Notice that we didn’t say, “4 EASY Steps to a Legit Marketing Plan”? That’s because creating a successful marketing plan takes time and a lot of thoughtfulness. But, it could be the secret ingredient that you need to take your small business to the next level, so it’s definitely worth it!
As a small business owner, you may already be thinking about how this won’t apply to you because you’ve got one thing on your mind: your budget. But stay with us, because even if you have a small budget, it’s still super important for you to create and execute good planning for your marketing. We’d even argue that it’s MORE important to have a plan if you have a small budget. No business is too small to have a marketing plan, because if you have customers or clients, you’ve gotta communicate with them about your products or services somehow. That’s where a good plan comes in.
A good marketing strategy will be multi-faceted, actually doable (!!!!), and executed consistently over time. We’ve put together a list of some good steps to take in developing a plan that will hopefully help you get started.
1. Market Research & Profiling
The first step is to do extensive research on your industry, as well as on local and regional B2B or B2C trends. This step ensures that the planning and development of your strategy is as well-informed as possible. Once that research is complete, the next step is to create target client profiles. Before you spend a ton of time and money marketing your small business online, it’s important to know who your ideal customer is. Who do you think would be most interested in, but also able to afford your product? This will help with directing your planning and marketing towards your specific target audience.
You can categorize your ideal customer by demographics and lifestyle. Some examples are: What age, sex, income level, and geographic location is your customer? Are they trend setters or trend followers? (or neither?) Conservative or liberal? Spenders or savers? How often do they purchase what you have to offer? Once you answer these questions, you can begin to notice patterns that will be really helpful with narrowing down and properly targeting your advertising. This step is about getting the biggest bang for your advertising buck, and let me tell you, we are ALL about that life.
2. Branding & Communication Audit
When constructing a plan for future marketing and advertising, it’s a good idea to step back and take a 10,000-foot look at your past and current communication. Haven’t done much communicating with your audience yet? Take a look at other successful companies in your industry. A communication audit will analyze all correspondence on social media, on your blog, on your website, and anywhere else online or in print.
During this audit, it’s crucial to be honest and objective about your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and competition. This is necessary because in looking at the big picture, you may find things that you’re currently doing that you absolutely love and some things you really don’t. Try to view your company’s communication the way a customer would—imagine being in their shoes. This will help you to find new ways to strengthen communication about your brand, your mission, and your products or services. And you may even discover a make-or-break hole in your communication that launches you into new success.
3. Draft a Marketing Plan
After you’ve got all your research, profiling, and communication audit done, it will finally be time to create a plan for the marketing efforts. (Yay!) During this step, you’ll detail the exact methods you want to use to reach your audience going forward. In addition to typical methods, your plan should include detailed descriptions of high-level and low-level KPIs, how those will be measured, and an implementation timeline. If you’re not familiar with KPIs and what we just said seems like it’s in another language altogether, we wrote a blog outlining some important KPIs for small businesses to measure that you can read here.
A typical marketing plan will be a projection of 6 months’ to 1 year’s time and needs to be revisited after that period to see how things are going and to make any necessary adjustments. Keep in mind that your plan will be a living document with the intention of being revised and strengthened as various efforts are executed from month to month. So don’t forget to review your plan on a regular basis.
4. Set a Budget
In theory everyone knows to only spend what you can afford. But in reality, many businesses spend way more than their means on things like advertising thinking it will all eventually pay off. Maybe it will, but often times it doesn’t, and this is especially true for people who move forward without a set plan and a strict budget.
I know it’s hard, but try as much as possible to be as objective as you can about the costs you can expect. It’s best practice to over estimate rather than under estimate. (Isn’t it funny how things always add up?) Your budget should include and all aspects of your marketing, including ad spends, implementation costs, and production costs for any collateral.
Once you start figuring out how much each marketing campaigns and tactic you chose is going to cost you, you MIGHT realize that you don’t actually have the dream budget for your dream plan. (Womp womp.) Hey, that’s okay. The reality is, you should be spending somewhere between 10-15% of your overall revenue on marketing. And meeting that budget requires adjusting your plan until you have a mix that you can afford! Once you’ve set your marketing plan budget, it should be set in stone. I know that seems so obvious that we shouldn’t have to say it. But sticking to a budget is HARD. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it will pay off in the long run.
It’s important to establish a strong marketing plan for the future direction of your company’s advertising, branding, and PR efforts. First you want to identify the audience you want to target, then you need to outline specific methods you plan to act on to market toward your audience. Don’t forget to specify how you’re going to measure success, and most importantly, be flexible enough to allow adjustments when necessary.
We can’t stress enough how important this is if you’re a small business with a small budget. Creating a good marketing plan will set you up to grow. And as you grow, your marketing efforts will grow too!
If you have any questions, we’d love to meet with you for general consulting, to assist you in your research, or even help with marketing execution!