This post is not about social media or local SEO (though both marketing tactics should be on every local business’ radar); instead, this practical post is for small businesses looking to draft (and use) a marketing plan that gets results.
While drafting a marketing plan adds another item to the year-end task list, the process is definitely worth the effort. A small business marketing plan provides the direction that ensures that every marketing tactic and investment is strategic; it allows businesses to strategically choose the right marketing tactics and get the most from investments of time and money.
A marketing plan ensures that the marketing process is more methodical, but that doesn’t mean the effort shouldn’t be incredibly practical as well. The plan doesn’t have to be full of technical marketing jargon, but it should include some vital information that stems from asking several strategic marketing plan questions.
What is the current state of the industry? What are the unique strengths of the business?
This section of a small business marketing plan doesn’t have to be long, but should detail the environment of the business’ industry. This section should also include information about competitors, and what sets the small business apart.
Put simply, the latter should answer the question “what makes customers want to buy from the business?” The answer may be excellent customer service, a unique form of service delivery, or a product advantage. Whatever the answer, this information can be used to create marketing messages that detail why customers should buy from the business.
What current marketing tactics are being used? What marketing has worked in the past?
The marketing plan should detail past marketing tactics (i.e. social media, content marketing, etc.) and the success (or not) of past marketing campaigns. In addition to detailing the past, this part of the marketing plan should also include future marketing tactics and ideas to be included in a marketing calendar.
Who is the business’ target audience? Who is the ideal customer?
This is one of the most important marketing plan questions, and, unfortunately, one that not many small businesses address. The marketing plan should specifically detail who the business is targeting. Instead of the generic “everyone,” this section of the small business marketing plan should provide demographic information (and location specifics, if the business is local) of the target audience.
What new products or services are we introducing?
A small business marketing plan should provide direction for a marketing calendar; a list of new products and services (with projected roll out dates) guides decisions about future marketing tactics and ideas.
What are the future goals? How are those goals evaluated?
Future goals are an essential part of a small business marketing plan. This section should also detail how the goals are evaluated and when they are evaluated. When setting goals, it is important for small business owners to be realistic and to realize that quality matters more than quantity. As tempting as it is to set goals like, “gain 10,000 new followers on social media,” it is important to realize that the amount of social media engagement contributes far more customer loyalty and future sales.
What staffing and budget is available for marketing?
Just as with marketing goals, this portion of the small business marketing plan should be an honest assessment of the staffing time and expertise available for reaching goals. If this assessment proves that there is a gap in available staffing (or expertise), certain tasks should be outsourced to a marketing team of specialists with experience and a track record of results.
In addition to staffing, this area should also set a budget for marketing. Though some marketing tactics may be (technically) free, it should be recognized that results are gained by regular and relevant efforts (which cost money).
The answers to each of these questions should be documented so progress is regularly tracked and results are easily evaluated. A custom-drafted marketing plan can also be drafted by a professional marketing team with marketing tactics specifically chosen for the small business (and fitting within the marketing budget).