Your Marketing Plan Template for Your Small Business
Growing your business requires a solid marketing plan to help you hit the right goals and stay focused. The best marketing plan should identify your target customers, how you can reach them and how you will cultivate consumer loyalty to keep those customers coming back for more. While this concept seems straightforward, many business owners struggle with developing their marketing plans without guidance. That’s where a marketing plan template can help. This guide will help you tackle each individual section of your marketing plan without feeling overwhelmed.
Why You Need a Marketing Plan
There are many reasons for developing a marketing plan, the main one being that it can help you identify your marketing objectives and how to achieve them. A strong marketing plan will also help you answer questions about your business, serve as a reference document for the marketing team and help you develop a more structured approach to satisfying customer needs.
The marketing plan template you choose should focus on setting realistic, measurable goals such as action plans, budgets and responsibility allocation. Do not be afraid to make your marketing plan as detailed as possible, as being comprehensive is always beneficial when setting business goals.
10 Questions to Help You Create a Marketing Plan
Now that you understand the importance of an effective marketing plan, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions.
What is your mission statement?
As a business owner, you have already created a mission statement for your company. In this case, however, you should craft a mission statement for your marketing plan. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish with this marketing strategy and why you need it. You can also add your existing mission statement to your marketing plan if it suits your current strategy. Another option is to take your mission statement and tweak it to fit your marketing plan.
The mission statement should serve as the foundation of your entire marketing plan, so put some thought into it. It doesn’t play a direct role in the marketing activities, per se, but it roots your marketing plan with concrete objectives that keep your team focused.
Who is your target audience?
When developing your marketing plan, identify your target audience early in the process. Your target audience is the specific market you hope to reach with your marketing strategy. For example, if you own an anti-aging skincare company, you may want to target women over 30. If your main product is protein powder, you will be targeting both male and female athletes, trainers and bodybuilders.
Try to answer as many questions as possible to narrow down your target audience. Consider factors such as your audience’s location, values, needs and lifestyle. If it helps, describe your perfect customer and identify what makes this image ideal. Once you know for whom your marketing plan was intended, it will be much more effective.
How will your marketing strategy support your business goals?
A marketing strategy directly correlates with a business’ goals and objectives. The marketing plan’s entire purpose is to detail what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, so ask yourself how it supports your goals as a business owner.
For instance, one of your main goals may be to develop your social media presence. The strategy should include goals related to introducing your business on social media platforms and keeping users engaged. Consider both long- and short-term goals to help you stay on track. In this case, a short-term goal might be to post on social media twice per week and interact with customers daily, while a long-term goal could be to grow your followers to a certain number.
In some cases, you may not have a specific business goal, and that’s okay. Take some time to brainstorm ideas to come up with one or two concrete goals that you can realistically achieve within a certain timeframe. Hitting those short-term goals will only motivate you to stay focused on long-term objectives.
Who’s your competition and where do you stand?
Performing a competitive analysis is key when developing your marketing strategy. It’s important to know who else is selling a similar product or service, especially if they’re already reaching your target audience. Consider your competition’s brand, voice, marketing efforts and other activities. What stands out? Do you see room for improvement? When you know your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, you will be in a much stronger position to execute an effective marketing plan.
Make a list of your top competitors and research their websites or brick-and-mortar locations. You may even consider signing up for their email lists and following them on social media to gain insight into their online strategies. While you should never copy what your competitors are doing, you can mimic what seems to work for them.
- What sets your business apart?
Even though you should consider similar businesses and how they approach their own marketing efforts, never forget that your business is unique. Take stock of what sets your company apart. Doing so can help you fine-tune your niche market, meaning that you can narrow down to a more defined group of consumers.
This is the perfect time to identify your unique selling point (USP). Your USP factors the characteristics that differentiate your products or services from the rest of the market. Think of a USP as determining what you offer that your competitors don’t. It may be that your company provides a higher quality product or sells at a lower cost, or maybe you complete a service faster than the rest.
What’s your pricing strategy?
Your marketing plan should detail pricing information about your products or services. Unfortunately, pricing is often one of the most difficult issues business owners face, but that’s all the more reason to be thorough about this section in your marketing plan. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to approach your pricing strategy, but you need to make informed decisions that align with your overall goals as a business owner.
Your marketing plan should support the price points you have chosen by developing a clear idea of the benefits and value your customers will enjoy. Consider how your pricing methods will affect consumer demand, the variable costs associated with bringing the product to the customer and any environmental factors that could affect the market.
What’s your marketing budget?
No matter the scope of your marketing plan, you need to have a budget in place to ensure you stay on track financially. New entrepreneurs have limited funds and can spend too much on marketing efforts if they are not careful, so you need to develop a promotional strategy based on available funds.
In some cases, you may want to specify an annual marketing budget, but this isn’t the best idea if you want to track results and modify the plan as needed. Instead, break it down into monthly or quarterly budgets so you can reevaluate your marketing efforts more frequently.
Have you developed a promotional plan for reaching customers?
Part of your marketing strategy should include a promotion plan that helps you determine which methods you can use to reach your target audience. It can detail a variety of factors, including forms of advertising, marketing materials, sales promotions, publicity efforts and even packaging. At this stage, you may want to design and order business cards, fine-tune your website, consider direct-mail and email campaigns and do some networking.
Your promotional plan might look very different from a competitor’s, but that’s okay. As long as you have developed your promotional plan with your target audience in mind and you’ve taken steps to stand out from the competition, you’re on the right track.
Are you keeping track of business metrics and how can you improve?
Never make the mistake of putting time, effort and funds into your marketing plan and failing to track your metrics. It is just as essential to measure your marketing plan’s results as it is to develop the details, so consider your marketing plan a living document that should evolve over time.
How you track your metrics will vary depending on your business, but online marketing efforts are easily tracked using net-based analytics tools. When writing your marketing plan, ask yourself how you will track your results so you can stick with a standardized system.
What actions do you need to take to reach your marketing goals?
Finally, your marketing plan should detail how you intend to reach your marketing goals. This section of your marketing plan should contain a precise outline of your planned activities to help guide you through every step of your promotional activities. To create a solid outline, consider your marketing end goal and work back from there, breaking it down into simple tasks that help your team work toward that goal.
For instance, your end goal might be to launch an email newsletter. There are some clear steps you need to take before this can happen, including:
- Clarifying your campaign objective and call to action
- Building an email list
- Determining your campaign budget
- Taking photographs or purchasing image rights
- Drafting and editing the newsletter copy
- Sending the finalized newsletter
When possible, attach a date to each task along with an overall timeline to help build momentum and stay on track.
Important Sections of Your Marketing Plan Template
After you have mulled over the above questions and started to solidify your marketing plan, there are still some important sections to include. How you structure your plan is ultimately up to you, but the best plans feature an executive summary, a retention strategy and financial projections.
The Executive Summary
An executive summary essentially summarizes your marketing plan, giving readers a glimpse at key points without overwhelming them with specifics. You want to write a concise summary that grabs attention and looks attractive to investors, potential lenders and anyone else involved in your marketing efforts.
Since the average marketing plan can be over 40 pages long, the executive summary should outline the plan’s key components in a nutshell. It isn’t an introduction to your marketing plan, but rather a framework of all the important details.
The Retention Strategy
Far too many businesses focus all their time and effort on getting new customers, but they often fail to retain old ones. Building a loyal customer base is one of the most effective strategies for any business, so don’t forget to spend ample time developing your retention strategy.
One smart way of retaining customers is to start a blog and execute a monthly email marketing campaign. Write weekly articles that are valuable to your readers and promote them on social media. Interact with customers as much as possible, but be sure to do so positively and in a way that adheres to your brand voice.
The retention strategy section of your marketing plan should also consider how you can anticipate customer needs, leverage automation tools, implement customer feedback and build trust.
Finally, your marketing plan should include financial projections. This section is one of the most complicated, and even though projections are never 100 percent accurate, it still deserves plenty of thought.
Your financial projections should reflect the information contained in your entire marketing plan, including promotional expenses you expect to incur when executing the plan. Other expenses you should anticipate may relate to your retention strategy, advertising, packaging, content production, graphic design needs and other miscellaneous costs. These financial projections will help you develop and adhere to your budget as you move forward with your marketing efforts.
Creating an effective marketing plan is a massive undertaking for any entrepreneur, but using a template can help. Once everything is in place, you’re ready to show your marketing plan to lenders in order to get the resources you need to move forward with your marketing efforts. Consider applying for a small business loan from an online lender to enjoy competitive rates and to stay on top of your marketing strategy.