Sunday, October 08, 2006

Creating a Small Business Marketing Plan without Marketing Experts

For small companies, marketing is likely one of the more under-invested areas in the organization, and I don’t just mean monetarily. I mean in terms of time and planning too. Small companies typically start with a product and a sales effort. The sales effort consists of creating a network of people and companies with which to do business and it typically is an ad-hoc effort. This continues for a period of time as the company grows until one day the people in the company realize they have competitors to fend off and customers for which to compete. Suddenly, the idea of marketing becomes a necessity.

At this point, the management team must rise to the call and be marketing experts. If there is a marketing expert in the organization then the management team will expect this person to take the reigns and this person obviously should if he or she can. But if there is no marketing expert then someone must be appointed to organize the efforts. It takes many people to put together an effective marketing plan regardless of whether or not an expert exists. In fact, a marketing plan without experts can be a good thing, I think.

The innocence and inexperience of non-experts can be used to the company’s advantage because the marketing strategy will not get bogged down in pre-formulated and cliché strategies. Of course, those involved will want to do their homework and research diligently about marketing plans and strategies. A marketing expert’s best use would be to guide the planning and design process of the marketing strategy, but a good marketing plan requires people from all across the organization to produce.

Below is a simplified approach to creating a marketing plan for small businesses. This breakdown was derived from and inspired by an article on I do not claim to be a marketing expert but I am posting this information to summarize what I have accumulated from my own research as I am coordinating a formal marketing effort within my company and needed some background.

  • Identify the relationship between your marketing plan and your business plan or vision statement. Your business plan spells out what your business is about. It is the U.S. Constitution of your business and it provides the environment in which your marketing plan must flourish. The two documents must be consistent. A marketing plan, I think, should be mapped on an annual basis but with quarterly milestones. If possible, stretch your marketing plan out 2-3 years too.
  • Research your market with primary and secondary research. Primary research includes direct mail, phone surveys, online surveys, personal interviews, etc. Secondary research is public information about companies and markets, commercial information, and research information from educational institutes.
  • Define the elements of your marketing plan. Extract the core information of your financial reports the past 2-3 years. List your products and target markets. List your marketplace, i.e. your customers, competitors, partners, distribution channels, etc. List out their demographic data too. Find out from your sales people and customer service folks their opinion on the more important points that should be included. They are on the front lines so they know what your market wants and needs.
  • Capture the market situation. What is the dollar size of your markets? What is your sales and distribution setup? What geographic area do you sell to? Describe your audience in terms of population, demographics, and income levels and so on. What competitors exist in this marketplace? Historically, how well have your products sold?
  • Identify market threats and opportunities. What trends in the marketplace are against you? Are there competitive trends that are ominous? Are your current products poised to succeed in the market as it now exists? What trends in the marketplace favor you? Are there competitive trends working to your benefit? Are the demographics of your market in your favor? Against you?
  • State your marketing objectives and then provide step-by-step goals on how you are going to achieve those objectives. Objectives can be vague or explicit, but goals must be clearly identified. You might have a set of objectives matched with a series of campaigns, or you might have a set of objectives matched by one campaign. Your goals should serve as a roadmap to fulfilling the objectives and you can expect to make adjustments along the way.
  • Set budgets and implement controls to measure success. Marketing for the sake of marketing is a bad use of resources and is an easy trap to fall into, particularly for small companies. Allocate a set amount of money that can be put into your marketing plan each year and then make sure you are getting your dollars back. If you are not measuring this then it is all too easy to fool yourself into thinking that your marketing efforts and advertising dollars are effective.
  • Write an Executive Summary. This summary should give those involved in executing the marketing plan a clear and concise description of what the plan is. The summary could be written in paragraph form or step-by-step. It should include financial goals and objectives and capture the essence of what this plan is all about.

  • For a more in-depth exploration of the principles captured in this entry, go to this article on Your comments and feedback on this entry are welcome.

    [www] How to write a marketing plan
    [www] Laura Lake Marketing Blog on


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