When planning a road trip, what’s the first thing you do? You consult a map. Similarly, before embarking any marketing initiative, you should create a marketing plan—your virtual “road map.” But how does a small business create a marketing plan, and is having one really all that important?
Purpose of a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is vital for small businesses. As a small business, you need to leverage your resources and audience for maximum impact at minimum cost. A marketing plan will help you outline your marketing goals and objectives and help your company understand how to get there.
A marketing plan can take many different forms. It can be formal or informal; highly detailed, or more general. At a minimum, the purpose of a marketing plan is this: it will describe who your clients are and where they are, and how you can reach them. Getting more clients means more business, and more business means greater profits.
For the relatively minimal time and effort required to create a marketing plan, the pay-off can be huge. It’s an excellent investment for any small business.
Related: 6 Sample Marketing Plans
Business Plan Objectives
Before you embark on crafting a marketing plan, you need a basic business plan. This serves as the foundation of your business; the bread and butter of your success. In order to create a business plan, you first need business plan objectives.
What are business objectives? Close your eyes and picture your business one year from now, or five, ten years from now. Where do you want to be? How big do you want your business to be? How much revenue do you want to be bringing in? Or do you want to be laying on a beach somewhere, already having cashed out your business?
Write your goals down, then consider what finances need to be available in order to achieve those. Parse those long-term goals down into monthly or even weekly objectives. Be realistic and don’t get carried away with your ambitions. Make it possible for you to accomplish your objectives with hard work. Try to tilt your marketing objectives towards things actually within your control.
These objectives should be quantifiable—for example, your objective could be to sell 10 copies of your product each week. You can then increase that number to 15 after say, a month. You see the picture. Ultimately, remember: don’t be afraid to start small. Realistic objectives that you actually meet are far better than lofty ones that never get achieved.
Related: Marketing Without a Budget
Marketing Plan Objectives
To better understand how to craft a marketing plan, you should know its elements. A marketing plan consists of several key pieces of information, which can be divided into sections based on your preference. If you’re not sure where to begin, take a look at these sample marketing plans. As you start yours, keep in mind that that you should include the following points:
- A situational analysis. A ‘situational analysis’ is simply a snapshot of your company’s current situation. List your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. When trying to determine your strengths, think what is your company’s competitive advantage. In what ways is your product notable, or superior to other products? Do you have access to a more or less untapped market? Are your customers particularly loyal? Is your customer service exemplary? Use a similar process to analyze your weaknesses, and be honest with yourself. Opportunities are self-evident; what potentials can you positively exploit in the future?
- Your target audience. It’s absolutely key that you identify your target audience. If you don’t know your target audience, you may as well not be in business! Figuring out your target audience takes a bit of guessing and some presumptions. Start by determining their general interest: rock-climbing, gaming, cooking? You should then describe your target audience in terms of demographics, such as age, sex, earnings, religion, or family composition, or by lifestyle (healthy, active, sedentary, etc.) Then try to determine their thinking habits. Are they conservative, modern? Introverted, extroverted? How often do they purchase your product, and in what quantity? Once you determine your target audience you can figure out the best channels to market your business to them on social media.
- Outline your marketing strategies. Which methods and outlets will you use to push your product? Are you going to be using social media networks? If so, which ones? If you’re using Facebook or Twitter, will you also be using paid advertisements? Consider other forms of marketing you may not have considered: billboards, print advertising, promotion via influencers and bloggers, etc .For more examples of marketing strategies for small businesses, check out our previous post.
- Set a budget. Every successful business has to have a marketing budget. You should dedicate a percentage of your projected gross sales to your monthly or annual marketing budget. If you’re a small business or just starting out, this may mean paying out of pocket or borrowing at first, but it’s well worth it. Remember: marketing is absolutely essential to the success of your business. Don’t think that marketing is out of your budget—with so many different marketing tactics available, including digital media, you can find a mix of strategies to appease even the tightest budget.
What Are Marketing Objectives?
A marketing plan is not just a document piecing together various bits of information. Your marketing plan will be useless unless you set time-marked objectives. Marketing objectives are short-term achievements to help you achieve longer term goals. They should be set on a weekly or monthly timeline. These objectives help a business set out what a business wants to achieve from its marketing strategy.
How does one come up with a good marketing objectives? An effective marketing objective meets the SMART criteria. SMART is a common business acronym. What is SMART?
- S – Specific: This should detail exactly what needs to be done. It should be concise and to the point.
- M—Measurable: Your objective needs to be quantifiable. That is, you need to have some method of checking your method of success.
- A—Achievable: You need to set reasonable objectives. There’s no point in setting objectives you cannot meet.
- R—Realistic: Do you have the proper resources and staff to achieve the objectives you have set?
- T—Time Specific: You need to define a timeline. Each objective should have a deadline.
What Are Marketing Goals?
Marketing goals are not the same as marketing objectives. Marketing goals can be long or short term, and are larger achievements to be had by succeeding with your objectives. Marketing goals should fit in with your company’s financial objectives, which can be expressed as:
- Sales dollars
- Units sold
- Market share
- ROI on advertising expenditures
- Sales conversion rates
Remember: marketing goals are long-term achievements. Objectives are the smaller steps within marketing goals. How do you set marketing goals? It’s about dreaming realistically. Consider about what you can achieve, how motivated you are, and what resources you have at your disposable. Motivation and capability are key to setting realistic, achievable goals. Feeling unmotivated? We have tips on staying motivated for you.