How to Create a Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

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Free Small Business Marketing Plan PDF

When creating a marketing plan for your small business, it's important to be strategic and follow through on your plan. There are many marketing channels you can use to grow your business, and it's up to you to determine which ones are the best fit for you and your potential customers. 

Download the Marketing Plan Template, complete the steps, and you'll be on your way to creating a marketing plan for your small business.


Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

Step 1 – Identify your Audience 


First, you must understand who your audience is and what they need from you. Without this core information, you will struggle to succeed in business. 


Answer the following questions – 

  • Who do you serve? 
  • What do they need? 
  • How do you help them? 


If you’re unsure how to answer these questions, I encourage you to read more on identifying your audience, targeting your messages, and sending them at the right time. I’ve previously covered all three topics on the blog, and the posts will help you with this process. If you need more information on creating your marketing strategy, this post will help



Gather all the data you can about your customers and how you can help them. For example, if you run a business that caters to families with children and can provide entertainment or childcare for school-aged kids when school is not in session, you must pull the school calendar for the district(s) in your area. 

The better you know your ideal customer, the easier this whole process will be for you. You want to know them like you know your best friend. Spend time developing a persona for your ideal customer. Give them a name, determine what their interests are, and figure out how your business can help them. If you've already got customers for your small business, you can base your persona on your favorite customers - the ones you love to work with who get great results and love working with you. If your business is new and doesn't have any customers yet, think about who you want to help and what questions they'll have when they're searching for someone who can help.


Listen to the podcast episode.


Step 2 – Define your Goals for your Small Business


Write out your goals. What are you working towards this year? Have you decided on and written down your goals? If we don't know what we're working towards, it will be hard to know if we've achieved them. Having goals written out helps us stay on track and avoid shiny objects. Shiny objects are not part of a good marketing plan; they're simply distractions. 


Do you have SMART goals? 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic 
  • Timely 


If you’re unfamiliar with SMART goals, now is the time to learn about them and use them in your business. Your goals need to be SMART from this point forward. This formula helps keep you focused on goals you can achieve.


  • SMART goals are specific. For example, rather than saying I want to increase sales, you say I will increase sales by 10%. 
  • SMART goals are measurable. You can tell if they’ve been achieved or not. Did you increase sales by 10% or not?
  • SMART goals are actionable. You can take action immediately to help yourself achieve a 10% increase in sales. 
  • SMART goals are realistic. If your sales were down by 30% this year over last year, then having a target of 50% year-over-year growth this year would not be realistic. If you were up 5% last year and your goal is 7% or 10% this year, that’s a realistic goal. 
  • SMART goals are timely. You need to specify the timeframe you will allow for the goal. Is it a month, quarter, or year? 
Example SMART goal – I will increase sales by 10% year over year during Q1. 


Now, determine how you’re going to achieve that SMART goal. 


Small Business SMART Goal Example 


I will increase sales by 10% year over year during Q1.

Then you need to determine how you will achieve that goal. What will you do differently? If you do the same things as before, you probably won't see the 10% increase in sales you're working towards. 

Will you add a new product or more services, increase prices, add an affiliate promotion, extend your business hours, or create a loyalty program? What will help you increase sales by 10% for the quarter? 


Step 3 – Create Your Small Business Marketing Plan


If you’re creating a marketing plan for the year, you’ll need more information about priorities and promotions than if you’re working on a monthly or quarterly plan. Either way, outline your sales, new products, and other seasonal priorities. 


  • If you’re releasing a new product line, when do you expect to have it ready for sale? 
  • If you’re booking clients for a highly seasonal business such as photography, when do you want to book for your busy season? 
  • If you’re going to run sales around national holidays, what will you promote and when? 


Look at the days the schools close for vacations, holidays, summer, and teacher in-service. Which of these days will you be open and offer childcare, playdate, or camp-type events? 

Will you need to take time off? You want to plan for that ahead of time so that you are not running a big promotion at the same time that your personal life is crazy, and you need to be able to reduce your work hours. If you plan in advance, you should be able to maintain a good work-life balance and grow your small business. 


Small Business Marketing Plan PDF

Step 4 – Write down your Small Business Marketing Plan


Get a large desk calendar, a dry-erase wall calendar, or an online calendar—whatever works best for you—and start by filling in the dates for your special events, promotions, product launches, and holidays. If you have kids at home and their school breaks impact your work schedule, include school breaks, holiday periods, family vacations, etc., on your calendar before you start creating your plan. 

I personally like to create my marketing plan for the year during Q4 and have it ready to roll out in Q1. I start by looking up all of the school dates because I still have a kiddo in elementary school and I don't want to be trying to promote a new course while he's on break. I try to keep the break weeks light work-wise so that we can do fun things. It's the same way in the summer; I switched to working 10-15 hours a week during summer break as he got to the point where he didn't want to go to as many summer camps. By planning ahead, you can have balance for all of the important parts of your life. 


Once you know what you want to promote and what your schedule looks like, you can start to determine when you'll do the work for your scheduled promotions. 

I mainly focus on organic marketing for my small business so I work ahead. You want to create your content for your blog, podcast, YouTube channel, social media, etc., at least a month ahead of time so you can review, edit, schedule, and ultimately post it on time. It's easiest to work backward to determine when to work on each part of the process. 

  • Are you doing everything yourself, or do you have help?
  • If you have help, how long does your help need for their part of the process? 
  • How long will each step of the process take you? 
  • How many hours are you going to work each week? 
  • Set aside time on your calendar for the projects you need to prepare for each promotion.  


Step 6  - Track Your Marketing Plan Performance


As you go through the year, track your results, and don’t be afraid to refine your plan. If something isn’t working well, try something else. It’s best to give it at least 90 days before making a big switch, but it is OK to change things up. Try one new thing at a time and keep the rest consistent. 


As you host each event, you’ll want to note what you did for your marketing and when you started the campaign. You’ll want to note how many people responded to the offer, how many showed up, etc. Keep track of information for each marketing channel so that when it comes time to put together your plan for next year, you know what worked and what didn’t work this year. Knowing what worked well this year can save you a lot of time next year. Review and refine. Try something new next time if something doesn’t work for one event. Ask your customers if you can. 



Final Thoughts on Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Small Business


That’s how you create a marketing plan for your small business. It’s a step-by-step process that focuses on serving your customers, reaching them where they spend time, offering something helpful to them, and tracking your results so that you know what worked and what didn’t. Try new things. Add a new promotion or event to your plan this year. Keep track of everything you do so that you know what works for your business. Good luck! 


Creating a marketing plan for your small business will help you grow strategically.