers businesses a comprehensive tool to help them run their business and look after their accounting needs. Track your marketing expenses and run financial reports to see how your marketing strategy affects your current finances and overall business. Try it today!

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