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How to Make a Marketing Plan for a Small Business

December 20, 2019
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
December 20, 2019 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

While every company is unique, the basics of planning for business and marketing success are universal. And each business’s target market, or customers, and their specific wants and needs should be central to every marketing plan. 

Now, let’s get into the specifics. We’ve put together outlines and templates for you to use and adapt as you begin putting together your own marketing plan for your small business. In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • Conducting market research and analysis
  • Creating a basic business plan and marketing plan
  • Setting your business and marketing objectives
  • Launching marketing campaigns (activities and tactics)
  • Measuring the ROI of your marketing efforts

Step 1: Market research and analysis

Many companies skip steps one through three and jump right into tactics, step four below. That’s a mistake because consumers are – or should be – at the core of every business strategy. 

Define your target audience

The first step of your marketing planning should be to better understand who your potential customers are. Define your customer base by criteria such as:

  • Location: Where are your customers located? Where do they spend time? Are you a local business that relies on customers within a specific proximity?
  • Demographics: Consider your target markets:
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Interests: Where do they like to shop? Want brands do they like?
    • Education
    • Marital status
    • Income
    • Occupation

Conduct a SWOT analysis 

This is a basic tool to help you identify your advantages and disadvantages compared to your competitors.


What advantages do you have over your competition?


What are some areas for improvement?


Are there new developments in your local community that could benefit your business?


Are there any newly emerging technologies or business models that could affect your company?


Competitor analysis

Taking a look at your competitors’ marketing strategies may give you ideas for your own planning, including what you need to cover and how to set your business apart from the crowd. As you conduct your analysis, consider your competitors’:

  • Tagline, logos, tone of voice, mission statement, and other brand messaging and positioning
  • Website, social media presence, blog content, email newsletter, and other content marketing efforts
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) rankings

Step 2: Basic business and marketing planning 

The 4 Ps of marketing

Running through this checklist is a great exercise for new businesses that are just starting out. For existing companies, this framework may be a helpful refresher.

  • Product: Define and describe the scope of your product or services.
  • Place: Where is your place of business – online, in a brick and mortar location, in a defined region
  • Promotion: What are the main channels that companies like yours use to reach your target audience – social media, email marketing, SEO, paid search engine marketing, traditional advertising like billboards, or direct mailers?
  • Price: How you set your pricing strategy will impact your potential customers. Are you pricing your products and services for the every-day consumer or luxury shoppers?

Define your company

Here are some basics to think about and put together as you prepare to market your small business to potential customers. 

  • Mission statement: What is your company’s overall goal and reason for being?
  • Unique selling proposition (USP): What differentiates your business from all the other options your customers have?


Step 3: Objective setting 

What are the goals you hope your marketing efforts will help you achieve? These may be things like:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Drive additional foot traffic to your brick and mortar store
  • Increase sales

Some channels and tactics may lend themselves to driving awareness while others may be better at driving specific actions. 

Step 4: Marketing activities and tactics

Marketing campaigns can be complex and expensive or quick and easy to set up. How they’re defined is completely up to you as a business owner. 

Channel selection

Now more than ever, marketers have an increasing number of channels to choose from. The major types include:

  • Traditional marketing channels
    • Direct mail
    • Billboards/out of home campaigns
    • Print advertising
  • Digital marketing channels
    • Paid social media
    • Paid search/SEM
    • Display ads
  • Content marketing
    • Blogs, white papers, eBooks
    • Webinars
    • Organic social media
    • Email marketing

Setting your budget

The more you spend, the more likely your campaign will reach a wider audience and have the potential to lead to business results. As you think about defining your budget, ask:

  • How much budget do you have to spend on marketing activities?
  • What is the average cost to market to your target audience?
  • What uptick in sales would you like to see, and how much are you willing to spend to generate more business?

Setting up your targeting

Do the channels you’ve selected allow specific targeting to reach the audience you defined in step one above? Direct mail, for instance, may allow you to target individual recipients by ZIP code, age, and gender, while billboards may only allow targeting by ZIP code and the average demographics of a given neighborhood. 

Nextdoor is a neighborhood hub that offers businesses the ability to promote themselves to verified local residents who are already in your neighborhood. If you are interested in local digital advertising, Nextdoor Local Deals lets businesses define ‘local,’ whether that be reaching multiple neighborhoods or narrowing in on a few street blocks within proximity to your business.

Step 5: Measuring the return on investment (ROI)

Let’s say you’ve set aside $1,000 a month to spend on advertising. You’ll want to ensure the marketing budget you’ve allocated to this advertising is delivering results. First, you’ll want to define your KPIs. We’ve listed some of the common types below. 

Defining your KPIs

Depending on the marketing channel, you should be able to track key performance indicators (KPIs), such as:

  • Impressions: This metric will tell you how many people have seen an ad, and is an indication of awareness but not of any type of activity or engagement.
  • Clicks and click-through rate: This will tell you how many people have clicked on your ad and what percentage of everyone who sees your ad clicks on it.
  • Conversions and conversion rate: This will tell you the number of people who take a specific action you define, and the percentage of all people who see an ad who complete the action.

Getting proper tracking in place

Tracking is the most important component of any marketing campaign. You can put tons of great content out on social media, but if you can’t tie social media engagement, blog readers, or ad impressions to your business goals, then you can’t be sure your marketing efforts are truly delivering the results you want.

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