Founder at AMP’D, small business growth expert with 15 years of experience, regular contributor for Business Insider and Working Mother.
In my many years helping small businesses grow, business owners have often sat in front of me, overwhelmed and exhausted, asking which specific marketing tactic will help them get more customers. My response is always to ask what they’re looking to accomplish, which isn’t always an easy question for them to answer.
After being in business development for 15 years, with five of those specifically helping small businesses grow with a market-focused business strategy, it seemed to make sense to outline the steps my team and I have developed over the years. This approach has helped hundreds of small business owners create long-term, sustainable plans for a business they love.
To develop a plan, you have to do some soul searching. Recently I came across a shocking statistic that 50% of small businesses in the U.S. operated without a marketing plan in 2019. No wonder so many small-business owners seemed to have the same problems. Yogi Berra’s famous quote comes to mind: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
See, the truth is, creating a strong plan is what many small-business owners don’t take time to do. After all, creating a plan can be daunting because it takes research, a lot of effort and a lot of time. But without a plan, you’ll likely feel like you are constantly 10 steps behind and lost o how to move forward. With little direction and strategy behind your efforts, you risk wasting money as well.
In my experience, a few more reasons your business needs a marketing plan include:
• Direction: A marketing plan forces you to think about where you want your business to go, in addition to what’s working and what’s not.
• Purpose: It sets measurable goals.
• Motivation: I’ve found a marketing plan creates motivation. Even better, once the plan is in place, it allows you to delegate and have more time to work on the things you’re good at and love.
• Time: You’ll spend less time reacting to things if you are working proactively.
• Value: You can provide more value to your clients because you’ll be laser-focused on their needs, challenges and motivations.
• Organization: Your marketing plan will organize your time and prioritize what you are doing. If everything is equally weighted as a priority, nothing is actually a priority.
• Revenue: Your plan has the potential to help you maximize all marketing dollars you spend because it’ll be well thought out, and you’ll put metrics in place to measure if it’s working. Also, you’ll generate more business from the clients with whom you actually want to work.
So, how do you start a plan?
There are four pillars of any marketing plan: You should have a clearly defined intent, focused insight, well-thought-out infrastructure and copious amounts of action.
Map out the answers to these questions:
Intent: What are your short-term and long-term business goals?
Insight: What do you know about your ideal clients?
Infrastructure: What do you already have in place that you can jump in with right away to get you moving toward your goals?
Action: What can only you do, and what can you delegate to team members or outsource to experts?
Answering these four questions will give you the focus to outline a plan. You’ll feel your creative juices come back because the basics — the foundational pieces of your marketing plan — will be thought out.
It’s important to understand that there will be cycles to your marketing plan. You’ll need to start small, and then you can add things over time based on what’s working and what’s not. To do this successfully, it’s important to track the effectiveness of your efforts.
For instance, if you’ve launched a new website, be sure to leverage analytics so that you can check in frequently to see which pages and blog posts people visit the most. Once you have this information, you can build those pages out further with search terms that will resonate with your target audience and create more posts on similar topics to keep people on your site longer. This type of content reinforces your expertise so that when a consumer is ready to buy, you will already be positioned as the expert in their minds.
Another example of starting small and adding things over time is your email marketing campaigns. Pay attention to the types of subject lines that get the highest open rates and the content that gets the most clicks, and use that information to tweak your next set of emails. As your list grows, you can also start adding in automated sequences, such as a welcome series for when people first opt in or an onboarding sequence when a client first becomes a customer.
The idea of starting small and building as you go allows you to maximize what’s working, minimize what’s not and decrease any sense of being overwhelmed because you’re not trying to do all things at once.
As you get things up and running, you can begin to take more things off your plate by delegating tasks to your team. This will give you more space to think about the next set of business development opportunities you’d like to pursue. And eventually, you’ll likely find that you have more time and energy to actually focus on the parts of the business that you love.
When you have thought through your marketing plan, you can maximize your dollars because you’re no longer taking a scattered approach to marketing. Better yet, you can diversify your efforts — efforts that will all lead back to the same specified goal.
Ultimately, this is what will grow your business the way you want it to grow. And that’s the real goal, right?