Marketing Planning: 10 easy-to-follow tips
for small business owners and non-marketers

Karen Lambert
Karen Lambert

Chief Happy

A marketing plan, crucial in supporting a business’ objectives and its ultimate success, is often sidelined by small businesses.

The lack of a dedicated marketing person within the business, the absence of marketing skills, and the lower priority given by non-marketing directors, are cited as the main reasons why marketing strategies are being disregarded by some SMEs.

Now I love marketing so it’s painful for me to hear that marketing is being overlooked, especially when there’s so much benefit to having a marketing plan. So, I’d like to share some marketing tips to help make it easier for more businesses to create a marketing strategy. Here’s my tips on making it happen.





1. What challenges is your business facing?

Diminishing enquiries? Attracting new customers? Increased competitor activity? A lack of visibility with those who matter? Acquiring the right kind of customer? Too few visitors to the website? Making yourself heard in a busy market? These are common issues being faced by businesses today. Being clear on your issues will help focus your activity.





2. What do you want to achieve?

In 12 month’s time (based on a 12 month plan of course) how will you know if you have been successful. What will have changed in the business? What will you be seeing and hearing that’s different? For example if you want more customers – how many more customers would you like? What will they be spending with you? What products or services will they be buying from you? Document what it is you want to achieve, be clear on your numbers. This will help form your objectives.





3. What are your benchmarks?

Spend some time with your numbers. This may include sales turnover, the number of customers you have, average customer spend, the number of profitable customers, the number of enquiries you receive each month, how many you convert? Which benchmarks are the key measures in your business? Note these.





4. What will you measure?

From the outset be clear on what you will measure. Whether it’s sales turnover, enquiries, conversions, prospects, customer acquisitions. Being clear on these measures will form a useful feedback mechanism.





5. What marketing activities have worked well for you previously?

Which marketing activities have seen the best results? Social media? Content marketing? Blogs? Email campaigns? Events and networking? SEO? News stories? Each industry and company is different so being clear on what works (and doesn’t work) will help fine tune your marketing activity.





6. Who are your key audiences, and what do they want?

The most effective marketing plans are created around key audiences. One size does not fit all. Segment your customer and prospect base. This can be done by product or service, geographically, by sector or by size. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and ask yourself what will help them in their role, what is it that they want to hear, and focus on how can you help them. Better still, ask them directly.





7. Who can help you?

Who in the organisation could work with you to deliver the marketing plan and implement marketing activity? Who in your team has a natural affinity and passion for marketing? Who can help keep you accountable for maintaining activity? Who could be a critical friend? Who do you know outside of the organisation who can offer marketing expertise? You don’t have to do it alone.





8. What budget will you put aside?

Marketing is an investment. Performed and implemented effectively it will produce a return on your investment (ROI). For every £1 you spend how much would you like to see back? As a guide many companies work on a 1:3 ratio. For every £1 they spend, they aim for a £3 return. Allow a contingency sum for the unknowns.





9. What will you do each month?

Create a month by month schedule outlining what activities you will do each month. This is really important as it will help you be focussed. Keep it within budget and within resources. Assign responsibility for making it happen.





10. When will you invest the time to plan and review?

Time invested in planning is time well spent. Create time to work on these elements in bite sized chunks. You may want to work on it over a month, blocking out time over the month to work through each of these areas. Doing it in this way will make it feel less onerous. Build in time each week (or month) to review where you are with your marketing numbers, and your key measures?


Creating a marketing plan is like planning a journey. If you were travelling from Blackpool to Scarborough, you’re likely to take the most effective route, you’d be unlikely to go via Bournemouth, or Glasgow. You’d know when you needed to be there, which route was the best, how long you needed to make the journey, and what mode of transport you’d consider depending on your circumstances. It’s just the same for creating a marketing plan.

And do you know the best bit…  the journey can be very rewarding…

If you need a little help along the way, we’re here.

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Suggested further reading:

Attracting new customers
Understanding customers
Support with marketing



Karen Lambert is a career-long marketer with over 30 years marketing experience in regional, national and global organisations. She founded Happy Creative in 2005.



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