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Small Business Marketing – How to Make an Effective Marketing Plan

Small business marketing is crucial for any business, whether it’s been running for years or recently launched. It’s vital to have an effective strategy, especially since they don’t have a huge budget.

Planning can help you identify your target customers and attract new ones. Also, you’ll easily find out how to encourage existing customers to stay.

We’re here to give you our top marketing secrets for small businesses and tell you everything to get started. Think of it as the ultimate guide that will lead to an effective marketing plan for a small business to push your brand across platforms and meet your sales goals. 

Here is what you’ll find in the lines below:

Small Business Marketing 101 — What You Need to Know 

Some say that marketing is all about attracting new customers, while for others, it’s studying the industry and identifying your customers. 

In any case, marketing is not sales. But it does help businesses grow and attract clients

Marketing is about informing your customers about your business and not pushing them to buy a product or service. 

Small business marketing involves a number of activities, including setting a budget, defining your audience, and creating a buyer persona. And that’s only the beginning. 

Small businesses usually have a tight marketing budget. Hence most can’t afford to experiment much. So, whether you’re starting a bakery or launching a product that fills in a market gap, this small business marketing guide will help you develop an effective plan to establish your brand. 

Let’s get started.

Marketing Plan for a Small Business

Marketing strategies for a small business vary in format, but their ultimate goal is to get people talking and build customer relationships. Your plan should shed light on how you’ll meet customer needs and promote your product or service. 

You can make it as detailed as you want. But, generally, all marketing plans have five essential components that focus on attracting and retaining customers. Let’s check them out.  

Essential Marketing Plan Components 

We’ll go through each of these in more detail, but here’s what to expect:

  • Defining and knowing your customer — We’ll help you determine the marketing segments for your brand. 
  • Creating a buyer persona — That’s an essential part of an inbound marketing strategy. In essence, it’s a fictional ideal customer. 
  • Writing a value proposition — Here, you’ll develop a method that influences the customer decision-making and creates a strong differentiation between your brand and the competitors. 
  • Setting your goals and defining a budget — These are crucial parts of every small business marketing plan. They’ll ensure that you stick to the budget and help you manage marketing campaign expectations. 
  • Choosing marketing channels — Finally, you’ll have to decide how potential customers will learn about your business.

Now, let’s go step by step and explore each in detail. 

Define and Know Your Customer

The target audience narrows down your potential buyers to a more manageable group. To define it, you should describe the detailed characteristics and preferences of your customers. 

You’ll waste a lot of money and time if you don’t know your target audience. 

Some business owners believe that the more people they promote to, the more sales they’ll get. But it’s not about how many people you reach. Instead, you need to draw the attention of a relevant audience.

To find the potential customers your small business marketing plan should target, ask yourself these questions:

  • Which age group is most likely to buy our product or service?
  • Do men or women need our product or service more?
  • Where do my potential customers live? 

A smart tip to identify your target audience is to study your competitor. Still, the best way is to analyze and review your product or service. List down its main features and their benefits. 

For example, SEO offers a larger audience. The benefit is that it delivers web pages to the relevant audience, resulting in more sales. And the target audience is businesses that operate online. 

What Is a Buyer Persona and Why It’s Important

A buyer persona, also known as marketing, audience, or customer persona, is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers. That helps you get to know your audience and improve the marketing strategies for your small business. 

Don’t confuse a buyer persona with a target audience. A target audience defines the customer crowd your service or product is aimed at, whereas a buyer persona focuses on specific crowd members. The latter represents a semi-fictional character with goals, desires, passions, frustrations, and fears. 

How to Create a Buyer Persona

Can you market to your customer without knowing who they are? You can, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll deliver your message to the potential buyers. That’s where buyer personas come in.

The main elements of a buyer persona include name, demographics, story, goals, and roles. Overall, you’ll create a fictional customer you can speak to. That way, you’ll get to know your customers better and get more marketing ideas for your small business. 

Here’s how to create a buyer persona of your ideal customer:

  • Run thorough audience research
  • Determine your customer segments
  • Fill in your customer’s demographic information 
  • Dig deep into the buyer persona’s life and motivations by asking questions like:
  • What do they want to be?
  • What life challenges are they currently facing? 
  • What’s holding them back from success? 
  • What problems keep them up at night?
  • Try understanding how your product or service can solve their problem and what are their primary purchasing barriers.
  • Finally, gather your research and create the buyer persona. 
young entrepreneur planning marketing tasks on a white board

Write a Great Value Proposition

When you understand your customer’s needs, you can move to a value proposition. It forms the basis of your business and your small business marketing strategy.  

A value proposition identifies the difference between you and your competitor. Also, it determines whether your customers will buy your product or bounce back from your website.

The value proposition focuses on how customers define your value. It answers “why” they should buy your offer. 

The first thing a customer reads when they land on your website is the VP statement. That should convince them your product is better than the competitor’s. 

How to Write a Great Value Proposition 

Here are the steps to writing a compelling value proposition:

  • Get to know your customers 
  • Analyze your product and know what to promote 
  • List the key benefits that your competitors lack
  • Note user problems with your product
  • Convert the benefits of your product into statements 
  • Test your value propositions with small groups and pick the best

Define Your Goals and Set a Marketing Budget for Small Business 

First, you need well-defined marketing goals that highlight your campaign expectations. Keep in mind that vague and poorly defined goals won’t take you anywhere. Here’s what we mean:

Poorly defined goals:

  • I want to generate more sales.
  • I plan to improve the Google ranking of my website.
  • I want to gain followers on social media platforms.

Well-Defined Goals:

  • I want to generate 1000 more leads in the next six months.
  • I plan to land on the first page of Google in the next three months.
  • In the next six months, I want to gain 15,000 followers on social media.

Once you’ve defined the goals, you can move to set a marketing budget for your small business. Write down your budget for all the marketing tasks that you’re planning. 

Here’s what your budget breakdown should look like:

Marketing Channel/ContentsBudget
YouTube Video Advertising$60 
Website Development$350
Social Media Marketing (Facebook)$50
Graphic Design$500 

Top tip: Invest in reliable marketing automation software for a small business. It’ll help you save time so that you can focus on other crucial tasks. 

Marketing Ideas for Small Business — Choosing the Most Effective Channels 

Small businesses can choose between several types of marketing to invest in. The most common is digital marketing. Plus, in 2018, 83% of small business owners agreed it worked for them.

Small business digital marketing falls into seven categories. These include content marketing, email marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing, pay-per-click, analytics, and mobile marketing. While working on your digital marketing for a small business, keep in mind that it requires expertise to get it right.

Advertising for a small business doesn’t need a hefty sum. But one of the main challenges is choosing the proper marketing channels to reach out to relevant customers. With so many choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. 

The good news is that as difficult as it seems, choosing effective marketing channels for your business is no rocket science. Just keep in mind that your business and customers will help you find answers to your queries. Here, your clients will tell you which channels you should spend money on.

The most common ones suitable for small-sized businesses include email marketing, SEO, word of mouth, content marketing, PPC, video marketing, influencer marketing, and offline marketing. 

We’ll talk in detail about:

  • Email Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Word of Mouth
  • Local Marketing 

While advertising for small businesses, it’s best to choose only the platforms your target audience uses. 

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing Marketing Channels 

If you did your target audience homework, you might already know which marketing channels they use. Still, ask yourself the following questions to make sure before spending time and money: 

  • Does my potential customer use this channel?
  • How much time does my customer spend on this marketing channel?
  • Do my competitors market on these channels?

Content Marketing for Small Business 

Content marketing focuses on creating and distributing content among relevant readers to attract, engage, and retain them over time.

It’s a must-have strategy for small businesses because it provides consistent value. Plus, it’s often cheaper than traditional marketing methods. One piece of content can go a long way. You can share a blog post across social media to help solve customer queries.  

Here are the steps you need to follow to develop a result-oriented content marketing strategy:

  • Set your missions and goals. Make your goals relevant, specific, and achievable.
  • Determine key performance indicators (KPI) for your small business marketing goals. They include what you plan to achieve in net revenue, page views, conversation rates, referrals, and number of downloads. It’s best to attach specific numbers to them. 
  • Learn more about your audience to understand their interests and buying habits. That’s essential if you don’t want to waste time creating irrelevant content. Keep in mind that you’re not trying to target anyone and everyone. Remember to select your content channels, too. 
  • Establish a posting schedule. Think of it as a road map of your next moves. The key is to post consistently and make readers want more. 
  • Start writing content and posting it on schedule. If you don’t know what to write, analyze the competitor’s content.
  • Keep track of your content marketing growth.

Did you know that small businesses get 126% more leads with blogging? That’s the power of content marketing.

Social Media Marketing for Small Business – How to Go About it? 

Gen-Z spends nine hours on social media every day. No wonder why social media platforms are an absolute must for business owners. Some of the most popular platforms for generating sales online include: 

  • Facebook
  • Instagram 
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn 
  • Pinterest 
  • Snapchat 
  • TikTok

HubSpot reports that around 84% of marketers could generate increased traffic by spending six hours a week on social media platforms. But social media marketing for your small business isn’t about reaching more people. Instead, aim to reach your relevant audience. 

You don’t have to market on each platform. Still, it’s good to keep your profile up-to-date everywhere. Focus on the platforms where your audience spends the most time. 

Let’s say your target audience is Americans aged 60 to 65. In that case, you’ll consider running paid campaigns on Facebook as 65% of Americans aged 65 and over use the platform. Meanwhile, you can rule out Instagram and Snapchat since your relevant audience doesn’t use them.

The Importance of Local Business Marketing and Its Benefits 

Local marketing, also known as neighborhood or local store marketing, targets relevant customers within a specific area. For example, if you run a small bakery in New York, you won’t target other cities and states.  

Don’t confuse local marketing with SMB marketing. The latter is a collection of marketing methods for small-sized businesses, while the former focuses on your neighborhood or city. 

You can use various local marketing strategies to raise awareness and reach out more relevant customers, including: 

  • Sponsor charitable events in your neighborhood
  • Focus on local SEO
  • Register with local business directories
  • Start a referral or loyalty program
  • Use social media platforms to engage a local audience 
  • Send targeted email campaigns 
  • Claim your Google My Business Listing 

The most beneficial move for a small business is the last one. So, let’s dive deep into its benefits. 

Adding Your Business to Google My Business — Why You Should Do It 

Google My Business, also referred to as GMB, is a free internet-based service designed to promote local businesses and organizations by managing their online presence on Google Search and Maps. Here are the main benefits for your small business marketing plan:

  • It introduces your small business to a wider audience.
  • Customers can leave reviews of your business, which helps you gain their trust and improves your local SEO rankings.
  • It’s free and easy to use, allowing startups and new companies to promote themselves online.
  • Google My Business Images provides an excellent first impression. 
  • It enables businesses and organizations to communicate with their customers. 

Is Small Business Email Marketing Worth It? 

Here’s a form of small business online marketing that allows you to send commercial messages in mass quantities. Email marketing is one of the most affordable channels that offer an impressive return on investment.

Our best tip is to include a video in the email. According to Campaign Monitor, that can increase the click-through rate by 65%. But you can find even more benefits:

  • Email allows you to build strong customer relationships. 
  • It requires less time and energy. 
  • You can create and launch it quickly and with ease, thanks to ready-made email templates.
  • You can track how many customers open the emails and take action to achieve better results.
  • It allows you to connect with customers in real-time.

Focusing on Word of Mouth Marketing

It’s hands down one of the best marketing strategies for a small business. According to the Nielsen Study, 92% of people trust suggestions from friends and family more than advertising. 

Word of mouth marketing, also known as WOMM, describes targeted efforts and instances when users talk and share their interest in your product. But here are the benefits:

  • It’s free. 
  • People who’ve been recommended to your site know about your product and what they’ll receive. 
  • If someone recommends your brand to others, you’ve already won their loyalty
  • It offers short-term scalability. 
  • Your brand image will grow stronger.
woman working on a mac computer

Building a Website – Does Your Business Need One?

One of the first marketing tasks is to build your website. 

It’s somewhat shocking to see businesses generating crazy sales without a website. You might think that if they can do it, so can you. But a business’s online presence has a massive impact on its success.

Still doubtful? Here are the reasons why your business needs a website:

  • It makes your business look professional.
  • You can share your product or service worldwide.
  • It’s an excellent way of giving social proof to your customers.
  • You’ll show up in Google search and gain organic traffic.

How to Build a Website 

It’s 2021, and building a website for your business has never been easier. 

You can either hire a company or reach out to a freelance developer. But you’re perfectly capable of doing it yourself, too. A website will give you space to apply your marketing ideas for a small business.

These are the steps to follow if you plan to build a website on your own

  1. First, you have to pick and register your domain name. Check Domain.com, GoDaddy, Wix, and Squarespace to see if the one you want is available.
  2. Choose a reliable web hosting company. Keep in mind that your website speed depends on your hosting provider.
  3. Start building web pages for your website. If you don’t want to build a website from scratch, you can try the best website builders. 
  4. If you’re creating an ecommerce site, make sure you set up a payment system.

Free Marketing Tools for Small Business 

Startups and small businesses usually can’t afford expensive marketing tools. Still, you can find quite a few free tools: 

  • Canva – The platform allows you to design free logos, social media posts, and cover images. 
  • UberSuggest – A free keyword research tool that helps you find relevant keywords to gain more website traffic
  • Buffer – Want to schedule your social media posts for free? Try Buffer or Hootsuite.
  • Wix One of the leading platforms for building responsive websites.
  • Screaming Frog – It’s a website crawler that helps you to extract data and audits your website.
  • We-Video – A tool to create customer testimonials and video ads.

Our Top Helpful Marketing Tips for a Small Business

By now, you know you have plenty of ways to market your brand without spending a lot of money. 

But why should you waste time wondering how to do it? Here are the top tips to generate more sales:

  • One of the best self-promotional ideas is to always carry business cards with you. 
  • Focus on SEO from the start. It’s cost-efficient and incredibly beneficial.
  • Let your family and friends know about your business.
  • Stay in touch with your loyal customers.
  • Collaborate with other small businesses that share the same target audience. 
  • Among the top marketing campaign ideas are hosting giveaways and giving discounts to increase your followers.
  • Apply for business awards.
  • Regularly upload articles on your website.

A Final Word

Creating an effective marketing plan takes time. So don’t rush it. 

You don’t need hundreds and thousands of dollars to reach out to your potential customers. Get to know them and find the best way to introduce your product.

We hope that you can now create a practical and effective small business marketing plan. Remember the value of retaining customers and do your best. 

About the author

Terry Stancheva

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