How to Create an Effective Small Business Marketing Plan

A well-thought out marketing plan is essential to the long-term viability of any business. However, many entrepreneurs and small business management teams are left in the dark as they seek to increase their promotional efforts.

It’s unnecessary for business owners to feel completely lost, however. The best marketing strategies are straightforward and logically implemented. Following are some tips for building and executing a solid marketing campaign.

Identifying specific marketing goals

Every business has particular marketing needs that can be met with careful study of and attention to market realities. In order to be competitive in the information age, your goals should include the following:

· Developing your online presence through a company website and social media

· Reaching out to target markets by identifying their online habits and focusing marketing efforts accordingly

· Understanding advertising trends and consumer behavior in your specific market

· Achieving brand recognition for your company and its services

Think about what your needs are and present them to your colleagues. Identifying such needs is the first step in creating a plan that will actually meet them.

Identifying your marketing and media mix

Closely observe how your ideal customers are currently meeting their wants and needs. Do they go to brick-and-mortar stores to buy the products you sell? Do they turn to the internet and search for detailed reviews before they make purchases? Use that information to determine the best media to focus on. A strong mix might include the following:

· An email newsletter through which you build relationships with prospects and provide special offers

· A social media presence (e.g. through Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other specialty services) through which you offer exclusive benefits to customers

· A blog that garners the interest of prospects and pre-sells them on your service

· The writing and distribution of press releases to increase potential exposure to mainstream media outlets

Develop a list of media that is most relevant to your prospects and can be targeted without overwhelming your resources.

Creating a budget

Think about the marketing campaigns of your competitors and what will it take to either outshine them or hit segments of the market that they’re missing. If they’re investing in traditional marketing avenues such as radio or print advertising, you may also choose to go that route. Or, if your budget is limited, you may choose to focus a majority of your efforts on cost-effective internet marketing and social media outreach.

In order to visualize the budget, a spreadsheet detailing activities (such as website hosting and promotional events) and the amount of money spent monthly on each will be very helpful. Use your intuition and best judgment, weighing immediate needs against long-term ideals, to create a budget that best serves your enterprise.

Implementation of the marketing strategy

Allot a specific amount of time towards daily marketing activities and make sure that they are implemented in a step-by-step manner. The work should be accounted for daily and efforts should be consistent across the days, weeks and months following the launch of the campaign. The ideal implementation strategy will carve out sufficient time for marketing without significantly cutting into day-to-day operations, sales and customer service.

Measurement of marketing success

After implementation, it’s important to periodically measure the success of your promotions. Once you know how well the strategy is panning out, you’ll know how to modify your current campaign and where to focus future efforts. If your current marketing efforts target the internet and social networks, for example, measurement may include the following:

· Looking at the number of people who have signed up for email newsletters

· Evaluating metrics concerning Facebook, Twitter and Google+ followers (total number of followers, number of “shares” and “likes” on Facebook and “tweets” on Twitter, number of followers who have made purchases or responded to promotions, etc.)

· Tracking website visitor behavior using free or low-cost analytics tools

· Split-testing aspects of your website such as aesthetics, layout and copywriting

· Calculating overall increase in sales as a result of the campaign

It’s also important to figure out your return of investment (ROI). This can be calculated as:

(Gross Profit – Marketing Costs) / Marketing Costs

Bear in mind that gross profit is your revenue minus the cost of production or services, not just the revenue itself. Keeping this in mind will help you produce an accurate assessment of how successful your marketing has been.

Creating and implementing a marketing plan requires research and trial-and-error, but it remains a straightforward process. Take the time now to develop a marketing plan that suits your business, and you will give yourself the best chance of reaching and exceeding expectations.