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How to Write a Marketing Plan for Small Business

Writing an effective marketing plan can be an incredibly valuable tool for your small business. But many business owners don’t know where to start. Or make a few crucial mistakes that will prevent their marketing plan from being successfully implemented. That’s why I put together this how-to write a marketing plan for a small business guide as both a resource and reference point for marketing planning success! Writing a marketing plan for a small business can be overwhelming if you do not know where to start. There is no single correct way to write one, but there are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind.

Writing a marketing plan can be very difficult. Others will tell you it’s optional, but they’re wrong. It’s not just another waste of time — it is keyword-rich content that gives you additional SEO value, ideas to inspire your team, and insight into what’s working and what isn’t. I decided to write this marketing plan examples guide because there aren’t many users in the “help me write a marketing plan” niche. If you are unsure how to create one for your small business – don’t worry! Regardless of what type of business you own or lead, I have tips that will help you create an effective marketing plan for small business success.

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 business.com.

Step 1: Assess Your Current Business Situation

Before you get started outlining the meat of your small business marketing plan, it’s important to take stock of where you are now so you can determine the best marketing goals and objectives.

This is the ideal time for a good ole SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

A SWOT analysis is helpful when creating your marketing plan because it allows you to take an objective look at your business and determine areas where you’re doing well right now and where you might want to improve.

For example, you might already have a good social media presence, so that would be a strength, but you’re not getting as many website visits as you think you should be, which could be an opportunity.

Once you conduct your SWOT analysis, you might also consider taking a look at your top competitors and analyzing what type of marketing they seem to be doing, where they’re doing well, and where you could stand out. For example, when you search for your business’s keywords, are PPC ads for their business showing up?

By taking a good look at your business as well as your competitors’ businesses, you can set a solid foundation for the rest of your marketing plan.

Step 2: Determine What You’re Able to Invest

Now that you’ve analyzed your current business situation, it’s time to figure out how much you’re going to be able to invest in a marketing plan for your small business. This will help guide and direct the remainder of your planning.

Set a Budget

Marketing costs money. So you need to be realistic about what you’re able to spend to invest in a successful marketing plan.

If you’re unsure how much money you should be spending on marketing, most new businesses allocate 12-20% of their gross revenue while established businesses allocate 6-12%.

It may seem like a large chunk, but the return on your investment will be worth it with the right small business marketing plan!

And even if you have a little-to-no budget to spend on marketing, any little bit can help you take your business to the next level.

Budget Your Time

How much time are you able to invest per week in marketing? It’s really easy to let your marketing slide as you focus on running your business but having a specific goal will help you keep track of how you are doing relative to your plan.

In terms of how far out you should plan, a year is not a bad place to start. If this is the first time you’ve put together a marketing plan for your business, you should understand that you may need to do some course corrections over time. Don’t completely flip your marketing plan every month, but you also don’t want to go an entire year without taking stock of what’s working and what’s not.

Step 3: Outline Your Marketing Goals

Now it’s time to get down to business! Once you have a solid understanding of your opportunities and weaknesses as well as your budget, you can start writing your marketing goals.

Marketing goals should be SMART. Check out this chart for details on what SMART stands for:

An example of a SMART marketing goal would be something like: Increase website visits by 5% in six months.

This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specific.

When it comes to writing your marketing goals, you might consider some broad marketing objectives that many small businesses have, including:

  • Building an online presence.
  • Generating leads.
  • Increasing brand awareness.
  • Connecting and engaging with their audience.
  • Growing their online audience.

You can determine which of these make the most sense for your business and then make them SMART.

Step 4: Identify Your Target Audience

Before you can solidify your marketing plan, it’s important to know who you’re going to be targeting with your marketing. Your target audience varies based on a number of factors, including your business type, your area, and so much more.

Oftentimes, the audience you’re targeting can dictate the best marketing strategies to use as part of your small business marketing plan. For example, if your target audience is primarily Gen-Z, then print ads are probably not going to be the best way to reach them.

Step 5: Determine Your Marketing Tactics

Now that you have your marketing goals outlined and you know who you’re targeting, it’s time to determine what will make up your small business’s marketing plan.

Take a look at each of your marketing goals and list the marketing tactics you think you would need or want to reach.

Let’s use our example marketing goal from above. In order to increase website visits by 5% in six months, there are a number of different tactics we can use, like:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – this will help us optimize our website to get found in search engines.
  • PPC – This will more immediately drive users to our website while our SEO is getting up and running.
  • Facebook Ads – These will help grow our audience and drive more visitors to our site.

Once you’ve completed this exercise for each marketing goal, you can revisit the budget you set in step two to determine what’s realistic and doable – both from a time standpoint and a monetary standpoint.

This is also the point in creating your marketing plan that you may want to decide whether or not you want to outsource your marketing plan by working with a marketing partner. It may require a little more budget to outsource your marketing, but it will save you time and deliver better results in the long run.

Step 6: Put Together an Action Plan that Prioritizes Tasks

Congratulations! You now have all the pieces to put together a marketing plan. The next task is to simply write down the tasks that you want to accomplish and prioritize them.

This may seem like an unnecessary step, but nothing could be further from the truth. You want to have a nice-to-do list that you can reference any time you have a spare moment to work on your marketing.

Conclusion

The marketing plan is a vital part of any business. This document is the map that allows your business to decide where you are going and gives your team a clear guideline in reaching those goals. If you want to succeed in business, you need a goal-oriented marketing plan. This article will help you develop a solid marketing plan for your small business.

The marketing plan is a vital weapon for every small business’s arsenal. Use these examples above to develop your start-up’s marketing strategy and help you achieve your future business goals.

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