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Marketing Plan Board

Marketing Plan: Key Steps For Small Businesses

Every business needs a marketing plan, even small ones.  Marketing plans provide a focus, they allow you to manage your resources and achieve consistency.  They are also vital for continued marketing success.  Having a plan, following the plan, and then evaluating the plan will show you what works for your business.

Define Your Marketing Goals and Objectives

First, you have to decide what it is that you want to achieve.  These goals and objectives need to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) to make sure that you can see where you are at with your goals at any point in time.  For your purposes here, you want to come up with goals for the next year or two, depending on how rapidly your business market changes.  They also need to be in line with your business plan, so make sure to look back at this.

  • Gain 200 returning customers by the end of the year.
  • Reduce costs by 10% in the next 24 months.
  • Grow email marketing list by 110% in the next 12 months.

Conduct a Marketing Audit

You know where it is that you want to be; now it is time to find out where you really are.  A marketing audit doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds.  The purpose here is to list all of the marketing activities that you’ve employed in the past three years and decide what has been successful and what hasn’t.  If you would like to go even more in-depth, SWOT analysis and competitor benchmarking are also useful at this stage.

Define Your Audience

Marketing Plan Consumers While it seems great to have a small business that attracts everyone as a customer, you have to narrow down your target audience for your marketing plan.  Marketing to too broad of an audience will only waste efforts in areas that won’t make much difference.  You want to zoom in here and find out what group you are really selling to.  Are you looking to reach potential customers in low- and working-class households or those making more than $100,000 annually?  Do you want to attract middle-aged women or young men?  Questions like these will help you decide who it is that is truly your target audience and who it is that you will focus on in your marketing plan.

Research Different Tactics for Your Marketing Plan

Only you can make the decision about how to reach your target audience.  Now it’s time to learn about your options.  You need to research the pros and cons of different tactics, success and failure stories, and similar business’ marketing tactics.  This will lead you into making a well-informed decision about which of the tactics you would like to use.

Plan Your Tactics

Now that you know all of your options and what they bring to the table, it is time to choose.  When choosing which tactics you are going to use, make sure that you take into account the goals you want to achieve, your sales goals, your business plan, your target audience, and your competition.  These factors should help and will make sure that you are choosing the best tactic for your business.

Develop Your Timeline and Budget

It’s time to put everything together now.  Develop a timeline for the time that you are planning for (12 months, 18 months, 24 months, etc.).  The timeline should include all promotions (traditional, digital, events, etc.) that you plan on doing and show how long they are going to be used.   For example, if you are going to run Instagram ads for the entire 12 months, make sure that you can see this on your marketing plan timeline.  Once you begin running more promotions, you don’t want to confuse a 12-month promotion for a one-time promotion.

Once you have completed your timeline, it is time to move on to the budget.  Using your timeline, outline the costs of each promotion or marketing activity.  This helps you make sure that you are not overspending on your marketing plan and will help you see and compare the costs of each marketing activity.

Begin and Continue Monitoring Your Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan Evaluation You’ve put in all the work to come up with the perfect marketing plan for your small business, now it is time to put it in action and start reaping the benefits.  It’s time to get started now and make sure that you remain on track, following your timeline.

Monitoring and evaluation are key here.  Remember that your marketing plan can change, too!  You don’t want to cut anything off too soon, but you can discontinue failed activities and extend successful ones.  Use common sense here and make sure that you are monitoring the output of each marketing activity continuously.  Even if you don’t make any changes throughout the duration of your current marketing plan, a continuous evaluation will show you how your activities are working and will give you more insight when creating future marketing plans.

Stay Up to Date On Marketing Plan Tactics and Trends

Finally, stay up to date with marketing trends.  There are courses and webinars that you can sign up to attend to learn new marketing strategies and tips.  Articles and blogs are also a good way to stay up to date and come from a variety of sources.  Taking the time to learn about new ways people are marketing and reading case studies will help you in evaluating your own marketing plan and planning in the future.

Key Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

  • Not creating a marketing plan: If you are going to employ any marketing efforts, you need to have a marketing plan. A lack of planning only leads to failed attempts and inconsistency.
  • Marketing to everyone: Having too broad of an audience will only hinder your marketing efforts.
  • Not giving your strategy time to work: Marketing takes time and abandoning efforts too soon is a waste of time and money. Make sure that your marketing activity has had enough time to perform before abandoning it and moving on.
  • Not tracking results: Not evaluating your tactics and activities could lead to repeating failed marketing strategies or spending too much on an underperforming tactic.

Looking for more information on marketing strategies and tactics?  Check out our Quora marketing strategy guide, here.