A marketing plan is an actionable roadmap of a company’s marketing efforts, essentially a tactical outline detailing what they’ll do, when they’ll do it, the outcomes they seek and how they’ll track their progress. It’s a crucial aspect of a marketing strategy that allows businesses to execute their goals in a measurable manner for continued success.

For many small businesses, there is a clear strategy in place without a steadfast plan of attack and an overall direction. They might have a growing presence on social media and within the blogosphere, but without content and message consistency. The result is commonly answered by the resounding question: “Where are we going? Why isn’t this working?”

Let’s begin by outlining the differences between a marketing strategy and marketing plan and understanding how they work together for powerful small business marketing.

Marketing strategy vs. marketing plan

A marketing strategy is at the core of a marketing plan, distinguishing things like target audiences, industry competitors and a business’ distinct offerings. It sets the groundwork for a confident tactical approach as it provides the “who” and “why” in respect to marketing efforts. The plan extends from there, laying out marketing specifics such as campaigns and posts in a way that is actionable, timely, easy to follow and, most importantly, measurable with KPIs. In relation to content, it means businesses are able to hit the sweet spot between audiences waiting for and wanting information, and inundating them with everything all at once, all the time. Again, consistent marketing is at the centre of it all.

Putting a marketing plan into action for small businesses in 9 steps

Understanding the intertwining of marketing strategies and plans in holistic, measured marketing is the first step toward a successful marketing plan. They both go hand-in-hand and, together, are the building blocks for brand recognition, loyalty, sales, and profitability.

Two big steps with a lot to unpack, here’s how your small business can put together a marketing strategy and develop a consistent marketing plan.

1. Strategy

As aforementioned, a small business’ marketing strategy combines business goals and challenges with a thorough analysis of the market. The result is a definition of the communities they hope to reach, an understanding of their company’s place within the industry, and knowledge of the pathways that are best to communicate with target audiences. To get started right now, explore our marketing tips for small businesses so you’re ahead of the curve.

To summarize crucial aspects of a marketing strategy:

  • Target audience - A clear snapshot of the communities or businesses a company hopes to reach. This is an audience connected by their demographics, wants, needs, passions, interests and their preferred means of communication. You will be able to create a unique “persona” from this information that you can target marketing approaches to.
  • Market and competitive analysis -A deep-dive into the market that details market segments and size, trends and competitors. This is a chance to identify profitable marketing or product/service opportunities as it divulges unique gaps in the market and shortfalls of the competition. As a small business, acknowledge what bigger corporations lack or recognise what specific locations don’t have access to.
  • Offerings - What you will deliver to the market and how it is relevant and demanded in different segments. This may include its differentiating factors and how that influences the industry.
  • Message - Divulges what a market thinks of a business and its branding. This could provide opportunities to either align marketing measures with these findings, or dispute them.

2. Plan

Once a thorough and researched market strategy has been established, a marketing plan is the next step towards ever-relevant marketing and long-lasting small business success. The plan will put market and audience knowledge into action, as well as content marketing processes in a followable timeline. From here, you will be able to both distinguish and implement KPI goals into marketing campaigns

To summarize crucial aspects of a marketing plan:

  • Goals - Before anything, the outcomes a business hopes to achieve must be identified. This establishes an overall direction and should be measurable for future revisions and to indicate success and shortcomings.
  • Situational analysis - Drawing from the marketing strategy, knowledge of the market, target audiences and profit opportunities will allow business to focus marketing resources, efforts and approaches accordingly. This informs choices of media channels both traditional (television, newspapers, catalogs) and digital (web blogs, social media, email) where marketing messages are to be released.
  • KPIs - KPIs are key performance indicators. They are quantifiable measurements that gauge business performance and can be used to understand the level of achievement or failure of all kinds of operations. KPIs specific to marketing include sales revenue, marketing return on investment, lead-to-client/purchase ratios, cost per lead,organic traffic and engagement.
  • Revisions - Effective marketing is ever-relevant, so to ensure long-lasting business success, you need to be constantly creating content in response to the demands of the market and its audiences. Using measurable goals and keeping a close eye on KPIs will allow businesses to identify strengths and weaknesses in their marketing processes, therefore mobilizing revisions to future content, approaches and messages.
  • Roadmap - An actionable plan. This may come in the form of a timeline, calendar or interactive scheduler such as Sked Social, though all allow businesses to organize and visualize marketing approaches. It allows processes to be disseminated consistently and carefully, allowing revisions to occur and new opportunities to be capitalized upon.

The key to relevant, consistent marketing

Small business marketing plan

With a thorough analysis of a market and its audiences, any small business can try their hand at a marketing plan and set themselves up for memorable, effective advertising. In this digital age, it’s more important than ever to establish your business as a presence within your industry that readily communicates, informs and understands their target markets, and this is a surefire way to set your company on the right track. Don’t be afraid to take risks - it’s why we revise and rethink when things don’t hit the mark, and relish in the fruits of opportunity when it all works out. Get yourself a notepad, a pencil and get planning!

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experts at LeadOwl when it comes to small business marketing questions. If you’d like more tips and guides to marketing success, sign up to our email newsletter and always be ahead of the competition.