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How to Develop a Marketing Plan for a Small Business

The book “How to Develop a Marketing Plan for a Small Business: From Analysis to Implementation” will help you master the art of marketing and improve your marketing strategies. It covers the core elements that constitute a sound marketing plan, such as how to determine marketing objectives and critical success factors, and how to choose target markets and select market penetration strategies. Also included is information about product life cycle management and how to effectively support brand image through marketing communications. The book helps you identify tasks and roles within marketing departments, communicate objectives and strategy internally, and develop manageable plans for each project in order for you and your team to coordinate and maximize

Marketing Plan for a Small Business introduces the process of creating a marketing plan systematically and productively. This book delivers a road map to follow in developing a marketing plan so you can focus on the strategies for growing your small business. It helps you get clear about who your customers are, what they want from you, how they buy from you, and how you can create customer value. At its core, it’s all about helping your company grow.

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a strategic roadmap for how you communicate (on and offline) with your target audience to successfully promote your products or services. Marketing plans range from extremely basic to highly detailed, depending on what you want to accomplish.   

According to Molly Maple Bryant, head of marketing at ArcheMedX, a marketing plan is not simply a list of things you want to accomplish. Instead, it should list the outcomes you seek – measurable and contextual, like the pipeline you’re developing, or leads you’re generating – and it should explain the high-level strategies you will use to achieve those outcomes. Developing strategies can be difficult, but they make a major difference in keeping you on track and avoiding diversions, which is also referred to as “scope creep.”

“Once you have an agreed-upon plan, you are able to compare any incoming requests against your strategies to determine ‘Yes, this adheres to my strategy so we can add it,’ or ‘No, this sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t adhere to our agreed-upon strategy, so we won’t adjust resources,'” Bryant told

Types of marketing plans

There are several different types of marketing plans you can use based on certain strategies that make sense for your organization. Your business will likely need a combination of the following marketing plans to create an effective, comprehensive marketing strategy: 

Depending on your product positioning, you may also want to niche marketing plans, like influencer marketing or video marketing.

Why it’s important to have a marketing plan for your business

A marketing plan is a crucial resource for any small business. Essentially, it helps you identify the market needs your product or service meets, how your product is different from competitors, and who your product or service is for. Marketing plans also serve as a road map for your sales strategy, branding direction and building your overall business. This is important for successfully conveying your brand messaging to your target audience.

Another major benefit of a marketing plan for your company is that rather than simply guessing metrics, it forces you to sit down and do the math about your business goals and how to realistically fulfill them. When you look at your growth outcomes, you can delve further to determine what it will take to get to those numbers.

Bryant offered the following example: “Need $100,000 in revenue? How many sales is that? If 10, what’s your close rate? Let’s say 10% from lead to closed deal. Now you have a metric to start from – to get to 10 sales, we need 100 leads. Now, where will they come from, and what strategies will you use? The plan helps you put it all on paper so you can map out resources and tactics later with a lot of preparation and realism,” said Bryant.

When analyzing outcomes and resources, you can save time and avoid scope creep by focusing only on those strategies that are relevant to your marketing plan. A marketing plan not only helps you think realistically about your strategies, it also gets your stakeholders on the same page and holds your marketing team accountable for their decisions.  

“When everyone’s tasks and goals are laid out for the stakeholders and company partners to see, it is much easier for the entire team to feel at ease about reaching sales goals and allowing the marketing team the space and freedom needed to execute work without constant supervision,” said Cassady Dill, digital marketing consultant and owner of Ethos Agency.

Additionally, Dill said a marketing plan should be easily understood by your entire team, executives, and outside departments, and it should serve as an easy guide for future marketing managers and team members to understand and implement.

 Define Your Marketing Goals

Your nonprofit marketing plan exists to transform your organization’s mission and big-picture objectives into strategic, actionable goals.

For example, let’s say one of your objectives was to protect the welfare of animals in your community (like one of my favorite local rescues, ALIVE Chicago). I’d ask you to brainstorm three to five marketing ideas to advance that objective.

Some ways you could use marketing to advance that objective include:

  1. Create and publish content that educates your community on the state of animal welfare.
  2. Post on social media about your organization and the animals you have for adoption.
  3. Send a weekly email newsletter sharing your content, adoptable animals, and volunteer needs.
  4. Host a quarterly event with educational resources, foster training, and adoption opportunities.

 Understand Your Audience(s)

Nonprofit marketing is different from other types of marketing because your organization is likely targeting multiple groups: constituents, customers, volunteers, and donors.

It’s imperative to define and understand each of these audiences (a.k.a. buyer personas) because your marketing will differ based on who you’re talking to. (We’ll get into key messaging next.)

For example, following our animal shelter example from above, an email targeting donors will have different messaging than an email calling for volunteers.

One easy way to organize your different audiences is using a CRM to segment the different groups. By separating contacts with tags and lists, you can easily send marketing messages to the appropriate groups.

Craft Your Key Messages

Key messages encompass the information you want your audiences to hear, remember, and share about your nonprofit organization. Crafting these before you employ your marketing is important for a few reasons:

  • Key messages keep your organization aligned. No matter who’s doing the marketing, you can be confident the same thing is being said and promoted.
  • Key messages simplify your marketing. With these created ahead of time, you already know what you’re going to say in your marketing messaging.
  • Key messages help organize your different audiences (as we talked about above). As a nonprofit organization, you’re likely talking to donors, volunteers, constituents, and your community … more personas than a typical for-profit business. Developing key messages for each of your audiences informs your team and your marketing to make sure you’re targeting the right groups.

Continuing with our animal shelter example, here’s a look at how you can craft a key message for different audiences.

Key message: We protect the welfare of animals in our community through education, adoption and fostering, and animal advocacy.

  • For adoption customers/constituents: By adopting or fostering, or by alerting us of animals in need, you can help us protect the welfare of animals in our community.
  • For volunteers: We protect the welfare of animals through round-the-clock animal care and advocacy.
  • For donors: You can help us protect the welfare of animals by donating to support animal care, advocacy, and adoption promotion.

All of these key messages have the same purpose and undertone, but they vary slightly depending on your audience. Together with your nonprofit organization’s mission, vision, and goals, these messages will help effectively communicate and market your organization’s needs and purpose.

Choose, Plan, and Create Your Marketing Strategies

Many marketers jump right to this step — creating and publishing various marketing tactics. Marketing encompasses much more than an advertisement, blog post, or event. In order to execute successfully, you must complete all the steps prior to this.

Now that you’ve established your goals (what you want), your key messages (what you’re going to say), and your audience (who you’re going to say it to), you can determine your marketing tactics (how you’re going to say it).

Marketing tactics refer to channels like email marketing, social media, events, and more. We’ve dedicated an entire section to these marketing strategies — read about them in detail below.

Regardless of which tactic you choose, be sure to conduct thorough planning before and as you execute on it. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you prepare:

  • What will you do with this marketing tactic?
  • When will these marketing activities take place?
  • Why is this tactic important?
  • Who will be responsible for these activities?
  • How much do we plan to spend?
  • How does this tie to our organization’s marketing goals?

Tactical planning is an integral part of your overall nonprofit marketing plan. How you approach your marketing strategies and how they impact your organization is just as important as how you execute on them.

Before you hit the ground running on any of these strategies, be sure your team has a solid game plan and a full understanding of it.


Small business marketing plans challenge small business owners to be thoughtful, strategic and intentional about how they will reach their customers and prospects with their marketing efforts. Marketing plans help small business owners to develop a roadmap for achieving the goals of the business.

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