Marketing Plans for Small Business

A marketing plan is the foundation of any small business’s marketing efforts. Your marketing plan should describe and justify big marketing strategies and inform your daily tactical decisions.

At first, completing a marketing plan for your business may seem daunting and time-consuming. In fact, developing and following an effective marketing plan will most likely save time in the long run. It focuses your efforts (and budget) on your business goals and helps you make smart marketing decisions. Without a plan, most business success is left to chance.

There are two variations on marketing plans, a start-up marketing plan and an ongoing marketing plan for established businesses. The Leadership Protocol Institute was kind enough to let me share the start-up marketing plan I developed for them a couple years ago. View or download it below:

Sample Marketing Plan

The sample marketing plan follows an outline that any business can use for their marketing plan, whether it’s for startup marketing or ongoing marketing. There are three basic steps:

  1. Business Goals
  2. Customers
  3. Marketing Activities

1. Business Goals

Before you can reach your goals, you have to define them. Articulating your business goals should be the first section of your marketing plan. Most businesses understand that they need to define their goals for outside audiences, like banks or other funding sources. But it is just as important to define your goals for your own understanding.

A business goal needs a financial component and time limit. Here are examples of clearly-defined business goals:

  • We will increase revenue 30% through increased referral efforts by 2013.
  • We will sell four major accounts and ten minor ones in our first year of business, totaling $1.2M in sales.
  • We will grow profits enough in our three existing stores to open a new one in 2012.
  • Over the next six months, we will increase online sales by 35%.

2. Customers

In the second step to your marketing plan, you learn all about your customers. Who are they? What do they think of you? What do they think of your competitors? Where do they go for information? Where do they shop?

The questions may seem endless, but the answers are crucial. We have arrived at the research and analysis step. You’ll need both quantitative and qualitative research to truly understand your customers. You may know that your ideal customer is a professional mom, aged 30-45, with a household income of $85+, but do you really know her? It’s easier to market to people you know, and you get to know people by talking to them. Your marketing plan definitely needs quantitative research, but it needs qualitative research just as much.

After completing the research and analysis, you may learn more about your business goals. Perhaps they need to be changed, or you learned about a new opportunity, or you simply can add more detail. Circle back to step one, re-evaluate, then move on to step three.

3. Marketing Activities

Finally, we have reached the action step! Marketing activities are simply how you reach customers to get results. This step should be straightforward, since you’ve already defined your business goals and learned about your customers. For best results, plan a marketing calendar, with due dates attached to each activity.

In the sample marketing plan, we learned about the educators who would be our customers. Our main marketing activities involved starting relationships with decision-makers at affluent elementary and middle schools. Once contact was established, we mapped out the content for sales calls, follow-up interactions and mailings.

Look to the Future

Marketing plans are living documents, meant to evolve and grow with your business. If your business goals change, your marketing activities need to as well.  I recommend re-evaluating your business goals, customer knowledge and marketing activities once a year. By tweaking the plan and your approach, you will be more likely to stay ahead of the competition, spot new opportunities and stay fresh in the eyes of your customers.

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