Do you know what you’re doing with your small business marketing? Knowing how to write a marketing plan can mean the difference between scattershot marketing that only hits the target once in a while—and well-thought-out marketing that attracts new leads and helps grow your business.
Maybe you wrote a marketing plan to include your business plan when you first launched your business…but that was years ago. Perhaps you’re preparing to start a business and need a marketing plan. Or maybe you never wrote a marketing plan and are marketing by the seat of your pants. Whatever the situation, every small business needs a marketing plan.
Keep reading—and find out how write a marketing plan by answering five simple questions.
1. What’s my target market?
You can’t figure out how to market to your target customers unless you know who they are. If you did market research for your business plan, review that information and update it if you need to. Gather these facts about your target market:
- Demographics (household income, age, gender, marital status, employment, location)
- Media they use (specific websites, blogs or publications, social media channels, TV or radio shows)
- Motivation (What motivates them to buy? Do they want to save money, save time, appear successful or enjoy themselves?) Motivators are generally emotional.
2. How does my business fit into the marketplace?
Next, assess your business’s position in the marketplace. First, describe what you sell; next, answer these questions:
- What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? How is your business different from and better than the competition?
- Who are your competitors? There may be dozens or only a few. Don’t forget about online competition.
- What are your marketing strengths and weaknesses? If your biggest competitor has an outdated business brand, there’s opportunity for you to make a splash. On the other hand, if you’re starting a new business, you don’t have any brand awareness yet, which is a weakness.
- What marketing tactics do your competitors use, and how successful are those tactics?
3. What is my goal for my marketing?
Answering the questions in Step 2 will help identify your marketing goals. If your business is brand-new, for instance, building brand awareness should be your main marketing goal.
Choose specific, measurable goals, such as growing your website traffic by X percent or getting X number of prospects to complete a leads form on your website. All of these marketing goals should help to increase sales.
4. How big is my marketing budget?
Look for that middle ground between spending too much on your marketing and too little. Marketing is an investment, not an expense. If a marketing campaign costing $1,000 brings in $5,000 of new business, it’s well worth the cost.
In reality, small business owners have limited budgets. To keep your marketing costs manageable, look to affordable (or even free) tactics such as organic search engine optimization, public relations and social media marketing.
5. What marketing channels should I use?
With your goals and budget in mind, figure out the best marketing channels to reach your target customers. If your target market is seniors who own their own homes, direct mail postcards or door hangers could be good marketing channels. For millennials, however, digital channels such as social media, online review sites, or paid search advertising could be better solutions.
Once you know what marketing channels you want to use, drill down into what marketing tactics you’ll use and when. If you plan to use pay-per-click ads, decide how many ads to place each month and how much money you want to spend. If you’re going to send sales letters, set a date and budget for that. Put it all in writing so nothing gets forgotten.
There’s still one question to ask yourself: Is my marketing working?
Knowing how to write a marketing plan is just the beginning. To see if your marketing is paying off, you need to track how well your marketing works. Look at where your customers come from, which calls to action work best, and what approaches deliver the biggest bang for your buck.
Need help with marketing? You’re not alone. SCORE mentors know how to write a marketing plan and can help you in developing your own.