How to create a Small Business Marketing Plan in 5 Steps

Montage representing small business marketing plan

Do you need a small business marketing plan? Maybe you’ve tried social media marketing and it delivered zero sales, or you’ve been persuaded to pay for advertising in a local magazine, and still the phone doesn’t ring.

Does this sound familiar?

The good news is that you’re not the first small business owner to struggle with marketing, and it is a problem that can be fixed by following this simple guide.

Your small business marketing plan

You know that your business needs a marketing plan, but you just don’t know where to start. The first point to note is that every business is different, so you need to develop your own marketing plan. What worked for one company may not work for you. However, every channel or technique has best practice of how to use it effectively.

Who is your ideal customer?

The answer to this question will help you target the right customers for your business. The answer is never ‘everyone’. Think about your current customers or who is most likely to buy from you, and make a note of their characteristics. Their age, gender, geography, interests will all help you build up a picture of your ideal customer.

For example: An accountant might be targeting small business owners with 1-10 employees in the Cambridge area.

The more specific you can be the better. You won’t be excluding other people from doing business with your company but a customer profile will help you be more specific in your marketing. For some ideas on how to create customer profiles and segment your target market read this blog post.

Solve your customer’s problems

Don’t think of marketing as selling. Your best customers will be people who need (or want) what you are offering. Therefore think about what problem you are solving for them and what the benefits of your product or service are. Build your messaging around that.

For example: A physiotherapist will help solve physical injuries sustained through sport or accidents. Their services will get you moving pain-free and back to fitness safely.

Reach your customers effectively

There is no point in advertising on one place if your customers are elsewhere. It’s really important to use the right channels and media to reach your target customers. Facebook is very popular with a wide demographic but if you’re targeting young people then think about Instagram and Snapchat. Likewise local magazines are very popular with an older age demographic. If you advertise in the places that your target customers already frequent then you stand a much better chance of them seeing your message.

For example: A plumber may advertise in a local magazine as they are trying to reach a local and older customer.

Don’t forget your existing customers as they are a real asset to your business. Can you generate repeat sales from your current customers? Can they refer you to their friends or business network?

Do a small number of things right

It’s more important to do a small number of things well than to spread yourself too thinly and not do anything justice. Start small and build up gradually, and don’t expect instant miracles – it can take a while for your name to be known and business to be generated.

There are a lot of free or low-cost advertising options open to small businesses but do be prepared to put some money behind your marketing effort. Even a small investment, spent wisely, can deliver a good return on investment.

Evaluate, test, learn and evolve

No company can afford to rest on their laurels and tick the box marked ‘marketing’ and move on to the next thing on the list. Marketing your business is a continual process as society and business are constantly changing. A new competitor may come on the scene, your customers’ needs may change, and the channels that once worked for you may no longer do so.

Schedule in some time to evaluate your marketing – what has worked and what hasn’t, and make changes to ensure that you are still reaching the right people in the right place, at the right time with the right message.

For example: A driving instructor who used to advertise in the Yellow Pages is notified that they are no longer printing a hard copy any more. With a small budget they test some adverts in local magazines, on Facebook and Google Adwords. After 1-2 months they evaluate which channels have worked best and set up regular adverts on their chosen channel.

Create your small business marketing plan

Planning out your marketing activity will allow you to refer back to your plans once a month and remind yourself of the answers to the questions above. A marketing plan is meant to be an evolving document, so update it as your marketing becomes more sophisticated. You can use our small business marketing plan template here.

Call in the experts

If you are struggling to create a small business marketing plan then get in touch and we can advise you on how to put a professional small business marketing plan in place.

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Roisin Kirby is an experienced Marketing Consultant based in Nottingham (UK), specialising in Education and Public Sector marketing. A Chartered Marketer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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