Building a sustainable small business means effectively selling your products or services to a small, well-defined group of buyers. You'll need a strong marketing plan to successfully attract and convert this target audience, especially if efforts to reach the right group have been less than effective.
Get the attention your new enterprise deserves with this six-step guide to a small business marketing plan that works.
What Is a Marketing Plan and Why Do You Need One?
A marketing plan provides a detailed description of your strategy to promote your business. You'll document your target audience and the channels where you'll build awareness of your brand. Ideally, you'll come up with a strong value proposition that gives buyers a reason to care about what you're selling.
When you execute an effective marketing plan, you'll be able to attract your target audience to your brand. You'll also see a higher rate of conversion as those browsers become buyers.
6 Steps to Create a Marketing Plan
You'll be on the path to a powerful marketing plan with these six simple steps.
Perform a SWOT Analysis
First, you'll take stock of where your business is right now with a detailed SWOT analysis. This tool looks at the company's current Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, all of which will inform your marketing plan. Aim to document:
- Strengths of your business, which includes things you do well, assets you own, a skilled and dedicated team, innovative intellectual property, and any other characteristic that sets you apart from competitors in a positive way
- Weaknesses like products and services that aren't unique enough in your market, limited resources, areas where you're outpaced by competing businesses, and other areas you can address with an effective marketing plan
- Opportunities for growth, such as chances for your company to get press attention, identified market gaps you could fill, underserved audiences, and areas where your competitors aren't performing up to par
- Threats to the success of your business, like changing market attitudes toward your brand, negative coverage on social or traditional media, new laws and regulations that impact operations, or an influx of new competitors in your niche
Looking at these areas objectively will provide a new perspective about how your company can excel in the coming year.
Set a Smart Marketing Budget
It can be difficult to decide how much to spend on marketing. After all, it's not a fixed cost like supplies, inventory or rent. As a benchmark, many new businesses devote up to 20% of their operating budgets to marketing.
If you're spending less than 10% on promotion as a start-up, you may want to increase this line item if you're not seeing the desired results. Fortunately, you have a lot of options if you want maximum marketing impact with a minimal budget. For example, strategies like social media marketing offer positive word-of-mouth for almost no money.
Define Objectives for Your Marketing Plan
In this step, you'll outline exactly what you hope to achieve by marketing your business. These shouldn't be general goals, but detailed statements that follow the SMART framework. That means they're Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound.
Generally, your marketing plan should outline objectives for the full year with goals broken out by quarter and month.
If you're not sure where to start with your marketing goals, you can use these common objectives for inspiration:
- Build a robust pipeline of prospects
- Increase your customer conversion rate
- Enhance awareness of your brand
- Create or expand your company's online offerings
- Engage with your target market through means like social media
- Improve website metrics like site visits and session length
Get To Know Your Audience
Your marketing plan won't work unless it's written with a specific group in mind. Your goal: become intimately familiar with your target market. Conduct research about what they like to do, where they work, how much they earn, and why they may be interested in your products or services. You'll also need to figure out where they spend time online.
You'll use these details to develop an audience persona that describes your ideal buyer. Other factors that influence this bio sketch may include:
- Geographic area
- Education level
- Marital status
Having a well-considered audience persona will give your business insight about how you can stand apart from competitors.
Select the Appropriate Channels
Refer to the buyer persona you've developed and see where your audience spends the most time online. It's important to understand how and where your target market goes to browse so your content and ads align with those channels.
If you're also interested in traditional marketing strategies, your marketing efforts will focus on meeting your audience in the real world. For example, if you have a neighborhood store and you want to capture foot traffic, you'll need to invest in attractive signage and attend community events to build awareness.
If you feel overwhelmed about choosing the right channels, start by marketing your brand in the one or two places where you know you'll reach the appropriate people. You can always expand on your plan once you start seeing results.
Meet Objectives with an Action Plan
Now's the time to transform all that research into real revenue. Break those marketing objectives you defined back in step 3 into smaller steps and then even smaller action items if necessary.
The action plan can span either a month or quarter to provide granular detail about how you'll execute these items. Assign each action to a responsible person and create a realistic schedule. You should establish benchmarks for success so you can measure progress toward each marketing goal.
Important Elements to Include in Your Marketing Plan
Include these essential elements to create an effective small business marketing plan:
- Comprehensive market research, including information about vendors and suppliers, standard metrics and benchmarks, sales levels, products, trends, innovations, customer demographics, and seasonal buying patterns
- Buyer persona, which describes your target market along with their preferences, activities, buying behavior, needs, pain points, and other critical characteristics
- Detailed description of your products or services that focuses on the competitive advantage that sets you apart from other businesses with similar offerings (also called a unique selling proposition)
- Information about your competitors including market share, geographic location, products and services, branding, available opportunities, and possible threats
- A budget that indicates how much you plan to spend on marketing and exactly where you'll allocate those funds
- Marketing objectives that set goals for the coming year
- An action plan that ties your goals to specific deliverables, milestones, deadlines, and success metrics
- Quantitative and qualitative benchmarks you'll use to measure progress toward marketing goals
Where to Market Your Small Business
Small businesses have many marketing options, so your challenge becomes narrowing the list to choose the most impactful avenues. These are just a few of the nearly countless possible marketing channels:
- Social media sites like Twitter and TikTok
- Pay-per-click ads through sites such as Google and Facebook
- Traditional print ads in magazines and newspapers
- Direct mail with postcards, brochures and coupons
- Radio and TV ads
- Display ads including billboards and other outdoor signs
- Content marketing through your business blog, website, email newsletter and/or social media presence
- Text-based promotions such as coupons sent through SMS
Most companies benefit from a cross-channel strategy, which means your marketing plan includes multiple methods of connecting with your customers.
How to Optimize Your Payment System
By optimizing your company's payment system, you can focus more energy on your marketing plans. Pay.com offers simple yet sophisticated payment solutions for businesses of all sizes. You can accept multiple methods of payment right on your website.
Once you sign up for a Pay.com account, we'll connect you with a personalized Pay Dashboard where you can see every transaction. You can also access detailed reports to help you track progress toward sales and marketing goals. Since Pay.com uses a transparent flat-fee structure, our comprehensive payment infrastructure won't take a big bite out of your budget.
If you're so new you don't have a website yet, you can still start using Pay.com. Secure Pay Links can go right to customer inboxes (text or email) so they can quickly pay their preferred way. When you're ready to launch your own customized checkout page, you can give it the right look and feel so it seamlessly matches the rest of your brand's online presence.
The Bottom Line: Create a Marketing Plan and Boost Your Revenue
Strong marketing makes sense when you think about all the time, money, and energy you're already investing in your small business. Having solid promotional strategies in place dramatically improves the chances of succeeding as a start-up owner. Even if you're new to marketing methods and tactics, you can easily create an effective plan for your business with this six-step guide.
You'll also need a payment system you and your customers can trust. Pay.com puts everything in place so you can start accepting credit cards, debit cards, and many other payment methods almost immediately. You can also let your customers know that you protect every purchase with Level 1 PCI compliance, so they'll have peace of mind when they buy from your brand.