The content of this marketing plan template is designed to help you develop a comprehensive plan for your small business. A comprehensive marketing plan allows you to understand your market, identify target customers and discover new opportunities for growth. It includes the major steps required to define your goals, provide solutions for these goals using your marketing mix (product, price, place and promotion) and identify how your company will succeed in the marketplace.
This Marketing Plan strategy example for a small business is a great way to make a plan for your company, and keep it updated.
The good news is there are numerous potential approaches for moving potential customers toward becoming actual customers. Here’s an overview of potential approaches and handy guides to getting started with each one. Keep in mind that there isn’t a discrete line between these approaches; they can and should overlap and be used in combination with each other.
What it is: As defined by Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content,” and that in exchange for that valuable information, customers will “ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”
Start here: A Blueprint to Jumpstart Your Content Marketing Strategy
Tip: How meta is this? This article is, in fact, an example of content marketing! Our goal is to provide you with valuable information whether you’re a Bluehost customer or not.
Social Media Marketing
What it is: Social media marketing uses social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, to reach customers both widely and deeply — widely, because posts can be shared quickly and broadly, and deeply, because people can interact directly with the brand and engage with other people around that brand.
Start here: The Golden Rules of Social Media for Business
What it is: Email marketing is the practice of using emails and email newsletters to communicate with potential and current customers, with an average ROI of $38 for every $1 spent.
Start here: Email Marketing 101
Tip: Treat the invitation into someone’s inbox like an invitation in their house. As this Kissmetrics blog post advises, that means you need to mind your manners.
What it is: As described by The Work Crowd, “PR is about building and maintaining a good reputation for your business by developing your story and a dialogue with key journalists, influencers, and competition.”
Start here: Public Relations Strategies & Tactics
Tip: It’s OK if you’re starting out with no media contacts. Subscribe to Help a Reporter Out to respond to reporters’ requests for expert sources within your industry. And PR is not limited to traditional media. Another option is to find brand ambassadors who will spread the word about your business.
What it is: As defined by Moz, SEO is a “a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.”
Start here: The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization
Tip: Check out this list of 20 handy marketing tools for small businesses.
What it is: Advertising is paid promotion, and although it’s technically its own separate discipline, it does support your marketing efforts. These days, running ads on Facebook and Google is just as common as print ads.
Start here: Advertising: The Basics (print or online ads); The Beginner’s Guide to Online Advertising for Small Businesses (online ads)
Whatever combination of approaches you choose, there’s one approach that will always apply: integrity. The truth is, a great marketing strategy can’t compensate for a not-so-great product.
If you’ve created a robust, thoughtful business plan, you’re already on the right track. But even then, it can be tempting to get caught up in trying to reel in customers by any means necessary.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan: What’s the Difference?
How do you know if you’re creating a marketing strategy or marketing plan? Let’s define each document:
- A marketing strategy covers the high-level what, why and how to guide your marketing activities and drive your business objectives.
- A marketing plan goes deeper — it serves as the roadmap for executing your marketing strategy.
Keep in mind that most folks won’t call you out if you use these terms interchangeably. But, it helps to have this distinction in mind when you create a marketing plan. Your marketing plan needs to be actionable to help you execute your marketing strategy.
How to Write a Marketing Plan in 14 Steps
As you read through the sample marketing plans we shared, you might notice they have many elements in common. These 14 steps will help you develop a comprehensive marketing plan that you can customize as you like.
Map Out a Table of Contents
A full marketing plan can turn out pretty lengthy, so a table of contents will help you find the info you need quickly. Consider linking each item to its corresponding section in-document for even easier navigation. You can do this in Google Docs, Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat.
Write an Executive Summary
An executive summary usually comes right after a marketing plan’s table of contents. It gives you a high-level overview of the document. Think of it as your marketing plan’s TL;DR.
You should write your executive summary last. But, we’re highlighting this section right now because you need to keep it in mind as you work on the rest of your plan. Business.com suggests keeping notes on the parts of each section that stand out to inspire your executive summary.
Craft a Mission Statement
Your mission statement will help you decide what to prioritize in your marketing. We covered the concept of a mission statement in our blog post on communications plans, and it’ll serve a similar purpose for your marketing plan. Long story short, a mission statement explains what benefits your organization provides through your product or service.
Figure Out Your Goals
What will success look like in your marketing plan? This section will establish your financial and non-financial goals. Vital Marketing recommends setting two main goals and three to five supporting goals.
Establish Your Content’s Standards of Performance
Whether you call them standards of performance or editorial guidelines, these principles will keep your content specific and writers on track. Look for quality standards that your competitors’ content doesn’t follow and consider what makes your content unique. You can also look for patterns in your highest-performing content.
Determine Your Core Competencies
Your company’s core competencies are what it does better in marketing than anyone else. HRSG provides these examples of marketing competencies:
But, you can go deeper or unconventional with your core competencies. Maybe you excel at creating blog posts in particular or have a knack for memes.
These questions can help you think up some core competencies:
- What makes our company remarkable?
- What value do we bring?
- What proof do we have that we’re the best at this competency?
Do Situational and SWOT Analyses
Situational and SWOT analyses let you scope out your current environment and your status in it.
Connect Your Message to Your Target Market
Let’s get a high-level overview of your average customer. If you have Google Analytics running on your website, its audience reports will do the trick. You can also dig into any survey or interview data you have from your customers.
Create an Audience Persona
An audience persona presents audience data as an example customer. It helps you visualize who you’ll market to. An awesome persona answers questions like:
- Who are they?
- What is their personality?
- How about their family life?
- What are their values?
- What do they do?
- What is their job title?
- Where do they work?
- Where do they live?
- What’s their income level?
- What are their challenges?
- How about their pain points?
- What are their needs?
Define Your Four Ps to Inform Your Go-to-Market Strategy
The four Ps — product, price, place and promotion — will help you center your marketing around your product and its relevance to your audience.
Define your four Ps by asking the questions below. Keep your target audience and persona handy as you answer them.
Understand Your Pricing Strategy
Pricing can be a marketing strategy as much as it is a business strategy. In this step, you’ll figure out how your pricing relates to your marketing. Some examples of pricing strategies include:
- Economy pricing: Charging low prices to bring in a large volume of customers
- Skimming pricing: Setting the highest possible price when the product is new and reducing it over time
- Competitive pricing: Pricing similarly to your competition’s prices
Set Up a Marketing Tactics Checklist
You’re on the home stretch! These last few steps will help you understand how to use your marketing plan.
You have the main components of your marketing plan in place, but how will you put them into action? A marketing tactics checklist will outline the steps you’ll need to take in the first few months of your marketing plan.
Make a Value Complexity Matrix
Every marketing tactic will bring its own value and difficulty level to your business. A value complexity matrix evaluates actions based on their value and complexity to help you prioritize them.
Take the ongoing marketing tactics you established in the previous step and organize them into four categories:
- High value, low complexity: “Easy wins” that should take top priority
- High value, high complexity: Initiatives that will take more time and strategy but will pay off in the long run
- Low value, low complexity: Might be worth your time, depending on the other tactics you need to manage
- Low value, high complexity: Lowest priority — consider deprioritizing or taking off your plan
Estimate Your Marketing Plan Budget
Finish off your marketing plan with an overview of your budget and spending priorities. This budget summary will help you make marketing decisions faster by giving them a financial context.
First, make sure you have a defined total budget. We discuss some ways to calculate your marketing budget in the CoSchedule Marketing Strategy Guide.
Once you have that total number, break it down into the costs for each project you want to do. Organize your projects into needs and wants:
- Needs: Projects that your business needs to execute to have a successful marketing strategy.
- Wants: Projects that are nice to have, but don’t necessarily tie into your greater marketing strategy.
These days it’s very common for individuals and small business owners to carry out much of their own marketing. They do so in the belief that marketing is their best route to sales, or simply because they can’t afford to hire a professional.