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. 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.
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.
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. This budget 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.
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.
Revise, revise, revise
Five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said that “in preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” The same wisdom applies to the business battlefield, which is busy, hectic and constantly changing. Creating a marketing plan should be just another way of saying planning creative marketing. Your marketing plan, just like your business plan, should be a living document, and something you revisit often as your small business grows and meets new challenges with greater potential for rewards.