Let’s answer your first question: What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan should be your first step to small business marketing. In a nutshell, a marketing plan is an analysis of where your business currently stands in relation to your industry and your more immediate competitors.
Why do I need a marketing plan?
Having a marketing plan fleshed out will easily help you answer questions like:
- Do I have all of the marketing materials I need?
- Am I using the best marketing services for my business?
- Does traditional or digital marketing work better for me?
- Is my current marketing strategy working?
- What do customers like best about my products or services?
- Who is most likely to pay for my products or services?
- What are my small business goals, and how can I achieve them?
Building a marketing plan will take a lot of the guesswork out of your marketing, making it easier to make intelligent marketing decisions backed by analysis. You’ll be able to see where you can make changes in your small business that will positively affect the goals you’re trying to reach.
And yes, changes may be needed in order for your small business to reach the level of success that you want.
For instance, if you have a website that you haven’t updated since 2011, you’ve missed out on important updates that may be affecting your SEO (search engine optimization). It’s almost guaranteed that your website hasn’t been getting the views that it used to get, which could definitely lower the chances of it showing up in search results with Google, Bing, Yahoo, or other search engines.
Developing a marketing plan will also be helpful in recognizing what your best-performing products and services are, the best times of year to spend advertising dollars during, and even help you figure out ways to work around competing businesses in your area.
Case study: Joy’s Beauty Salon
Joy is a hairdresser who owns a busy salon. She has noticed fewer customers lately and writes a marketing plan to see if it can help her figure out why.
While Joy works on her marketing plan, she realizes that she has not been using Instagram. She also notices that her busy season is in May. Joy decides to use this information and starts an Instagram account in April.
She also uses her marketing plan to figure out which services to push in her posts. That May, she has more appointments than she did last year!
Joy’s situation may have seemed obvious to you, but as the owner of her own salon, she is already busy with all of the moving parts that go with being a small business owner. It was not immediately noticeable to her that she was missing an important part of social media marketing.
However, once she did her marketing plan, she was able to not only pinpoint a valuable marketing tool, but she was able to use it to show potential clients what her best and most popular hairdressing services were.
So the question here is, what opportunities could your small business be missing simply because you don’t have a marketing plan?
How do I write a marketing plan?
Every business’s marketing plan is a little different. A small home-based landscaping business will operate and market very different than a local bakery settled in the heart of downtown.
That being said, there are a lot of pieces to the marketing puzzle that every business will share.
It’s a safe bet that both the landscaper and the baker have their own logos, slogans, and business cards. However, the landscaper will probably distribute flyers outlining their services, while the bakery may rely more heavily on foot traffic and therefore uses a sidewalk sign. Their return on investment will be different, as will other forms of marketing that they rely on to get the word out about their businesses.
If you’re a small business owner that needs a marketing plan, we’d like to make it easier for you. We’ve created a free PDF download that outlines how to develop a marketing plan for your small business or learn more about how The Social Brand can help here.
Victory Harbin is one of the owners of The Social Brand and is a content strategist. She helps people be smart about using content to get the best results to grow their business.