small business marketing plan

Building A Marketing Plan for Your Small Business: Everything You Need to Consider

By Ivan Boychuk on December 19, 2020
    
	As a small business owner, you’re probably always on the lookout for things you can do to help grow your business. One of the best uses of your time is developing a detailed marketing plan. This will help ensure that your marketing budget is spent wisely and that you put yourself in the best possible position to maximize your ROI.

In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know about creating a marketing plan for your small business!

How Can A Small Company Benefit from Having a Marketing Plan?

Before we get to the details explaining how to create an effective marketing plan, first it’s important to understand how a small business can benefit from having a marketing plan. Here are just a few of the main benefits of creating a solid marketing plan for your small business:
  • Saves time and keeps you organized
  • Ensures efficient allocation of marketing budget
  • Increases effectiveness of each campaign, helping to maximize ROI.
  • Allows you to plan for the future.
Remember, most marketing plans will adapt and evolve over the years. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that your marketing plan will look very different one, two, or even three years down the road compared to how it looks now. The important thing is to establish a starting point. You can always fine-tune things as you go along. To help you get started with this process, in the next section we’ll share eight of the most important considerations to make in your small business’s marketing plan.

The Most Important Elements to Consider in A Small Business Marketing Plan

1. Research

The very first step you’ll want to take when creating a marketing plan is conducting extensive research for the various aspects of your business. Here are a few areas you should look into.

Industry research

It’s important to take a close look at the industry you operate in. When conducting industry research, you should look at the past successes and failures of the industry to help you formulate a prediction for what the future will hold. Once you have a clear idea of where your industry is headed, you can then alter your products and services to fit future demand and create a marketing strategy that positions your brand as an authority figure. For example, Tesla was one of the first companies to realize that electric vehicles were the way of the future. Despite being founded in 2003 (an infant compared to established companies like GM and Toyota), in July 2020 Tesla became the most valuable car company in the world. One of the main reasons for their success was the extensive industry research conducted in Tesla’s early days. They realized there was a huge gap in the auto industry - electric-powered vehicles - so they decided to fill this gap accordingly. After they established how they wanted to position their company, they were able to create an effective strategy to help raise awareness for their brand.

Audience research

You also need to research your audience. Figure out the people who are most likely to find value in your products and services. Are your products designed for consumers? Other businesses? Both? Knowing the exact persona of your ideal buyers will help you create more relevant marketing messages that will increase the chances of generating a response. For more on this, check out the Customer Avatars section below.

Product research

One of the most important things to consider before creating a marketing plan for your small business is your products. In particular, how are the products and services you offer different from those of your competitors?

Competitor research

Finally, take a look at some of your biggest competitors and see what they’re doing to market their company. For example, are they using paid ads online? Do they have a blog on their website? Are they taking advantage of direct mail? Understanding what’s working (and what isn’t) for your competitors is a great way to find opportunities. If you notice one of your largest competitors is spending thousands of dollars on online ads but is neglecting direct mail, then a targeted direct mail campaign might be an opportunity for you to reach a new untapped audience.

2. Create Customer Avatars

It’s nearly impossible to create an effective marketing plan without knowing exactly who your message is aimed at. Creating customer avatars can be a great strategy to help clarify your target audience and create relevant messaging for each campaign. A customer avatar can be defined as a detailed profile of your ideal customer. Here are some things to consider when creating a customer avatar:
  • Age
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Income
  • Employment
Remember, if your products and services serve multiple demographics, you don’t need to limit yourself to creating a single customer avatar - you can create as many as you want! You can even design specific, personalized campaigns to target each customer avatar individually. This can be an extremely effective strategy because data shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to shop from a brand that provides personalized experiences.

3. Determine Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Let’s face it… business can be extremely competitive. If you don’t offer something special that helps you stand out from your competitors, you’re going to have a really tough time capturing consumer attention. That’s why it’s important that you find your unique selling proposition and make it the poster child of your marketing strategy. A USP can be anything that provides an added benefit or advantage to your customers. For example, popular USPs include low pricing, unparalleled efficiency, superior selection, unbeatable quality, and more. Here are a few examples of USP’s from popular companies you have probably heard of. Dominos  Dominos is the world’s largest pizza chain with more than 17,000 stores in 90 countries. You’ve probably heard the term “30 minutes or it’s free!” Not only is this a catchy slogan but it also gives you a look at Dominos’ USP. Not every pizza joint is willing to guarantee fast delivery so their commitment to speed separates them from the pack. Hello Fresh Hello Fresh is a meal kitservice that delivers fresh ingredients and recipes right to your door. They make it extremely easy to cook delicious meals even if you have minimal skill in the kitchen. The USP for Hello Fresh is that they offer the largest variety of any meal kit service and they claim to test each recipe 45 times before adding it to their menu, ensuring quality and consistency. WooCommerce WooCommerce helps individuals and businesses create online stores to sell their products and services. This company claims to be the most customizable ecommerce platform for building an online business - a very attractive USP seeing as more and more retailers are looking to create custom online stores.

4. Choose A Pricing Model That makes Sense 

Your business’s pricing structure can play an important role in how you decide to market your products and services. The type of pricing model you select will depend on how your business is set up and what makes the most sense for you. Here’s a look at a few of the most common pricing models you can choose from (source): Competition-Based - uses competitor prices as a benchmark. This strategy is often used in highly-saturated industries where small differences in pricing can make a big difference in the consumer’s purchase decision. To be successful with this model, you’ll want to set your prices slightly below your competitors’ rates. However, only certain types of businesses can get away with this pricing strategy. For example, a local grocery store probably isn’t going to be able to beat the prices of a big-box retailer like Walmart which buys its products in high volumes. Cost-Plus - this method allows you to determine your profit margins. For example, if it costs you $100 to make your product, and you want to earn $50 for each unit sold, you would need to charge $150 for the product. The key to this strategy is finding the balance between profit per unit and the number of units sold. If you jack the price up too high, you won’t sell as many units and your profits will be affected. Similarly, a price that’s too low will mean more units sold but less profit earned. Dynamic Pricing - also known as demand pricing, a dynamic pricing model is determined by the current demand for your products or services. The higher the demand, the higher the price, and vice-versa. Freemium Pricing - this model is where a company will provide a free version of a product in the hopes that people will pay to upgrade to the superior, premium version in the future. A freemium pricing structure is popular with digital products like software and apps (just think of Spotify and Youtube). High-Low Pricing - this is where a business launches a product and offers it at a high price-point, but then later drops the price. Discounts, clearance sales, and other promotions are all examples of high-low pricing. Hourly Pricing - commonly used by labourers, contractors, and other professionals, hourly pricing is one of the most straightforward models. You simply charge a certain fee for an hour of your time. Skimming Pricing - businesses charge the highest price possible for a new product and gradually drop the price as time progresses and there’s less demand. Many technology products adopt this pricing structure because older models become outdated or irrelevant - just think of the cost to purchase an iPhone 12 compared to an iPhone 10. Penetration Pricing - this is where new products are offered at an extremely low price (often for no profit or even a loss) in order to raise awareness for a brand. Then, once people start talking about the product, the company will gradually raise the price. This is a great strategy for new businesses that need to make a splash in a competitive industry. Premium Pricing - used to establish a sense of luxury or quality around your products. In order for a premium strategy to work, you’ll need to have excellent branding. This is how companies like Louis Vuitton can get away with selling handbags for thousands of dollars each. Premium-priced products are often viewed as a status symbol more than a functional product. Project-Based Pricing - one flat fee in exchange for the completion of one project. Project-based pricing usually involves providing a quote or estimate to the prospect before beginning the project. Value-Based Pricing - uses data and customer interest to determine the price customers are willing to pay. Bundle Pricing - involves offering multiple products together for a reduced price. For example, if product A is $100 and product B is $50, a company might offer a bundle that provides both products for $125 - a $25 discount. Geographic Pricing - when products are priced differently based on geographic location or market demand in a particular area. This structure is often used by businesses with multiple locations across the country or world. Once you have selected the pricing model that makes the most sense for your business, you can create marketing materials that explain to customers why your pricing structure makes the most sense for them. For example, car dealerships attract customers by advertising “Low Monthly Payments” instead of forcing customers to buy a car in one payment.

5. Set a Campaign Budget

Being able to effectively manage and allocate your budget is one of the most valuable skills you can have as a small business owner. Setting a budget for your marketing campaigns can be tricky. Your budget will also look very different depending on the stage of your business. For example, a startup might have a relatively small amount of capital to work with compared to a large, established business. So the best approach is to start with the amount you are willing to spend and work backward. For example, let’s say you can afford to allocate $2,000 per month for marketing. The next step is to sort this $2,000 into buckets. After all, “marketing” is a pretty broad term and you need to be a little more specific about where this money is going. Here’s an example of how a business might decide to split up its $2,000 marketing budget: Direct mail - $750 Paid ads (online) - $500 Blog content - $250 Social media posts - $250 Storefront signage - $250 Total - $2,000 Established businesses might elect to invest heavily in strategies like direct mail. That’s because, although direct mail has a higher upfront cost, it is proven to provide much higher response rates compared to cheaper marketing methods like email. However, if you have a limited budget, email and other low-cost marketing strategies might be a better fit for you - at least in the beginning.

6. Decide How to Distribute Your Message

When it comes to marketing, you shouldn’t limit yourself to only one channel. Your customers interact on several different platforms so it’s important that you have a presence on each of these platforms. This will help create more touchpoints between your brand and its customers - and the more touch points you have, the more likely you are to convert prospects into paying customers. Here are just a few of the options you have for distributing your message:
  • Direct mail
  • Blog posts
  • Social media
  • Personal URLs
  • Video content
  • Paid ads
  • Text messaging
The idea of distributing your message through multiple platforms and channels is known as multichannel marketing and there is plenty of evidence that supports using this strategy as a way to market your small business:
  • 86% of senior-level marketers agree that it’s very important to create a cohesive customer journey across all touchpoints and channels.
  • 72% of consumers say they would rather connect with brands and businesses through multichannel marketing.
  • 89% of customers are retained by companies with multi-channel engagement strategies
  • 30% higher lifetime customer values are attributed to consumers shopping across multiple channels
Yet, despite the obvious benefits of adopting a multichannel marketing strategy, many small businesses struggle to put this type of plan into action. In fact, only 14% of organizations say they are currently running coordinated marketing campaigns across all platforms. If you are interested in using multichannel marketing to increase your marketing ROI but don’t know how to get started, the team at ION would be happy to help! We have experience creating several multichannel marketing campaigns for our clients with exceptional results. Click here to learn more about our multichannel marketing service.

7. Assess The Results

After you have created the foundation for your marketing plan, it’s time to put this plan into action. Remember, don’t expect perfect results right away. In the early stages of each campaign, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the results. You should constantly ask yourself what’s working? And what isn’t? In order to find the answer to these questions, it’s important to use the right tools. For example, Google Analytics can help you track how many people visit your website, which pages they view, how long they stay on each page, and many other helpful metrics. Using this data, you can then tweak your marketing materials accordingly. For example, let’s say you create a new landing page for a product on your site. You notice that there’s plenty of traffic to this page, however, people are leaving this page after just a few seconds. This could be a sign that the design of your page needs to do a better job of attracting the visitor’s attention. Or, perhaps your first few lines of copy need to be more engaging. Armed with this information, you can then make the appropriate changes to the page, relaunch it, then determine whether you have solved the problem. Keep in mind, you should never test more than one thing at a time. Doing so makes it much harder to actually see where the problem lies. In the example above, the landing page had decent traffic but a low average time on page. We didn’t know if this was because of the design or the copy. If we changed both of these elements before relaunching the page, and then the average time on page increased, we wouldn’t know what was causing the initial problem - the design or the copy. Instead, try changing one thing at a time. If altering the design has no effect on the average time on page, then you know the copy is causing the problem by the simple process of elimination. Zeroing in on specific issues like this will help you streamline your efforts in the future and create a higher chance for success...Which brings us to our next point...

8. Create an Automated System

After you’ve built out the foundation of your marketing plan and conducted some basic testing to see what works and what doesn’t, it’s time to take it to the next level by automating your processes. This could mean creating an email autoresponder that sends a specific message to prospects depending on their current stage in the buyer’s journey. It could also mean using special tools to repost blog content across all of your social media channels every time a new blog post is published. It might even require you to outsource repetitive marketing tasks to a third-party provider. Frank H. Knight, an American economist, once said: “Never waste any time you can spend sleeping.” What he meant with these words is that you shouldn’t always assume you are being effective simply because you are working. Sometimes it’s better to figure out how to work smarter, not harder. Automation is what separates those who accomplish many great things from those who accomplish a mediocre few. If you have efficient systems in place within your marketing plan, you’ll be able to focus your energy on other important areas of your business.

Need Help Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Small Business?

From planning to building to launch, ION has helped several small businesses create effective multichannel marketing campaigns resulting in an impressive ROI. If you are thinking about taking your small business’s marketing to the next level, but don’t know where to start, contact us today!