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Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

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Small business owner discussing marketing plan goals

As a small business owner, you may not have the resources to hire a full marketing department to help get your name out there; but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a strong marketing plan and program. One of the best marketing tips for small businesses is to develop a strategic, long-term marketing plan. Keep reading this post for a high-level overview and resources you can utilize to put an effective marketing plan in place for your small business.

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan serves as a blueprint to help organize your business’s marketing objectives and the specific tactics and efforts that will help you achieve them. This flexible document allows you to outline campaigns and promotions, determine how you will execute them, track budget considerations, and finally evaluate the performance of your program.

Marketing Plan Elements & Resources

Below is an outline of critical elements of a marketing plan, accompanied by resources and best practices to implement as you craft a marketing plan for your small business.

1. SWOT Analysis

Completing a SWOT analysis for your small business is helpful  to the start of your marketing plan because it prompts you to take a step back and reflect. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This analysis will serve as a strong foundation to drive the focus of your marketing plan, playing to your business’s strengths and improving its weaknesses. Here is a great template to help you get started that guides you through how to identify what your small business is doing well now and what could be improved.

After you complete a SWOT analysis for your own company, it might be helpful to perform the same exercise on a few of your competitors to see how they measure up. This will help you understand the market landscape as a whole and where your small business fits in.

2. Marketing Objectives and SMART Goals

Marketing objectives should be written to help you measure performance and conceptualize what actions need to be taken in order to achieve your goals. As you set these objectives, you should answer the following questions:

  • Where are you going to focus your efforts?
  • What results do you want to see?
  • Why are these objectives important to your success?
  • When do these objectives need to be acted on?
  • Who is responsible for completing the objectives?
  • How do you plan to achieve the results? 

You already have a foundational understanding of your business, so now it’s time to utilize your research and get SMART with your goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Examples of broader marketing goals include increasing sales, improving customer retention, getting more site traffic, creating more upsell opportunities or creating more content and brand engagement. Now, translating one of those into a SMART marketing goal could look like this: Film two videos for Instagram Reels per week, for three months to create more brand engagement. This goal is Specific (Instagram Reels), Measurable (two videos per week), Attainable (filming videos yourself), Relevant (will help create brand engagement) and Time-bound (three month duration). 

To help you get started writing your small business’s own SMART marketing goals, check out this free, downloadable SMART template from Smartsheet.

3. Budget Template

After evaluating your current business situation, it’s time to determine how much money you will be able to invest in marketing. While you can leverage a lot of free platforms, you will need to account for expenses, such as freelance fees, ad space or sponsorships. It’s important to be realistic about your budget and expected return on investment. Here is a free budget template to help you easily manage your finances in either Excel or Google Sheets.

4. Calendars and Planners

Once you have identified your goals and how much money you can allocate to your marketing efforts, the next step is to plan out the specific tactics associated with each campaign. Outlining a timeline with milestones and deadlines for each item will help keep you on track and better align your growth, sales and marketing strategies for the best results possible. Here are some examples of different calendar tools and planners to help you stay organized:

  • Project management: Monday.com is a great platform to manage projects across the business and provide transparency to everyone involved. 
  • Scheduling: Google Calendar is a simple and free way to organize your deadlines and schedule meetings. Google Calendar can be used for both personal tasks and milestones, as well as business wide meeting schedules. 
  • Actionable Items Planner: Hatch is a unique personal planner that helps you break down ideas into three actionable steps Conceive, Incubate, and Hatch. 

Examples of Marketing Plans

The tools we discussed above help you establish the building blocks of a strong marketing plan. To see them all come together in a cohesive marketing plan, check out these marketing plan examples:

  • Visit Baton Rouge: This annual marketing plan is a great example of how the SWOT analysis was used to inform their overall goals.
  • Slides Geek: This website provides templates for a quarterly marketing plan with promotion techniques, including details about promotion strategy, person responsible, status, priority, goal and budget.
  • Mock Marketing Calendar: This template features a real estate marketing plan that walks you through what a monthly content schedule looks like.

We’ve given you the tools and resources to jumpstart your efforts – now it’s time to dive in and create your small business marketing plan. Once you start implementing tactics and seeing results, you should reflect on what worked (and what didn’t) and revisit your marketing plan. Remember that this is a living, breathing document that should evolve with your business.

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