How to create a marketing strategy for a small business

A marketing strategy is a funny thing, it can often be seen as a complete waste of time or something that looks and reads well but doesn’t actually change anything. I for one am completely against creating strategies or plans for the sake of it, in fact, I often agree that business plans are unnecessary. All my most successful ventures never had a business plan I just figured it out as I went along.

However, after working on dozens of marketing strategies for my own businesses and my agency clients I began to see the value of a well thought-out, dynamic and actionable marketing strategy. A strategy will clearly outline where you are now, where you want to get to and the steps required to get there.

There is also a fundamental difference between a strategy and a plan. A strategy is a high-level direction and guide which informs a plan which would have more exact detail of how to execute. I.e. Strategy = Grow our audience amongst 25-34 year old gym-goers. Plan = Post 3 x inspirational fitness content on Instagram per day.

An effective strategy needs to start out with where you currently stand and that comes in the form of an audit. That sounds a bit scary when we think of financial auditing but in this case it’s really just reviewing how your current marketing is doing. You will want to look at things like your websites user experience, your SEO (search engine optimisation), social media content & performance, email database and campaigns, content engagement etc.

You’ll then want to add to this some wider research on the market for your industry and competitor analysis etc. Market research could include things like trending products/services, current topics of interest, sales growth in different locations, how people like to do business in your sector. Regarding competitors looking at where they get their traffic from, which channels they invest in most and what content performs well are all good indicators of things you can learn from for your own strategy, whilst always putting your own take on things. All this information combined will form the rationale for the strategy you create.

Then before we get into the actionable strategy it’s also important to clarify your specific target audience within the niche you serve. You don’t need to get bogged down with creating an exact buyer persona you’ve named and decided what they had for breakfast. Moreso just an overriding guide on your ideal customer and beyond just demographics consider things like their needs, challenges and goals. This is really what fuels their buying habits and what they type into Google ultimately.

Once you have these clarified you can then consider them in relation to your niche. So for example if one of your target audiences is senior managers at financial services corporations of over 1,000 staff with a severe lack of time and need for training support, if you offer sales training you’ll want to use some of the sales training tactics in your pitch to these busy people to get across the value right away.

Now we’re getting into the strategy itself. All the research you’ve done prior is crucial and even if subconsciously will help underpin a much more effective strategy. The strategy itself is actually broken down into channel plans (a channel being each marketing activity; SEO, social media, email etc.). So if the goal of your strategy is to increase revenue by 10% within 12 months, you’ll work back from the conversion rates you gathered during the audit phase to create a channel plan which will help achieve this goal. I.e;

  • Create 4 blogs posts per month from the content plan
  • Publish 1 campaign email per month and 1 monthly newsletter
  • Post 5 social media posts on LinkedIn per week
  • Run always-on Google Ads campaign for high-intent searches

Now these are very high-level of course but you can get the idea of what each channel plan would look like building on this, for example for the blog posts you’d need a researched content plan and process/people to create and publish the content etc. To make your strategy actually come to life and make a difference that is the key part setting a consistent schedule to action the channel plans and to set roles & responsibilities so everyone knows what is expected of them.

Finally the work doesn’t end once you’ve created your strategy and launched the activity within your channel plans (although give yourself a pat on the back, you’re ahead of 80% of small businesses!). A marketing strategy should be a dynamic document which is continuously reviewed and updated. I suggest quarterly reviews as you want to give it enough time to stick to the plans and start to see some initial results which will inform any changes.

As always if you have any questions or if you’d like help creating your marketing strategy request a consultation call with me today.