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Planning your small business marketing strategy

by | Dec 18, 2021


Small business owners are no strangers to planning. From business plans to scaling to making a big office move, it’s important to start with planning. Marketing is no different. Your marketing strategy is your roadmap to ensure you reach your business goals. Using a marketing strategy also helps you focus your efforts on what matters, including your bottom line and customers. Use the following tips to map out a marketing strategy that will help you reach your small business goals.

A female business-owner works on her marketing strategy in her home office.

Step 1: Analyze your small business

Start by looking at the internal and external factors that impact your small business.  Consider how your business fits in your market, your products and services, and your customers. Think about who your target audience is and what their customer pain points might be.  You should also factor in your business’s performance over the last year. All this information will help you determine where you stand in the industry and how to set your goals.

SWOT analysis

Use the SWOT method to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your small business. Let’s pretend you own a custom home-building business and go through the steps together.

First, determine what helps your business stand out in the market. Perhaps you offer home designs that are sustainable and energy-efficient. Maybe you have a design portal that allows your customers to create their own floorplans. When it comes to marketing, you can look at a myriad of different channels to use to support your goals.

Next, look at some areas where your business can improve. Let’s say project management hasn’t been going that smoothly or that you aren’t able to offer some of the finishes that potential customers want for their custom homes. Maybe you don’t have an email list, or your website doesn’t show off your portfolio in the best possible way.

After that, determine some opportunities for your custom home building business. Maybe you can help your clients purchase the lots they want to build on. Or perhaps you can build a partnership with a lender to make the sales process as seamless as possible.

Finally, look at threats to your small business. Over the last year, the cost of materials skyrocketed, so your custom home builds will be more expensive. Perhaps a new competitor has entered the scene.

Don’t forget your competitors

You can use the same SWOT method to analyze your competitors. Compare the results by finding what your business does well and the ways you could improve your business based on what competing companies are doing. While your custom home business may specialize in sustainable builds, another company might build homes that focus on smart appliances and features.

A business owner works on their computer as they develop marketing strategy.

Step 2: Identify your target audience

Knowing who you want to target to grow your small business will be key as you create goals. You can start by identifying the demographics of your target audience members, such as age, location, and personal interests. Many website builders like Squarespace and Shopify include analytics. You can also use a tool like Google Analytics for in-depth information about the people that visit your website.

Any social media channels you use, or email marketing tools also collect user data. You may be able to determine if certain social media channels perform better for you than others. For example, Pinterest may be a good social media channel for people planning their custom homes. You may also be able to leverage Instagram to show off images. Twitter may not be the best bet since it’s less of a visual platform.

If you have a physical business, you can keep notes of the customers that come into your physical business space. This information is also helpful in determining your target audience.

Once you identify your target audience, you can think about what they need to become a customer. In the custom home builder example, the audience is people ages 45 to 65. Most of them use desktop computers to browse the internet, but many also use their smartphones. They tend to be well-off enough to plan their dream home. They’re interested in design and décor.

Knowing all of that, you can now appeal to their wants and needs by convincing them that your goods or services can help them.

Step 3: Set goals for your small business

Based on your analysis, you probably have a pretty good idea of how your small business can improve. To create goals that will move your business forward, you should use the

SMART method to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

Start with your larger business goals. Some common goals include increasing revenue, reducing churn, getting more leads, or driving more awareness of your business in the community. Once your major business goals are created, you can determine the marketing goals that will help you reach them. Some SMART business goals could include:

  • Increase sales by signing five more custom home clients in the next year.
  • Speed up project timelines from 16 months to 12 months over the next five years.
  • Open a second business location in a neighboring city in the next three years.

Let’s say you want to increase sales and sign an additional five clients this year. This goal is specific and explains exactly what will be achieved. It’s measurable as well. It’s an achievable goal, but you may have to think innovatively or utilize new tactics to reach the target. Finally, the time frame provides enough ramp-up time to ensure the goal is met.

Next, create a marketing strategy that helps you achieve your business goals of increasing leads by five in the next year. Let’s say that many of the leads for the custom home business come from the website. With that information in mind, one potential marketing strategy would be to improve the digital experience for customers. By enhancing and focusing on digital properties, like the website, social media channels, and email lists, you can drive more leads for the business and reach the goal of five additional clients.

Step 4: Determining your business marketing goals

Now, let’s talk about marketing goals. Since you’ve identified your business goals and you understand your audience, you should be able to determine the best ways to reach them. Let’s continue with the custom home business as an example. Since the strategy is to improve the digital experience for customers, let’s look first at the channel where they land: the website. The website is where customers get information about the company, see work examples, or even get a quote.

To boost leads, one approach is a website upgrade. Based on your customer insights, you want to create a website that looks great on both desktop and mobile devices. You also want to create a page that demonstrates your portfolio in a way that is easy for potential customers to view. Finally, you should include a call-to-action at the bottom to drive leads for your business.

Don’t forget that your tactics need goals that tie back into your business goals. Here are some ideas of SMART goals that we could set:

  • By the end of Q1, research will be completed on three web design vendors and one will be selected to redo the website.
  • After the website has been updated in Q2, the company will see a 25% increase in traffic to the portfolio page by the end of the year.
  • From the portfolio page, 10% of all traffic will be converted by year-end, by clicking the CTA.

Once your goals are set, think about the tactics and budget you need to reach them.

Two coffeeshop owners plan their marketing tactics for the year.

Step 5: Business marketing tactics

Tactics include everything from billboards to direct mail to social media marketing. Since small businesses have limited resources, you will have to narrow down your tactics to pick the ones most likely to work. The tactics you choose also need to tie into your marketing strategy. Since the strategy in our example is to focus on the digital experience, here are some tactics to consider:

  • Running a social media sweepstakes for a free remodel. This tactic supports audience building, lead generation and audience expansion.
  • Using user-generated content on social media channels highlights previous custom home builds and creates social proof.
  • Running paid ads on Google expands our target audience and drives new leads to the portfolio page.
  • Sending email newsletters helps create visibility by spotlighting customers, driving promotions, and providing enhanced communications with our audience.
  • Building a custom home pricing calculator that lives on the website for lead generation, provides consumer engagement.
  • Implementing search engine optimization for increased organic traffic to the website will assist in better visibility.

There is no shortage of tactics. Choosing the right ones means thinking about your target audience and your business goals.

Step 6: Create a budget for your business marketing strategy

Since small businesses often have limited resources, it’s important to think about where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Use your findings from your small business analysis to determine your sales funnel. This should include findings, such as how many people visit your website, how many leads your small business generates, and how many of those leads convert to sales each month.

After you’ve figured out how your sales funnel works, determine how much it costs for your small business to operate. Include costs for materials, labor, resources, and staffing. Compare those numbers to how much revenue your sales funnel creates monthly. Estimate how much of the monthly profits should go toward marketing goals. You should plan on estimating what you believe your return on investment (ROI) will be too. That will help you determine where to invest in your marketing strategy.

In this (very) simplistic example, let’s say the average price of a custom home build is $500,000. To create a new website, you will need to spend $30,000. If you add an additional five clients this year (thanks, in part, to the new website), that boosts revenue by $2,500,000. Here’s the marketing budget in more detail:

  • New website, $30,000
  • SEO-optimization on the website, $5,000
  • Paid Google Ads to drive traffic to the new website, $1000 a month

From there, decide where to invest the budget. If you only have $40,000 to spend on marketing this year, you will need to scrap the SEO and find other ways to optimize the website.

Wrapping it up: From planning to execution

With your small business goals, marketing strategy, marketing goals, and marketing budget in place, you now have a roadmap. Don’t plan on just setting your strategy and goals and forgetting about them though. To truly be effective, you need to review your active business marketing strategies periodically to make sure you’re achieving your goals. If your strategies aren’t working, you may have to go back to square one. This is all part of testing to see what works best for your business. 

Final words

Taking steps to create a marketing strategy will help you focus your efforts and choose the right tactics to achieve your goals. For more on small business, please visit CenturyLink’s Small Business Resources hub to find other ways you can help your small business grow and succeed.

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