If you are using a marketing plan and a marketing strategy, it will make a huge difference in how you approach promoting your business in the future. There are a few things that will happen when you start implementing these two tools. First, you will be able to measure your marketing efforts which will help you know where your marketing is doing well, and where it isn’t. You will have more confidence in your marketing overall. And your success in completing and implementing your marketing efforts will increase.
But first, what is the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan? And how can a small business owner use these tools to improve their marketing?
What is a marketing strategy?
When you are starting to think about how you want to market your business or product, you need to start with your marketing strategy. The marketing strategy is your roadmap and should be a reflection of your business goals. The marketing strategy is where you answer questions like how you are different from your competition, and how you solve your customer’s problems. It should also include your current business goals, target audience, and your competitors.
What does a marketing strategy look like?
For example, let’s say you are a local bike repair shop. You have a deep love for all things bicycle, and you know that shows in your work. You believe strongly in only recommending products to customers if you truly know that product will improve their riding experience. You know all of your customers by first and last name, and probably some details about their personal lives that you shouldn’t.
Your competitors are big box sporting goods stores with a high turnover rate. They don’t provide personalized service and their goal is to trick out their customers with as many shiny new products as possible.
Your goals are to expand your client base by 25% in the next year, so you can hire part-time help and expand your product line. You want to focus on busy families who want to ride together more. Additionally, you would like to work with more busy professionals who want to get into training for long rides on the weekends.
Boom. That’s your marketing strategy. This is a very simple version of a marketing strategy, of course. But as a small business owner, simple is all you really need.
What is a marketing plan?
The marketing plan is where you outline the steps you will take to achieve the goals you set out in the marketing strategy. It focuses on the who, the what, the when, the where, the cost, and the execution.
What does a marketing plan look like?
Just like the marketing strategy, a marketing plan doesn’t have to be super complicated. It does require a little more pen to paper planning though. Let’s look at the individual parts, using the example above.
To target families, you decide you want to focus on moms who are looking for healthy ways to spend time together as a family. For the professionals, you want to find people who are outdoor enthusiasts looking to improve their health.
You will create some content about how riding bikes is a great way to have family time, create long-lasting memories, and get healthy. Things like articles on bike riding as a family, images of happy families riding bikes together, and children making healthy choices will appeal to the moms.
For the professionals, you decide to focus on how health is directly related to work performance and images of healthy professionals next to images of people riding bikes.
You also want to emphasize the personal touch you offer your customers. For both target audiences, you will include weekly bike maintenance tips and encourage your audience to ask questions about bike maintenance and riding tips.
You decide to primarily utilize social media for your campaign since your budget is small. The business professionals are probably online in the early mornings. The moms are online in the afternoons. You need to make sure your message is reaching them at those times. Your goal is to post three times a week on each platform.
You will use LinkedIn to reach the professionals and Pinterest to reach the moms to start. Since you are doing this all by yourself, you need to keep your commitment small enough that you can be sure to follow through.
You crunch some numbers and decide you can allocate $100 a month for this campaign. This is modest, but you own a very small bike repair shop. You consider putting some money into paid ads but decide against it. Instead, you find a great course on mastering Pinterest that’s on sale for $49 and a highly recommended social media fundamentals course for $29. You decide to pay for a Canva account for $19 a month to create your own graphics. The campaign is set to run for six months. After the first month, you plan to evaluate where you need the most help. The extra money will allow you to hire someone for a few hours each month.
This is the most important part. Especially as a small business owner doing everything yourself. You work long hours, with one day off a week. Fitting in the time to do your own marketing is often a challenge. But you are committed to this campaign. Since business is usually slow on Mondays, you decide to make that your content creation day. You will not leave the shop until all your content for the month has been created and scheduled. Then you will plan to arrive 30 minutes early each day and stay 30 minutes late to spend some time commenting on the social networks you are targeting, so you can nurture your audience.
Ready for Action!
These examples are really simplistic. That’s because, as the owner of a small bike repair shop, the work is all on you. Unless you hire an outside marketing agency or have some magical marketing fairy who lives in your attic, you’re doing all of this yourself. You need simple. You need something that is easy to implement. We know because we’ve been there.
Hopefully, you are now able to see the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. We also hope that you can now see how taking the time to create a strategy and a plan will improve your marketing efforts.
Feeling inspired? We’d love to hear! If this post has given you any ideas for your own marketing plans, share below so other small business owners can benefit.
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