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Updated Apr 08, 2024

6 Tips for Creating a Great Business Marketing Plan

If you want your marketing campaigns to succeed, it all starts with a great marketing plan.

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Sean Peek, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Marketing campaigns don’t just happen in a vacuum — they should be part of a broad, holistic strategy that works together. Developing a marketing plan is essential to ensure consistent, effective messaging across all marketing channels. From identifying your target audience to fine-tuning your marketing campaigns, a marketing plan serves as guidance to help you succeed. Read on to learn more about how to develop a marketing plan for your small business.

How to develop a business marketing plan

A focused marketing plan sets two goals. The first is to maintain engagement and customer loyalty, and the second is to capture market share within a specific audience segment of your target audience.

Your marketing plan outlines the strategies you’ll use to achieve both goals and the specific actions your marketing team will employ, such as the specific outreach campaigns, over which channels they will occur, the required marketing budget and data-driven projections of their success.

Marketing is a science-driven commitment that typically requires months of data to refine campaigns, and an interconnected marketing plan keeps your business committed to its long-term goals. 

All marketing guidelines will circle back to the four P’s: product, price, place and promotion. The following tips are starting points that will ingrain the habit of continually returning to these four P’s.

1. Create an executive summary.

Marketing campaigns should not be considered individual functions. Marketing is the story of your brand as told to customers. As with any narrative, its tone and characters should remain consistent. An executive summary details your marketing goals for the next year and helps tie each campaign together. 

When establishing your marketing goals, they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). These goals should work together to achieve both internal and external harmony, telling a consistent story that informs customers of your exact message while building on its previous chapters. 

For example, you may set a SMART goal to increase your company’s social media traffic by 15 percent in a 90-day time frame, and plan to achieve this by creating four relevant, informative and high-quality posts per week on each platform, using your company’s brand kit. 

2. Identify your target market.

Before you write a marketing plan, you need to find and understand your niche. Ask yourself who the specific demographic is that you’re targeting. For example, if your business sells 30-minute meals, then those who work traditional 9-to-5 jobs are likely in your market. Study that group of individuals to understand their struggles and learn how your business can solve the problem.

FYIDid you know
Targeting your audience can improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts drastically and help you avoid wasting resources on fruitless campaigns. For example, if you’re looking to generate foot traffic in your neighborhood, consider local marketing strategies to gain local attention.

3. Differentiate your brand with inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing utilizes internal tools, such as content marketing, social media activity and search engine optimization, to attract a customer’s attention primarily through online communication. Content marketing can include informative blog posts, interviews, podcasts with relevant industry figures or supplementary guides on how to use your product best. For example, if you sell cooking supplies, consider posting several fun recipes around the holidays that your tools can help prepare.

Each of these strategies empowers the others in a loop to achieve greater customer attention. A strong content offering can improve your search engine ranking, which brings more people to your website and social pages. You can then share those developed content pieces with that wider audience, who will again improve your search engine rankings. All of this can be done without the expense of a famous endorser or commercial advertising campaign. 

4. Identify competitors that also target your customers.

No matter how original your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target customer’s dollar. Small business personnel seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth or pinpoint companies outside their industry that are as capable of luring customers away. Knowing who your competitors are, their core competitive advantages, and how they might respond to your offerings, such as price cuts or increased communication, helps you devise strategies to combat such losses. 

By seeking out these competitors, you can develop ways to differentiate your business by providing consumers with the things they may be lacking from your competition. Observe how your competitors operate to find ways in which you can stand out and steer your target audience toward your business.

5. State your brand position for your target customers.

Ultimately, your brand ― and what it symbolizes for customers ― is your strongest advantage. You should be able to write a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements focus on solving a problem for the customer in a way that promotes the best value.

6. Budget the plan. 

When implementing a strategy, consider the marketing budget you will allot. Marketing requires money for various reasons, including paid promotions, marketing software, events and outsourced costs. Consider your budget when creating the plan so that there is money available to spend on marketing tactics to achieve your goals. 

While drafting the plan and evaluating your course of action, note the estimated cost, assets, and time required to achieve the stated goals. This will help when it comes time to set the actual calculated budget. Any goals that you create should be realistically achievable within the budget you have set.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
When developing your marketing plan, you should know why a customer would use your product, differentiate your brand from competitors, and audit your product offering and message to ensure consistency.

Channels to include in your marketing plan

Once you know the elements of your plan, the next step is to develop the blueprint of how you will reach your target customers. Aside from traditional print and broadcast media, here are three digital marketing channels that many business owners utilize.

Social media

Social media is an essential part of businesses’ marketing plans because every type of customer is on some type of platform, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. You may feel overwhelmed by the possibilities but focus on the sites that can benefit your business the most.

Brett Farmiloe, founder of internet marketing company Markitors, advised companies starting out in social media to get to know their customers and the platforms they use.

“Figure out where your customers are spending their time, and set up shop on those platforms,” he told Business News Daily. “Develop a content strategy that can be executed internally, [and then] execute your strategy by posting branded content on your selected platforms.”

Email

Although email marketing is not as new as social media marketing, it is an effective and popular choice for small business owners. Companies can implement email marketing techniques in many ways, including newsletters, promotional campaigns, transactional emails and drip campaigns

TipTip
Check out our recommendations for the best email marketing software, which can help you devise campaigns and build email lists that improve your results.

Farmiloe added to set your email marketing efforts apart from the others by segmenting your markets.

“Not all subscribers want to receive the same blast,” he said. “Smart email marketers take the time to segment subscribers at the outset and then continue to segment based on subscriber activity. Through segmentation, companies reduce the amount of unsubscribes, increase open rates and, most importantly, increase the amount of actions taken from an email send.”

Mobile

The popularity of smartphones and tablets has changed how companies target consumers. Since people have these devices with them nearly all the time, companies are looking to implement strategies that reach customers on their gadgets.   

“Mobile marketing is interruptive,” Farmiloe said. “It’s because of this power that a marketer has to let the consumer determine how and when to receive marketing material. That’s why almost every app comes with the option to turn notifications on or off. The consumer has to hold the power with mobile marketing.”

TipTip
Check out our picks for the best text message marketing platforms to improve your mobile marketing campaigns.

Monitoring results

Well-defined budgets, goals and action items ― with appropriate personnel assigned to each ― can make your marketing plan a reality. Think about how much you’re willing to spend, the outcomes you expect and the necessary tasks to achieve those outcomes.

Analytical tools that track customer behavior and engagement rates can serve as a helpful guide for your marketing strategy. Unlike billboards or commercials, digital channels allow you to assess each step of the customer journey and gain insights into the individual patterns and intent of prospects. Intention can soon develop into prediction, empowering your marketing team to develop campaigns that consistently reach target audiences at the right time. 

Did You Know?Did you know
You can find more tips for measuring your marketing return on investment here.

Stay on track with a business marketing plan

It can be difficult to measure progress without a clear plan. A marketing plan helps you identify goals and then measure your progress toward them as you deploy your campaigns. While it’s important to develop a plan and stick to it, you can always iterate on your original marketing plan as you learn more. The more your audience engages with your marketing campaigns, the more you’ll learn about what works and what doesn’t — and you can adjust accordingly. 

Tejas Vemparala and Adryan Corcione contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

author image
Sean Peek, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst
Sean Peek is the co-founder of a self-funded small business that employs more than a dozen team members. His years of hands-on entrepreneurial experience in bootstrapping, operations management, process automation and leadership have strengthened his knowledge of the B2B world and the most pressing issues facing business owners today. Peek uses his expertise to guide fellow small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the areas of marketing, finance and software technology. Peek excels at developing customer bases and fostering long-term client relationships, using lean principles to drive efficiency and cost-saving, and identifying growth areas. He has demonstrated his business savvy through collaborations with Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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