You’ve created a business plan for your small business, in which you laid out your vision, strengths, resources and goals for the future. Now it’s time to think about a marketing plan. The two documents will work together in helping you realize your small business’s potential. In fact, your marketing plan will build on the goals you’ve already laid out in your business plan.
Creating a marketing plan doesn’t have to be hard. The fact that a large and established business’s marketing plan may run to hundreds of pages shouldn’t intimidate you. Your first marketing plan could fill a couple of pages in an old notebook and still be effective for your marketing efforts. The saying that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” applies to every successful venture—yours included.
Let’s look at some of the topics your marketing plan should cover. Keep in mind that not every marketing plan is the same, and that some will emphasize one thing over another depending on the strength and needs of your small business. Nevertheless, there are certain fundamentals that will always apply.
What Can a Marketing Plan Do For Small Businesses?
Any marketing plan for a small business has many components. And since small business marketing has entered the digital era, there are many effective ways to market your business including:
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Digital marketing (QR codes)
- Content marketing
If you want your consumers to know about your products, services, or business in general, you need a marketing plan to help you do so. A marketing mix spreads brand awareness to your target market with the purpose of increasing your customers/users. Small business owners who create marketing campaigns have a strong idea of who their target audience is and what entices them to buy a product or service.
A well thought out marketing plan can help your business by:
- Planing out how you’ll reach your target audience, including the messages, channels, and tools you’ll use.
- Stating a marketing budget and seeing how you’ll get a return on your investment.
- Figuring out who your product or service is for and how it can help them.
- Figuring out how you can get new customers.
Define Your USP or Unique Selling Proposition
A unique selling point (USP) is one or two short sentences that explain what makes your business better than your competitors’ and why customers should buy from you—what they care about the most.
- Most affordable
- Best of the best
- Fastest delivery
- Anything that appeals to customers’ buying decisions
- Products or services with the most new ideas
- A unique location
Your USP will affect everything you do in your business, from creating a brand and slogans to making and describing new products and services and talking to customers. Your USP needs to be more than just a pretty face; it needs to have depth and be in line with the values and growth strategy of your business. The most important thing about your USP is that it puts customer needs at the center.
Who are you marketing to? Be as specific as possible. You’ve already covered this question in a general way in your business plan, but this is where you get down to nuts and bolts. It’s the nuts and bolts that will keep your small business together, and paying insufficient attention to them in the beginning will lead to major problems down the road.
As mentioned in How to Write a Business Plan, you may want to consider creating “buyer personas” that will embody the type of customers you think will walk through your door. Identify them in your marketing plan and make them part of your regular conversation with all employees at your business.
Your marketing strategy can be broken down into two separate parts:
- Your pricing strategy
- Your promotional strategy
Your pricing strategy will identify the optimal price at which to offer your products or services. This will require a good deal of research, including competitive analysis and market demand. Don’t just assume that if your price is the lowest of all your competitors, you’ll win the most business—consider getting out there and polling potential customers to determine optimal price.
Your promotional strategy will help you allocate resources amongst advertising, sales, public relations, etc. Maybe you’ve had luck going to trade shows to sell your product, or buying online ads to drive traffic to your website. Determine what your customers are likely to respond to and what marketing channels are best for you.
What Marketing Channels Will You Use?
The top six marketing channels that every business should use in their marketing plan include:
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Text Message Marketing
- Video Marketing
- Referral Marketing
It’s important to understand that successful marketing campaigns include action plans revolving around multiple marketing channels. So, whether your business uses digital and online marketing, it can also benefit from word-of-mouth marketing. Local businesses especially have to continue to use a multitude of avenues to reach their current customers/users and attract new ones.
How Much Should I Budget for Marketing?
As is the case with all expenses of your business, your marketing plan needs a budget. Caron Beesley writes in her article for SBA.gov: “As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. A marketing plan cost should be split between 1) brand development costs (which includes all the channels you use to promote your brand such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.), and 2) the costs of promoting your business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.).”
Every small business is different—allocate a percentage of your revenues to marketing that you think is appropriate and go from there. Budgeting is a learning process, and as your business develops, you’ll be able to better hone your budget.
What Martech, or Marketing Technology, Will You Employ?
The phrase “marketing technology,” sometimes known as “martech,” refers to a wide range of different technological solutions that entrepreneurs use to assist digital or physical marketing teams in completing their tasks. The term “marketing technology stack” refers to the collection of marketing technology tools that are utilized by an organization. There is a lot of overlap between martech for small business and advertising technology (adtech), which is technology that can automate digital advertising or expand its reach for your startup.
There are several types of martech that can be used for your marketing goals that’ll ensure that you have successful marketing.
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
These technologies help businesses improve their interactions with existing customers by centralizing the tracking of communication, processes, payment, and orders under a single application. A great example is Shopify.
2. Analytic Tools
Increasing the efficiency of your ad targeting, as well as the personalization of your website and applications, and the customer response to your website may all be improved with the assistance of various forms of analytics technologies.
3. Content Creation
Using social media and creating content that focuses on your customer base is key in this age of marketing. Many companies use influencers and content marketing initiatives to attract a wider audience from social media posts.
Businesses are able to improve the visibility of their services, available positions, and products with the assistance of digital advertising technologies.
How Will You Measure Marketing Efforts?
Measuring your marketing efforts based on the marketing tools your business chooses to implement typically comes through automation and technology. To find your key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics, there are various components, which include:
- Engagement via social media
- Click-through rates from email and text message marketing
- Conversion rate
- Customer retention rates
- Lead generations
Market research will help you best understand the avenues necessary to market to your audience and give you the know-how on effective marketing measuring practices.
At the end of the day, even the most effective committees don’t accomplish everything in their plan. The way to get things done is to a) assign individual committee members to specific goals; b) list the definite results that will decide if a goal is accomplished; and c) create an environment in which individuals are self-motivated to succeed. Success should be rewarding and fun, failure not so much. These basic components will keep your marketing team on its toes. If you’re running your small business on your own, strictly measuring the results of every task you take on and maintaining a ruthless account of your shortcomings and progress will keep you honest and on track.
How Will You Make Decisions on Marketing Data You Receive?
Using data to make decisions can help your marketing efforts in a number of ways. Here are just a few:
1. Customer Engagement
Finding out which content is effective and why might help you make smarter, more engaging marketing decisions. By using the data to determine which marketing initiatives result in people opening and responding, you can establish a clear understanding of how to engage your customers in the future.
2. Pricing Strategy
You’ll be able to figure out what your best pricing strategy is based on the information you have. With the right data, you can figure out how a price increase will affect sales or where you can make improvements to lower prices.
3. ROI Through Ads
By running tests, creating your user profile, gathering data, and selecting the most effective version of a campaign, you may utilize data to optimize, for instance, the predicted return on investment (ROI) of a Facebook ad campaign. Once the campaign is running, you may monitor its ROI and even make on-the-go adjustments.
How Should I Finance a Marketing Budget?
Making the decision to create a marketing campaign can be very costly and requires multiple avenues of financing.
Learn more about the benefits of financing your marketing spend here. Nav can help you find the right financing options to help you get the most out of your marketing budget.
Small Business Marketing Plan Action Steps
Having a marketing plan is imperative for your small business, but it should also come with action steps on how it will be implemented. Every business will need to identify what’s best for them depending on what stage of business they’re in and what budget they have set aside. However, here are some fundamental steps any business can follow:
1. List your marketing goals
Listing marketing goals requires getting into the details of the key results you want to achieve for your business. For example, if you want a certain number of app downloads, link clinks, or engagement on specific social media platforms, how will you determine which will turn into sales or revenue for your business?
2. Identify marketing tactics that fit the marketing goals
Once you’ve narrowed down your marketing goals, it’s now time to figure out how to execute them. Will you hire an advertising agency? Is a public relations (PR) representative crucial for executing your media presence?
3. Budget the marketing spend
As mentioned above, it’s important to have a budget for marketing spend, but you need to know how much you’d need to spend to execute the goals. How much will you need for ads in order to get the number of site clicks in your marketing plan? What amount will your business require when using social media influencers or subject-matter experts?
Ultimately, marketing can truly help your small business excel. Nav has many resources to help you fund your marketing efforts with small business loans and business credit cards. And if you’re still navigating how to access or boost your business credit scores, Nav can assist you in that too.
This article was originally written on January 25, 2016 and updated on February 8, 2023.