April 16, 2024


Built General Tough

How to develop a marketing plan for your small business

  • Shanna Goodman is the creator of AMP’D, which helps small businesses build their marketing and brand strategy.
  • Over half of small business don’t have a well-organized marketing plan, Goodman says, which can lead to wasting resources and losing out on valuable customers.
  • To get started, think about your business’s short and long term goals, and prioritize action over perfection.
  • Capitalize on social media traffic by linking to your website, and use a ‘lead magnet’ to ask customers to sign up for your email newsletter or outreach list.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An alarming study came out last year saying that only half of small businesses actually have a marketing plan. Though I am in the business of helping small businesses develop marketing strategies, I recently made an embarrassing realization that I, too, was operating without a marketing plan.

My marketing agency, Ampersand Business Solutions, helps small businesses grow through strategy and implementation. The problem for many small businesses, though, is that ongoing services can be expensive because they take a lot of work, time, and energy. My team and I had been thinking about how we can best serve small business owners that don’t have the resources to hire an agency like ours. Taking our years of expertise, we created educational programs for entrepreneurs to learn digital marketing themselves and called it AMP’D

My team was busy delivering client work, so I was performing all of the marketing tasks to make our company visible.

It was only when I became overwhelmed and wanted to pass social media and email marketing tasks off my plate that I realized that I was working from ideas only inside my head.

None of my tactics were bad strategies, however, I was doing them all without a plan. This meant that in addition to doing all the work myself, I was also likely wasting some of my most precious resources as an entrepreneur — time and and money.

Read more: A marketing director making $50,000 quit her job and now makes five times more as a freelancer. Here’s the email template she used to build a subscriber network of over 100,000 people.

Why small businesses need a marketing plan 

Creating a plan can be daunting because it takes effort, time, and a willingness to try new things (plus optimize them when they work and scrap them when they don’t).  Baseball great Yogi Berra once famously said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” This rings especially true for entrepreneurs trying to expand. 

Here are the benefits of creating a marketing plan:

You earn more money. Because your plan is well thought out, you’ll maximize all the marketing dollars you spend. You will also put in place metrics to make sure it’s working, and be better set up to know when it’s not.

A defined direction forces you to think about where you want your business to go and how to make it serve your purpose, rather than making you a slave to all of your various marketing tasks. 

You’ll free up time. You’ll spend less time putting out fires if you are working proactively. 

You’ll provide more value to your clients, because part of the process of creating a marketing plan requires you to get very focused on their specific challenges, motivations, and solutions. 

You’ll be better able to prioritize. Your marketing plan will organize your time and prioritize what you are doing. Remember, if everything is equally weighted as a priority, nothing is a priority. 

How to get started

First, confront any feelings of being overwhelmed. My good friend, author Susie Moore, likes to say, “Let things be easy.” As a habitual over-thinker, this is a mantra I find worth sharing and repeating often. 

Consider your intent. What are your long term and short term goals? This is important because as a small business owner, one of the perks of designing our days  is that we can  approach tasks in order of priority. 

Think about the insight you have on your ideal clients. What do you know about their specific challenges and what would motivate them into action? 

Prioritize action over perfection. As a recovering perfectionist, this one is hard for me. My natural state would be to tweak something until I’m 100% in love with it. But, I resist this temptation because I know that action creates even more action, propelling you into a place of momentum. 

Use what you already have within your infrastructure. What are you already doing that you can leverage further? 

Read more: The ultimate guide to building a killer personal brand that increases your income and reach, from influencers and branding experts with tens of thousands of followers

How to do more with what you already have 

You are likely already doing something that is working. Try building off of what you already have to simply maximize efforts. 

1. Position yourself as an expert. 

  • Write regular blog posts on your website, sharing your expertise in 800- 1,000 word articles. If you have no idea what to blog about, start by writing and answering all the questions you routinely get asked. 
  • Reach out to publications in your industry and offer to contribute articles. Many are consistently looking for quality content and being published lends you credibility as a recognized expert in the field. 

2. Capitalize on social media traffic to drive traffic to your website. 

  • Share links to your blog posts and articles across your social media platforms like on Facebook and LinkedIn. 
  • Follow people on social media that fit in the category of your ideal client to see what they’re posting, the questions they’re asking, and what’s important to them. 
  • Join Facebook groups to which your ideal clients belong  and provide value. (Don’t just start sharing your links promoting yourself or you’ll get removed from the group). Also, make sure that you can be found if someone is interested in learning more about what you do. I have strict privacy settings on my personal Facebook, but use a cover image that shares my website, email address, and that for which I’m known. 

Shanna Goodman fb

Goodman’s cover image on her Facebook account.

Shanna Goodman

3. On your website, trade something of value (a “lead magnet”) for their contact information to build and grow your list of interested prospective customers

  • Offer something of value like a checklist or case study and have them subscribe to download it. This allows you to capture those leads then and continue to nurture them with regular email marketing, so that you can close the sale down the road. 
  • Send regular emails to people on your list, always providing something of value. 

4. Consider running ads using a lead magnet to get people to subscribe to your list.  

  • In my opinion, targeted Facebook ads (not boosted posts) are the single most cost effective way to get in front of your target audience which exists right now. Use these to advertise your lead magnet to your ideal clients with an opt- in requirement to download. The ad copy can say something like “Download this free Ultimate Checklist!” 
  • Set up Facebook ads for people who have visited your website. This is called “remarketing” and it makes the leads warmer- and they’ll be more likely to buy- because they’re already somewhat familiar with you. You do need a FB Pixel installed on your website, but this is something that you can hire someone to do very easily and it doesn’t take very long. 

Shanna Goodman is the creator of AMP’D, which helps small businesses build million-dollar brands. AMP’D was developed with Goodman’s 15 years of business development experience, including five years as a brand strategy agency owner.