Marketing plan for small businesses
This article focuses on how to develop a marketing plan. Small businesses can create a marketing plan that delivers results and propels them towards success by understanding its key elements.
A marketing plan consists of several key elements, each of which contributes to to its overall effectiveness. These elements provide a detailed and comprehensive view of a business’s marketing strategies, goals, and objectives.
Definition of marketing plan
According to OUP (2023) a marketing plan refers to a detailed statement of how a company’s marketing mix will be used to achieve its market objectives. It is usually prepared annually.
A marketing plan is a strategic guide that businesses use to outline their marketing efforts for the upcoming year. It is a critical tool for guiding the direction and coordination of their marketing efforts. It is essential for businesses of all sizes.
Does a small business need a marketing plan?
Every business, big or small, needs a marketing plan to succeed. Without it, small businesses may find themselves overwhelmed and underprepared in the competitive marketplace.
A marketing plan serves as a roadmap for a small business, guiding it in the direction of growth and profitability. It helps to identify target customers, understand competition, set realistic goals, and devise effective strategies to achieve these goals.
With a marketing plan, small businesses can direct their marketing efforts towards their target audience, thereby increasing the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and improving their return on investment (ROI). Moreover, a marketing plan provides a clear direction to the employees, ensuring that everyone in the organisation is on the same page.
Key elements of a marketing plan
A successful marketing plan must contain information on two key marketing concepts i.e. STP process (Segmentation, targeting, and positioning), and marketing mix (product, price, place, promotion, process, people, and physical evidence).
Small business marketing plan template (How to structure a marketing plan)
It should be noted that marketing plans may vary in format. However, what they all have common is the purpose of attracting, building, and maintaining very good relationships with customers (Buttle, 2021). Small businesses may decide as to what format they would love to use; however, the following is the suggested format that is used by many organisations around the world.
- Executive summary
- Market analysis
- Customer analysis
- Competitor analysis
- Marketing goals and objectives
- Marketing strategies and tactics
- Budget and resources
- Action plan
1. Executive summary
The executive summary is the first section of the marketing plan. It provides a brief overview of the entire plan, summarising the main points. It should be succinct and compelling, which can entice the reader to delve deeper into the document. It is worth noting that although it comes first in the marketing plan, it is usually written last once all other sections have been completed.
2. Market Analysis
This section provides a detailed examination of the market in which the business operates. It includes information about the market size, growth rate, trends etc. For instance, in terms of revenue, the market size of the US supermarkets and grocery industry was $841.8bn in 2022 (IBIS World, 2023). This piece of information helps small businesses understand the market dynamics and identify potential opportunities and threats.
3. Customer Analysis
This section focuses on understanding the target customers. It includes information about customer demographics, behavior, needs, and preferences. It helps businesses tailor their marketing strategies to meet the needs and preferences of their target customers.
4. Competitor Analysis
This section provides an overview of the business’s main competitors. Who are the direct competitors? Who are the indirect competitors? What are their strategies? Answers to these questions help small businesses identify their competitive advantage and devise strategies to leverage this advantage.
5. Marketing goals and objectives
This section outlines what the business hopes to achieve through its marketing efforts. The goals and objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). A basic example of a SMART objective is: ‘To sell 200,000 products by the end of December 2023’.
6. Marketing strategies and tactics: This section has two key sub-sections as follows:
6.1. Segmentation, targeting, and positioning strategies
Segmentation, targeting, and positioning (STP) strategies form an integral part of the marketing plan. Segmentation involves dividing the market into distinct groups of customers with similar needs and preferences. For example, a small business may divide its market in terms of demography e.g. male, female, kids, adults etc.
Targeting involves selecting one or more of these segments to focus the marketing efforts. For instance, a small business may decide to sell products/services for kids only. Positioning involves creating a unique and attractive image of the product in the minds of the target customers.
6.2. Marketing mix elements
The marketing mix elements, also known as the 7Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Process, and Physical Evidence), are an essential part of the marketing plan. These elements highlight the tactics the business has decided to use to reach its target customers and achieve its marketing goals.
7. Budget and resources
The section outlines the financial and human resources allocated for the marketing efforts. It provides a detailed breakdown of the marketing budget, indicating how much will be spent on each marketing activity.
8. Action Plan
The marketing plan implementation is also known as ‘action plan’ which outlines the steps the business will take to execute its marketing plan. It includes a timeline for each marketing activity, detailing when and how it will be carried out.
The evaluation section outlines how the business will measure the success of its marketing efforts. It includes metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to assess the effectiveness of its marketing strategies and tactics.
Summary: Marketing plan for small businesses
To sum-up, a marketing plan is a critical tool for small businesses. It provides a roadmap for the marketing efforts, helping them identify their target customers, set realistic goals, devise effective strategies, and measure their success.
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Last update: 17 August 2023
Buttle, R. (2021) Five essential elements of a marketing plan for a small business, available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rhettbuttle/2021/01/12/five-essential-elements-of-a-marketing-plan-for-a-small-businesses/?sh=7dd1c471259c (accessed 16 August 2023)
IBIS World (2023) Supermarkets & grocery stores in the US, available at: https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/supermarkets-grocery-stores-united-states/ (accessed 16 August 2023)
OUP (2023) Marketing plan, available at: https://www.oxfordreference.com/display/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100135103 (accessed on 17 August 2023)
Author: M Rahman
M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.