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Small business marketing plan: a step-by-step guide

Large or small, start-up or established; a solid marketing plan is a must for all businesses.

Simply put, a marketing plan is a document that will outline a business’ past, current and future marketing activity, alongside in-depth research and objectives.

For small businesses in particular, many of whom may be limited in terms of budget and resources, having a considered, detailed and concise plan in place is vital to ensure you stay within your budget whilst maximising returns.

Whether you want to establish this strategy as part of a wider business plan, or want it to stand alone as a guide for your team, the content of your marketing plan will remain the same. To help you in constructing yours, our team has compiled a step-by-step guide to creating a small business marketing plan.

Outline your goals

First and foremost, you should assign a purpose to your marketing efforts. Are you looking for more leads? More conversions? Higher customer retention? Increased engagement? No matter what your goals they should always be specific, realistic and measurable. For example, you may want to gain 3 new customers per month or increase genuine enquiries by 40% over 6 months. This will help you keep your marketing activity focussed and provide a benchmark against which you can assess your progress.

Establish your audience

The key to any successful marketing strategy is a clear understanding of who you are marketing to, and what they want to see in terms of content. Establish personas for your audience using a number of factors, including demographics (e.g. age, location, job title) and pain points (the issues they face that your product or services can remedy). For each aspect of your service offering, you may have a different persona to target.

Research your competition

Look at where your business stands in relation to your competition. These businesses will offer a similar product or service to your own, and have a very similar target market. Analyse what they are doing well and in which areas they struggle. This will help you to identify opportunities where there may be a gap in the market, as well as where you should bolster your marketing activity so that it remains competitive.

Choose your marketing channels

Where and how you choose to market your business will depend entirely on how relevant it is for your audience. Whether it is social media, SEO, content, email marketing, social advertising, PPC or even video, you should always ensure that it is speaking to your target market. For example, with social media marketing you will need to decide the most appropriate platforms to focus on and the style in which you wish to communicate (e.g. informal, formal, witty, informative, etc.). Or for content, think about guidance or news you can provide to your audience that will add value.

Assign a budget

Now you have a good idea of what channels you will be marketing on, it’s time to assign a budget to each activity. If your budget is limited don’t worry, there are plenty of cost-effective marketing methods that can yield real results.

The best way to set your budget for each activity is to have a quarterly, 6 monthly or even annual marketing plan, outlining all activity that will be completed during this time. Here you can then prioritise activity that may be timelier, and assign a larger proportion of budget to each.


Even before you put your plan into action, you should have a plan of how you will report on your progress. Your marketing plan should be an ever-changing document, adapting to the success of your previous activity, so reports play a key role. Most search engines and social platforms will have comprehensive analytics reporting. Incorporate these into your plan, including details of how often you will review your report, and amend your plan accordingly.

Share your plan

Once you have the first draft of your marketing plan, share this with other members of your team. They may have areas to add or amend to make it more specific to your audience. This is particularly useful when shared with customer-facing team members (e.g. sales or customer service), as they will have a very clear understanding of what customers are receptive to, what they want to see and, importantly, what you should avoid.

An effective marketing plan can significantly improve the success of your activity. This is, in large part, due to the fact that you will have planned your marketing in an informed and considered manner; learning from your previous work (as well as your competitors) and implementing the most effective methods.

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