5 Steps for Creating a Small Business Marketing Plan

Proof of the importance of marketing for your small business is in the statistics. The average return on investment (ROI) for email marketing is $36 for every $1 spent. Beyond ROI, marketing helps you connect with your audience, with 72% of marketers stating that content marketing increases engagement.  

The opportunity to interact with your audience and substantially boost your bottom line is only a marketing plan away—and developing a plan for your small business isn’t as difficult as you may think. Here’s what you need to do. 

Consider your business

The first thing you have to do is think about your specific business. Consider these questions:  

  • What goals do you have for your business in the short term and the long term?  
  • Are you focused on providing one specialized product or service or will you be expanding and diversifying your offering on a regular basis? 
  • Is the focus of this marketing plan more about highlighting the products or services you offer or about establishing a new identity for your company (i.e. a rebrand)?  

Answering these questions will help you determine an overarching goal for this particular marketing plan, which the following steps will tie back to.  

Understand your customers

To carry out an effective marketing plan, you have to know who your customers are. Many business owners skip this step, thinking research comes at too high a cost. However, it’s almost a certainty that bypassing this measure will result in marketing dollars lost. After all, you can only effectively market your business’s ability to fulfill your customers’ needs if you first understand who they are and what they’re looking for.   

There are various ways—all at different price points—that you can learn about your target market, from sending out strategic email blasts with surveys to hiring a third-party marketing firm to conduct an analysis. Once you have a strong grasp of your target market, you can start to project growth opportunities and get started on the next step in the process—examining the competition.  

Check out the competition

As a small business owner, you want to provide consumers with the highest quality products and customer service. Oftentimes, so do your direct competitors. That’s why competitive analysis is the next crucial step in the development of a marketing plan.  

During this stage, you want to look at the product features and benefits your competitors offer. See where their strengths lie—and their weaknesses—and examine your own to see how you can position yourself uniquely in the marketplace. 

Whether it’s your unique speed, excellent service, or years in the industry, the key here is to establish what helps you stand out against the competition so that you can create a marketing plan that strikes a special chord with customers—and which doesn’t get lost in a sea of similar messaging. 

Create a budget

This next step is going to vary based on your business and your specific goals. As an example, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that 7% to 8% of revenue be allocated to your marketing budget if your current revenues are less than $5 million. This overall budget could include everything from the cost of new hires and contract workers to the different marketing mediums your business will be using (like sponsored digital ads, radio or TV spots, and more).

Since you’re setting up a budget for your overall marketing plan, it’s important to consider as many factors as possible in this planning stage so that you’re not hit with surprises later on, which could have a negative impact on your finances.

Finalize your marketing plan and start strategizing

With your research complete, you can lay out each element of your overall plan and start creating strategies for achieving your goals. What’s the difference between a marketing strategy and a plan? Plans are devised for accomplishing a larger mission (i.e. driving sales for a brand-new service), whereas strategies are aimed at individual items that contribute to the overall goal (i.e. increasing credibility in your industry in order to impact sales of your new service).

When it comes to developing strategies that could positively impact your marketing plan, it’s important to consider the various options at your disposal. One strategy could be centered around text email, while another could tie in audio and video. Email is widely regarded as the most important and effective marketing tool, with significant ROI and a low cost. However, depending on your business and your customers, you may also consider:  

  • Google Ads, which has an average revenue of $2 for every $1 spent 
  • Blogs, which make businesses 13 times more likely to experience a positive ROI 
  • Social media, on which users now spend an average of 95 minutes each day

Whatever your approach, you want to make sure to gauge its effectiveness. Take a close look at each marketing method you’re leveraging. If one is proving particularly effective, keep using it. If another isn’t delivering the results you were hoping for, try something else. 

One of the most important parts of creating a marketing plan is seeing what works — and what doesn’t — and then making adjustments in order to achieve your goals. Keep testing and tinkering to see what works best for you and your business, and you’ll reap the benefits. 

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