Whether you are an established entrepreneur or just starting a new business, having a strong presence in the market with top-of-mind brand recall is crucial for success. Marketing raises brand awareness and generates leads that convert into sales, ultimately leading to business growth. In other words, a marketing plan is a universal must-have for every business.
With small businesses struggling to make a foothold in the market, a savvy marketing plan contains steps to scale up your business and stand out among the competition. Despite time and budget constraints, an effective marketing plan is within reach, and you don't need to be an expert to develop one. Below are seven strategies fundamental to creating a marketing plan that will deliver results for small business owners
1. Start by Evaluating Your Business
Before sketching out a marketing plan, first assess your business situation. This evaluation will form the foundation of your marketing plan. Know where you stand to determine your marketing goals by creating a SWOT—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats—analysis. Making a SWOT study is the best way to gauge the areas in which your company is performing well and which areas need work.
For example, your business may enjoy excellent website performance, representing a strength, but its poor results on social media represent a weakness. Meanwhile, keep an eye on your competitors’ marketing tactics and note where they excel and where they fall short, and use that information to find opportunities for your business to stand out. Use the findings from your evaluation in conjunction with tools such as Google AdWords and Google Analytics to get ideas for designing your marketing plan.
2. Determine Your Budget
Once you have clarity on your current business scenario, it’s time to look at investment. Determine how much are you willing or able to invest in a marketing plan, and then set a budget. Be realistic when deciding the amount, and avoid second-guessing yourself. No matter how much or little you invest, your success will depend on a well-crafted plan and fully executing it. With the right one, you’ll get higher returns and increased brand awareness.
3. Don’t Overlook Your Time Investment
Can you allocate the number of hours required to market your business? Will you lose focus? Once your goals and objectives are in place, these questions can be addressed by keeping track of results, which entails consistency and effort. Revisiting the marketing plan every month is not required, but keeping a keen eye on what’s working and what’s not is critical. The underlying pillars of the plan need to be strong.
4. Outline Your Goals
You know the business, your SWOT is in place and you have a budget. Now it’s time to define your marketing goals. Experts say that marketing goals should be SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific. For example, if you want to generate more leads for your business, perhaps you will set an increase of 10% in six months as your objective. This is a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific goal.
Keep in mind that for any small business, you must list out the broad marketing objectives before outlining the goals. These objectives could be:
- Strengthening brand awareness
- Generating more leads
- Building a strong online presence
- Increasing social media presence
- Engaging with the audience
Pick the objective that fits your business, and then make corresponding SMART goals.
5. Define Your Target Audience
Do you know the composition of your audience? Where are they based? What’s their average age? Before you make a marketing plan, it’s extremely important to identify your target audience. Numerous factors come into play when determining your target audience, such as their location, lifestyle attributes and your business type. Knowing your target audience can help you devise the best marketing strategy for your brand. For example, if millennials prefer consuming content online, then print ads are probably not the best medium to reach them.
6. Select Marketing Tactics
Once your marketing goals are in place and the target audience has been identified, list the marketing tactics that you want to apply to a specific goal.
For example, again using the goal of increasing leads by 10% in six months, there are multiple tools and tactics you could employ, such as:
- Search-engine optimization
- Developing and optimizing informative content
- Facebook campaigns and contests to drive visitors to the website
- Marketing through LinkedIn
After picking a tactic for every goal that you have defined, assess the budget to determine what’s realistic and achievable in a specific time frame. This stage is also when you must decide who will design the marketing plan, meaning whether you will outsource it or your team will create it.
7. The Fruits of Your Labor: Launching the Plan
Finally, your marketing plan is in shape. What comes next is making a to-do-list and prioritizing your tasks. Then it’s time to get started with executing your small business' marketing plan. Make sure to keep track, measure your results and fine-tune your plan accordingly.