By Rieva Lesonsky
Today, so many small business owners are using informal, free or low-cost marketing methods—such as social media—that it may seem as if traditional aspects of marketing have gone out the window. But if you think writing a marketing plan is as old-fashioned as writing business letters on a typewriter, think again. A new study by Marketo reports that small businesses with marketing plans are more likely to be successful.
The study found that overall, 66 percent of companies have marketing plans. However, among small businesses, only 54 percent had one, compared to 81 percent of small businesses.
Companies with marketing plans were more likely to feel satisfied with their marketing teams, to market more often and to feel that they achieved their marketing goals all or most of the time.
In today’s competitive environment, marketing can make the difference in whether your small business succeeds or fails—and a marketing plan can make the difference in whether your marketing does the same.
So how can you develop a marketing plan? It may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply put, a marketing plan explains who your target market is,you’re your competition is, what challenges you face and how you will differentiate yourself in the marketplace. It also specifies what marketing tactics (advertising, PR, email marketing, online marketing, SEO and the like) you’ll use to attract the attention of your target market.
A marketing plan typically covers a 12-month period and is divided into four quarters of the year. Your marketing plan should also include a marketing calendar that specifies what marketing action/s you’ll take each month, week and day. While getting down to this level of detail may sound intimidating, in reality it will free up your time and eliminate headaches by ensuring you don’t lose sight of your marketing goals and that you implement all the elements of your plan. It will also ensure you have time to plan in advance for marketing outreach such as placing ads far enough ahead of the season to attract holiday shoppers.
Finally, your marketing plan should include a budget, and by developing a marketing calendar, you’ll be able to see if your planned activities jibe with your budget or if you need to adjust your plans according to financial reality.
There are tons of tools out there to help you develop a marketing plan, including software, resources from the SBA and resources on the SCORE website (disclosure: SCORE is a client of my company). So if your marketing plan consists of something scrawled on the back of a napkin or whatever fun Instagram post pops into your head that day, try making it a little more formal and see what results you get.