Running a successful small business starts with an excellent marketing plan. When you're just getting started, it's tempting to jump right in and begin working on your product or service. However, marketing can be an essential driver of success for your organization that you shouldn't overlook.
The right marketing plan will play a role in determining just how successful your business ends up being. In this article, I’ll help you decide which marketing activities are suitable for your small business and what kinds of results to expect from them. Keeping these simple rules in mind ensures that your efforts deliver strong performance and results.
Let's dive deep into this topic.
Understanding Who You Want To Serve
Your target audience will determine the type of business that you run. Being clear on who you’re serving is one of the most important things you will have to decide on.
Define Your Target Market
Defining your target market will always be the first step in the process of creating a marketing plan for your small business. It's essential to define who you want to serve concerning their demographics - age, gender, geographic location, and psychographics (including interests, values, concerns, lifestyle choices, etc.).
When determining your target market for a marketing strategy, it's also recommended that you consider these three components:
While we're constantly told that there's strength in numbers and diversifying is an integral part of risk management, it's also worth noting that three segments are enough for most businesses to focus on at one time.
After you identify your target markets, it's important to narrow them down even further by applying the Pareto principle. The Pareto principle is an 80/20 rule which states that 80% of results come from 20% of efforts (or inputs). This means that while there may be many segments within your market, only a few of them will make sense to focus on.
Research Your Competition
Your marketing efforts need to be informed by data. When trying to determine which marketing techniques are right for your business, it's essential that you first understand where you stack up against the competition in terms of product or service offerings, pricing strategy, customer experience, etc.
By conducting a comprehensive analysis of your competitors' strategies and tactics, you can:
Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition
Your USP (or unique selling proposition) is what makes you different from everyone else who's selling the same thing in the same market. It's a concise statement that explains why you're worth doing business with and what makes you stand out from the crowd. Your USP should convey the value that your target market can't get anywhere else, and it needs to be something that people find difficult to ignore (e.g., an appealing offer).
As small business owners, a successful marketing plan revolves around finding a USP that your target audience can identify with. For example, if your target market is the parents of young children, you might make an irresistible offer like "Come to our family restaurant for a free ice cream cone on Mondays." This has nothing to do with whether or not your food is good (although a great product should always be the goal). It's about making your target market feel special - and keeping them coming back for more.
Evaluate And Adjust As Needed
As with any other steps of a successful marketing plan, keep in mind that your marketing strategies will need to be evaluated and adjusted as required in the future. If a particular tactic isn't working for you, ask yourself why. Was it because your offer wasn't enticing enough or because your messaging was off? Perhaps it was the case they were simply more difficult or expensive to execute than initially thought.
In some cases, growing pains are inevitable when figuring out which marketing tactics will work best for your business. In other words, not everything will click right from the start - don't be discouraged if that's the case.
The good news is that small businesses have a lot of flexibility in how quickly they can adapt their strategies and tactics without having a significant impact on their bottom line.
Understanding What You're Able To Invest In Your Business
Let’s now speak about investing and how this plays a key role when creating a marketing plan.
Define What You Can Invest In Your Business
What you can invest in your business should also be part of your marketing plan as a small business. This allows you to invest what you can without getting too far ahead of yourself. For example, if your marketing plan includes increasing your online presence via social media, but you only have $100 to spend on it in any particular month, you'll need to prioritize your efforts and decide whether or not that $100 should be spent on paid ads or whether they’re better suited towards something that can give you a better ROI.
Research Your Competition And Find What Works For Them
When it comes to investing, looking at your competition is also another thing you should be doing in your marketing plan. By looking at what they're doing and how well it's working for them (and the costs associated with it), you can make a more informed decision about which tactics might be worth investing in. If your competition is spending $5/day on Facebook ads, and they’re getting good results out of it, then you'll know to start small and work your way up as needed.
Create A Strategy That Fits Your Budget And Goals
Of course, when it comes to figuring out whether or not something is worth investing in, different factors come into play, such as:
No two businesses are alike, which is why you should be asking yourself these questions when creating a marketing plan that fits your budget and goals. For example, let's say that your goal is to increase brand awareness during the first quarter of the year.
Well, if you're starting, you might not have the money available to spend on ads - but you do have access to free or low-cost social media sites where people can learn more about what you have to offer. In this case, putting together a sound strategy requires thinking outside the box, so it might mean using blog posts (more on this later) to get people interested in what you have.
Understanding Your Marketing Tactics
How you plan on marketing your business is a crucial part of your marketing plans.
You will never reach potential customers or achieve your marketing goals if you do not consider the marketing channels that your local business will be using.
Whether it is digital marketing, social media marketing, or any other medium, choosing the proper channels can significantly impact your local business.
Let's look at what's involved in this part of your marketing plan.
Having A Website That Is Keyword Optimized For People And Search Engines
Having a website that is keyword optimized for people and search engines will help drive more organic traffic to your website. Having responsive, mobile-friendly websites is also important these days.
While having a Facebook page was enough a few years ago to drive traffic, many local businesses find that having a website is needed as it helps them rank higher in search engine results and drives more traffic (i.e., customers) to their business.
Even if your small business is purely brick and mortar, a website will still be beneficial because many people use search engines to find local businesses. Having a website will give you credibility and show that your business is established.
Having a modern website can also help set you apart from your competition, who may not have a web presence at all.
Google Ranking With SEO
Organic traffic generated from sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing makes up the majority of online traffic for most local businesses. These days, you cannot ignore having a solid SEO strategy if you want to drive more customers to your small business through search results.
For organic traffic to be effective, potential customers must see your website when searching for the keywords related to your products or services. This means ensuring there are no barriers between you and potential customers.
Your website needs to have the right keywords in the right places. For example, if someone is searching for a plumber using the keyword "plumber + [your local area]," they should see your website come up as one of the results.
This also applies if you’re selling eCommerce products - for example, having the right eBay SEO strategy will ensure that you get your listings on page one and end up with more traffic as a result.
How well your business ranks on Google will depend on how competitive your industry is, plus other factors like having great content that clearly outlines what you offer to customers, good reviews online, etc. Having a search engine optimization strategy costs next to nothing when you have the right knowledge (you can do this yourself), but it can be challenging if you're unsure where to start. If this sounds like you, then consider hiring an SEO specialist or consultant.
Creating Content That Cuts Through The Noise
Creating content that gets shared by your customers (and potential ones) is one of the most effective ways to grow your local business.
You need to cut through the noise and create content people want to read and share. Whether you're creating videos, blog posts, or writing long-form articles – you must focus on quality rather than quantity.
It can take time before some of your online content starts getting organic traffic (i.e., people sharing your content). As part of your marketing plan, it's a brilliant idea to identify where you may be able to get ahead with this strategy - i.e., what type of content you’ll produce and where you’ll share it.
The best way for businesses to stand out from their competitors online is through original, high-quality content that potential customers will easily find that also solves a specific problem they have.
Your content can even help drive more traffic to your blog, website, or other social media channels.
Using Social Media
Speaking of social media networks, being on these networks can help you reach more potential customers. While Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are some of the most popular online platforms to use for social media marketing, it's essential to be on the top networks that your target audience is using so you can reach them where they are.
If you're not sure what networks to use, then focus on those that allow you to create an organic following, like Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, etc. Being present on these networks can help build trust with potential customers who may just stumble upon your small business online by chance.
What works for other businesses may not work for yours, though. You must spend time testing out different strategies (posting pictures vs. videos, etc.) and figuring out the type of content that resonates most with your audience.
Using Influencers To Drive Traffic To Your Business
In the small business marketing plan creation phase, consider having a budget for influencers that can help you reach more people and grow your business.
Thousands of websites like Influenster give out free items to potential customers in exchange for an honest review (which means these influencers will share this with their followers too).
This is an excellent strategy because the brand gets access to potentially hundreds or even thousands of new customers, and the impact can be long-lasting. The trick here is finding the right influencers interested in your products and services and agree to work with you because their audience aligns with the products and services you offer.
If it makes sense for your small business to be featured in a press release, this can give you the momentum you need to get started with your marketing strategy.
A press release will help you get your business on the local news, which can significantly impact and drive more traffic to your website through online searches.
Press releases are also a great way of positioning yourself as an industry expert in your field if written correctly. This means sharing your knowledge on a particular topic related to what you sell or offer.
Once you have some content for this, be sure to submit it to the top PR sites online so that journalists and publications can pick up your story and share it with their audience. Before doing this, ensure you research who would be most interested in featuring your business (i.e., target market) and create something exciting and newsworthy that’s specific to that publication.
Webinars are interactive online presentations that allow businesses to share their knowledge while educating potential customers at the same time. They're increasingly being used by both small and brands to get people talking about their product or service online, which can have a significant impact on growing their customer base.
Webinars are also great because they allow you to expand your reach by connecting with a wide range of people around the world who may not have come across your brand otherwise.
When creating your webinar, remember to make sure you create something that will add value to your target audience. This means sharing information that they will find helpful and can help them solve a problem or learn something new.
Plus, if you're able to position yourself as an industry expert, this will help build trust with your readers, leading to more sales in the future.
While this might not be something that you create from the get-go, thinking about it as you’re creating your marketing plan will definitely help when it comes time to execute.
Tracking And Reporting
When creating your marketing plan, think about how you will track all your new marketing channels and how effectively they drive traffic to your website.
To find this out, you could allocate a specific amount of money (a marketing budget) for each campaign and track which channels are bringing in the most customers.
Tracking your performance like this can help you learn what is best for your small business and know where to spend most of your resources in future campaigns.
Further Tips To Building A Fantastic Small Business Marketing Plan
Here are some bonus tips if you want to make the most of your small business marketing plan.
While many won't implement these tips until later on in their business, being aware of what needs to be done will certainly help you to make better marketing decisions along the way.
Position Yourself As An Expert/Authority In Your Small Business
While creating an effective sales plan and a marketing plan that works long-term, remember that being seen as an expert or authority in your niche will lead to more sales in the future.
This means sharing your knowledge on a specific topic or industry related to the products you sell or the offer you have running. Adding value for customers looking to solve their problems, allowing them to learn something new or improve their skills in that area will ensure long-term customers.
For example, if you're an interior designer offering your services to small business owners, then writing posts about how to decorate an office space, tips for creating an inviting meeting area, and how to design a reception area that stands out could all play a role in positioning yourself as an expert in your field.
Running Well-Timed Advertising/Marketing Campaigns
Thinking about the correct type of campaigns to run in the early stages of your business can lead to more sales and a successful marketing plan.
For example, if your small business sells bikes, then targeting people searching for biking equipment or accessories around the time of the Tour de France could lead to big sales as people look for information on what they should spend their money on during the time of such events.
Not only does this type of campaign give you more exposure to potential customers at the right time, but it also allows you to show that you understand what your audience is thinking about
Staying Abreast Of Constantly-Changing Markets And Technologies
Keeping up with industry trends and developments can help you stay ahead in your niche and always be seen as an innovator by others.
This can mean investing in resources that will help you do this or spending time reading industry-specific blogs, news sites, and social media profiles.
For example, if you run a small business specializing in real estate photography, staying on top of new trends for taking photos on cutting-edge smartphones could lead to more sales.
Not only does actively researching new trends give you some photography ideas, but it also means that your customers are more likely to buy from you again because they're confident that they're getting the best service (and transfer of knowledge) possible.
Tracking, Evaluating, And Constantly Improving Your Small Business Marketing Plan
It's important to remember that tracking all aspects of your marketing campaigns is key to your business' success.
This means setting up systems for monitoring and evaluating all of your marketing activity so that you can find out what's working and what isn't.
For example, if you're running a paid search campaign on Google Adwords, then using analytics tools to see which keywords customers are using when they come to your site is key. This could lead to more sales as you refine future campaigns based on these new insights.
Not only does this give you a better understanding of how current campaigns are performing, but it also gives you data on where future opportunities (such as making changes to critical pages on your site) lie.
Creating the right marketing plan for small businesses will lead to more sales and a better client base over time.
By following the above tips, you can ensure that your marketing campaigns are set up to be successful long-term rather than short-term.
This also means more sales for you and better opportunities to find the best potential leads that will end up becoming your most valuable customers.