A marketing plan is solely designed to generate new customers or new leads, right? Wrong! This happens to be one of the biggest misconceptions made by many small business owners out there. A well-designed marketing plan is much more just a “customer attraction” tool and can be used to help keep your entire business on the right path.
Let’s talk more about the purpose of, and how to create, a marketing plan for a small business so you can hit the ground running!
What is a Small Business Marketing Plan?
If you’ve determined that a marketing plan’s purpose is to generate new business, in general, you are correct. However, there’s more to the discussion than that.
A thorough marketing plan outlines your entire marketing plans and strategies for the upcoming year, month, quarter, or however you want to break up your business year. It is essentially the main hub of all your marketing information. A comprehensive marketing plan can be used to organize and dictate all your marketing efforts for your small business, including: your website design/ development/ layout, traditional advertising methods (radio, newspaper, billboard etc.), digital advertising (Google AdWords), email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) plans etc.
Making yourself sit down and write out your marketing goals and plans will keep you accountable and help you realize what’s actually important for your small business success moving forward.
Alright, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed right now, don’t worry. It may seem like a lot up front, but once you get into it, it’ll come easier. And, I can promise you, that’s definitely worth it to put the effort in now.
How to Create A Marketing Plan for a Small Business
This is where we get to the fun part, creating a marketing plan for your small business to achieve success for your small business in the coming year! I’ll break this section up into a seven easy steps you can follow along with:
Step 1: Write a Summary of Everything
Get together with the different department of your small business and brainstorm for the coming year and make sure to review everything from the previous year as well. How is your business performing so far? Put your thoughts into actual words and actions. What are your goals and what specific actions will you take to accomplish those goals? Because this section is just a summary, you do want to keep this section fairly concise. Get straight to the point and avoid the “fluffy” language. There’s a time to go more in depth later.
Step 2: Develop Your Marketing Goals
Create a section to go in depth on what your marketing goals are and how you’re going to complete them. This is the section where you want to get painstakingly specific. Do you want to gain 20 new, long term customers per month using mobile ecommerce? Do you want to have 1,000 LinkedIn connections on your personal profile by the end of the year? What do you want to accomplish for your business in your set time frame?
Once you get specific about your goals, you need to create a plan for each goal for how you will achieve it. So using an example from the above paragraph that could look something like, “We will update our website with AMP pages, eliminate unnecessary CSS coding to speed up page load time, make sure our ecommerce pages are Android and Iphone user-friendly, and update our payment methods to include credit cards, gift cards, pay pal etc in order to achieve 20 new, long term customers purchasing through mobile per month.”.
See what I mean? Get detailed, get specific! The more detailed your marketing plan outline is, the more on track you’ll stay throughout the year. If you hold yourself accountable, you’ll cut down on wasted resources and end up saving yourself and your small business a lot of headaches.
Step 3: List Your Buyer Personas
If you’ve already created a variety of buyer personas, just attach them into your marketing plan and clearly label and explain them.
If you’ve yet to create buyer personas and don’t really know what they are, you should check out this great article here to get all the info! But the short version of a “buyer persona” is, it’s a character outline of who the best customer for your small business is. What’s their gender, age, family life, struggles/problems etc.? Knowing who you want to target will help you focus your marketing plans.
Step 4: Do Some Competitor Research
Get to know your industry competitors and do some research on them. If you’re going to be effective and stay competitive in your niche, you need to know who you’re up against and what your competition is doing to try and stay ahead. Does your competition consistently rank higher than you in SERPs (search engine result pages)? If so, why? Are they producing regular content? How much are they selling their products for? You want to have a good handle on all this information.
Step 5: Start Tracking Your Metrics
You absolutely need to have a Google Analytics account set up so you can record how your website performs year over year.
Pull your metrics from Analytics to get precise numbers for how your site has performed over time. You can’t set realistic goals for the upcoming year if you don’t know how your website standardly performs. Did you accomplish the goals you set from the previous year? Where does your marketing and sales performance stand right now?
Step 6: Assign Responsibility
Break your marketing plan into segments and departments (if applicable to your business size). This means segmenting out SEO, social media, content development etc. What are the actions that will be taken for these marketing segments, who will be responsible for them, what are the goals for these sections, and what’s the expected timeline for those actions to be taken and completed by? Make sure everyone in you business knows their roles and responsibilities for your marketing efforts moving forward.
Step 7: Create a Record Keeping Method
What are you going to do to make sure your marketing plan is on track? Will you have monthly meetings with your department heads? Are you going to track everything in Google Analytics? Will you be using an Excel sheet to graph metrics and numbers throughout the year? Whatever mix of methods you decide to use, you want to be clear that you have a tracking plan in place to measure your marketing plan success.
Think of the Customer
The best way to grow your business is to focus your customers. Whether you are working on attracting new customers or cultivating your existing customer base, it’s important to keep in mind that both can impact the overall growth of your business. This is why having a well thought out marketing plan is essential for small business growth and long term success. What do you customers expect from your small business? Are your products and services living up your prospect’s expectations? What can you do better moving forward?
If you get into the mindset of your customer, you can create effective marketing campaigns to better serve your target audience and win more sales at the same time. No matter what the marketing plan section or goal is, they should ALL be focused on improving your communication and relationship with your target audience.
Creating a marketing plan for your small business is an essential part of long term success. A well-thought out marketing plan is the road map for all your marketing efforts, so it needs to be detailed and comprehensive. Take a look at the seven steps above on how you can create the best marketing plan to move your business in the right direction!