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How to Create Your Marketing Plan – A Comprehensive Guide

It’s that time of year again when small and medium-sized business owners look forward to seeing new customers sign up for their mailing lists. But what if you don’t have the money or the budget to spend on marketing? Even though many businesses are still trying to get their feet wet with marketing, they recognize that it’s important to plan ahead in order to avoid getting left behind in the digital age. That’s why so many businesses now create marketing plans — a centralized list of objectives, timelines and budgeting for each marketing initiative. It’s also a great way for smaller businesses to build a strategy from the ground up, rather than being dictated to by chance or unplanned expansions of an already-established company. Here are some ways you can create your own SMB marketing plan — from beginning to end!

Define your objectives

One of the most essential things to do when creating a marketing plan is to clearly define your company’s objectives. What are you trying to accomplish with your marketing? What is the market you’re targeting? Why do you want to reach them? In a nutshell, your marketing plan should outline your company’s goals and what you hope to accomplish by marketing your products or services. Some examples of business objectives might include growing sales, increasing customer loyalty, increasing brand awareness, increasing online sales, or increasing click-through-rates on your ads. You should also consider your overall goals for your business. How is your company’s survival or expansion threatened by marketing strategies that aren’t part of your plan? In other words, do you want to be known as the company that “excels” at marketing but doesn’t have the budget for it? Or, do you want to be known as the company that “misses the mark” with marketing but is ready to invest when needed? A great way to get started is to take a look at your competitors’ marketing plans and see what you can learn. You may find that you have some things in common with other businesses that you’d like to target. That’s where a business objective’s comparison tool such as Competitor A/B can help you compare notes and discover new opportunities.

Set a budget

When it comes to setting a budget for your marketing plan, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is that your budget should be flexible. You shouldn’t set a budget that you know you can’t follow through on. That way, if the market changes, you won’t be left with a budget that you can’t deliver on. Another thing to keep in mind is that your budget should be limited. For example, if your budget is only $500 for the entire year, you may want to stick to digital marketing methods. That way, if you miss out on funding a few times, you won’t be left with a huge budget to waste. Your marketing budget should also be set in stone. If you have a budget per month, or per quarter, or per year, make sure you know what you’re investing in. If you have a number to refer back to if things ever go south, it will help you stay focused and on-task.

Summarize your data

Once you’ve set a budget and a goal for your marketing plan, it’s time to analyze your data to help make decisions based on facts and figures, not guesswork. Whether it’s your sales history, customer data or the number of sign-ups you’ve had, you want to be able to accurately reflect your marketing efforts. This will help you stay focused and avoid making ill-advised decisions based on emotional appeals or feelings. To get a clear picture of your marketing efforts, take stock of your marketing data. First, create a marketing report. This will include a breakdown of all your marketing tactics, including total billings, number of customers, average order value, and more. Next, break down your marketing data by Objective. Looking at each objective in turn, create a breakdown of your data that includes the percentage of your marketing budget allocated to each objective, along with other key statistics.

Outline your content calendar

After you’ve collected and analyzed your marketing data, it’s time to create your marketing plan’s implementation timeline. First, decide on a timeline for your marketing plan’s execution. Ideally, this timeframe should allow you to: 

  • Set a budget and a goal for each marketing initiative. 
  • Identify which marketing tactics and budget items should be set in stone. 
  • Summarize your data and outline your content calendar. 
  • Build your buyer persona – Create a persona to help you define who you want to target. 
  • Walk-through your market research – Conduct market research to help you understand the landscape and any barriers that may be in your way. 
  • Bottom line – At the end of your marketing plan, consider how you plan to execute your plan. Do you have enough time to get all your objectives completed? Or, do you need to add more time to complete missing objectives?

Build your buyer persona

A great way to make sure you’re building a strategy that helps your business succeed is to have a look at the buying journey your potential customers go through. To get a clear picture of your market and what you’re trying to accomplish for your customers, take a look at the buyer personas that other companies are using. This allows you to get a feel for what type of customers you’re targeting and on what points of their buying journey you want to focus your marketing efforts. Once you’ve got a concept of whom you’re marketing to, it’ll be easier to decide how best to market to them.

Walk-through your market research

Walk-throughs are great when you’re first starting out and need to run some market research. They allow you to test out various strategies and see what works and what doesn’t before committing to it. Find a market that is similar to your own and run some research on it. You’ll want to take a look at: 

  • Where are you located? 
  • What are the major competition’s market shares? 
  • What are your current customer demographics? 
  • What are your competitors’ market shares? 
  • What are your key business objectives? 
  • Bottom line – Run some market research and see what works and what doesn’t for your business. Then, you can decide if the results are worth the effort.

Conduct market research to help you understand the landscape and any barriers that may be in your way

As noted above, market research is crucial to any business’s success. This is why so many companies now conduct market research before they launch any new campaign — just to get a head start on their planning. In addition to testing out various strategies and seeing what works and what doesn’t, you can also use market research to help you understand your competitors’ objectives. For example, let’s say your primary objective is to increase sales. But your biggest competitor’s objective is to decrease customer acquisition costs (CAC). In that case, you can compare the two sides of your market to see what each side is trying to do. You may discover that you have some things in common and can work on joint strategies.

Bottom line

Finally, once you’ve created your marketing plan from beginning to end, take a look at how well it’s fared. 

  • Is everything where you’d like it to be? 
  • Is there anything you’ve done that you’d like to change or improve? 
  • Is your plan working as you’d hoped it would? 
  • If not, why not? 

There’s no sense in haphazardly throwing money at a problem if you don’t know where it is going. In fact, you may be throwing away money in the form of lost sales and frustrated customers if your marketing plan isn’t working. Every marketing plan is going to have growing pains, no matter how well-planned it is. Your SMB marketing plan should reflect this. If your plan isn’t working as you’d hoped, take a look at what’s gone wrong and why. Then, make sure to: 

  • Clarify your business objectives. Are they still accurate and valid? 
  • Summarize your data.