How do I write a small business marketing plan for my small business?

Every business (no matter how small or how long established) needs to do marketing. You can do it as you go along but I wouldn’t recommend it for business survival and growth. A small business marketing plan won’t guarantee sales and revenue but a good, well researched plan will give you a better chance to build a successful business.  Your marketing plan is simply your guide for executing your marketing strategy. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages long but it needs to include details of your customers, how you are going to attract and retain them and how you will position yourself against competitors. It needs to cover off the following things:

Executive summary – presents a brief summary of the main goals and recommendations of the plan – basically the plan’s main points. If you only read this section, you’d get a good grasp (note: it’s always written last after all the other sections are done).

Current Marketing situation – describes your target market and your position in the market. Before you can set out your objectives for the year ahead, you need to find out what’s happening in the market place and how fit your business is to meet the challenges for the year ahead. This section will help you to answer the key question: where are you now?

To answer it, you need to research the key trends in your sector, find out how you perform relative to your competition (in the eyes of the consumer, not yours!) and you need to figure out what your key strengths and weaknesses are.

At a minimum, this situation usually covers;

  • Market Description – the market, your customer needs & factors that affect their purchasing.
  • Product review – past sales, prices and margins of your product range.
  • Review of competition – identifies major competitors (& their products, positioning, prices and distribution).
  • Distribution – recent sales trends and other developments in your distribution channels (online, retail, export etc..).

This section can be quite detailed (or short and concise) and can include market trends, reviewing your local market,
reviewing your web presence and conducting a website audit (if online is critical to you), reviewing your marketing and communications, analysing sources of revenue, and undertaking a customer review.

Threats and opportunities analysis – identifies the major threats and opportunities that your business/products/services might face.

When you have these two sections done, you’ll know exactly where your business is. Having answered the first question – ‘Where are we now?’, you are in a better position to decide where you want your business to be next year and beyond. You’ll be able to decide your strategy based on the facts and you can set objectives to help your business survive or refocus.

Objectives – this section outlines the marketing objectives that you would like to achieve. For example; is it to  increase sales by 10% over the next year? Maybe you’ll need to target a promising new customer segment to achieve this growth. Remember your objectives should always be SMART:

Specific– set a number or percentage to achieve.

Measurable – track your performance against the specific measure.

Achievable – based on your available staff & capital.

Realistic – based on what your company can actually achieve.

Time-bound – you should set a deadline such as 12 months.

For more information on getting this step right, check out

Marketing strategy – outlines the broad marketing logic on how you hope to create customer value. No business can attract every customer or every type of customer as they all have different preferences and reasons to buy your products.

The foundation of a good marketing strategy is to build on your market research that uncovered;

These insights will help you adjust your business, products, marketing and help you out perform competitors.

Marketing Strategy Implementation / Action Plan – once you have identified your target customers, their wants, their buying habits and how you will reach them, it will become obvious what you need to focus on such as promotion/advertising (online, press, radio etc.), new product development, increasing average sales per customer or improvements in customer service etc.

Remember, it is more costly to attract new customers than satisfy your existing ones, so start by ensuring your existing customers are satisfied with your products/services and try increasing your sales to this segment first (always include this in your marketing plan unless you are a total start up). Then move on to attracting new customers.

Once you have identified your target customers, you must decide on your positioning. Positioning refers to the way you want your company or brand to be perceived by customers. For example do you want to be seen as a low cost supplier of low/mid quality products or a supplier of premium goods with a premium price? Use the marketing mix to achieve and maintain your positioning.

Marketing Mix – your toolkit

When implementing your marketing plan, you use the marketing mix (often referred to as the 4 Ps) which are the 4 market orientated aspects of your company that you can tailor to satisfy customers.

  1. Product

What value does your product offer to customer’s value, and does it meet their needs? You must understand what your customer wants and offer them products to satisfy them. For example, some flower buyers are looking for local natural flowers, others elegant design or bridal bouquets.

  1. Pricing

Your pricing should match your product (is it low-cost, mid-range or premium?). When deciding your price you can match or undercut your competitors, charge a premium or alter pricing for different customers.

  1. Place

This is where you sell your products and can include shops, sales teams, online sites etc. Your place should be convenient for customers to get to. Its design should fit your positioning. For example, if you have a premium product, don’t aim to sell it in Penney’s.

  1. Promotion

Promotion refers to the way you reach your customers. This can include social media, television, cinema, radio, newspapers, billboards, PR, email, direct mail, personal selling, online banners, ad words campaigns or advertisements.

Implementing your Marketing Plan – Budgets and Control

Your marketing plan needs to describe each step required to achieve your objectives as well as detailing your budget. Most small businesses struggle with the amount of money available so pick the activities that will have the greatest impact (it will depend on your target market).

Implementation of the marketing plan must be controlled, otherwise this will become a report on a shelf. Be clear who is responsible for what actions and what adjustments need to be made if actions are not completed on time. This will allow progress to be monitored and help to identify areas of the plan that may be falling behind.

Remember, your written plan is only as good as the thought and planning that you put into it. So look at the development of your marketing plan as an opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of your customer so that your marketing plan is customer-driven rather than promotion-led (this is critical for success). You need to get to know your customers first and then plan how you can best deliver what they need. Then implement and review.

Hope that helps you get started on your marketing plan.

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