Now that you have completed Step 1: Research, to include a SWOT analysis, an other research, and have completed Step 2: Define your problem, it’s now time to gather your team and begin developing your plan.  Plan components include an overall goal, objectives to help you meet the goal, strategies that will help you reach your objectives, and all the tactics you will use to implement your strategies.  It may seem overwhelming but every step is necessary. Take our free tutorial Small Business Marketing 101: How to Build a Powerful Marketing and download our Marketing Plan Toolkit.


A common mistake made by small business owners is skipping the first two steps of our RPIE list: research and planning. Instead, they migrate right into implementing tactics.  Remember, that social media is a tactic.  Creating a Facebook page is simply a tactic you use in your strategy to reach your audience and create awareness about your business.  Your strategy is helping you reach one or more objectives, which support your overall goal.  You can’t have a successful plan if you run right to the tactics.

Part 1:  Develop your small business marketing plan goal(s).

Generally with your marketing plan, you will create one main goal.  Your goal will help solve the problem you identified.  Your goal refers to a statement of being in the future, is based on the research you have conducted, and aligns with your company mission. For example, we shared in our previous section that our research revealed sales have been stagnate for the past two years, we haven’t grown our customer base in several months or years, and we have terrible relations with our clients.

Use the problem you defined to set an overall broad goal for your marketing plan.  Using the sample problem we defined, our goal might be:

To provide a world-class customer experience for ABC company (your company) customers while increasing market share and raising annual revenue.

Part 2:  Identify your target audiences.

Look at your plan goal and consider who you are trying to reach.  This is imperative to moving forward and developing your objectives, strategies and tactics.  Is your audience a specific group of influencers, is your audience your customers, or do you have several audiences?  In looking at our sample goal above, our audiences might be our customers, because or our poor relationships and poor communications.  Our audience might also be our employees, because they are affecting our relationships with our customers.  Or, our business partners, our local community, or vendors.  It may be a variety of these audiences, each of which we need to reach through different objectives.

Part 3:  Determine your small business marketing plan objectives.

Objectives are goal driven and spell out the results you need to achieve so that you reach your program goal.  They are outcome or output related and are specific, time specific, audience specific, attainable, and relevant.  Objectives define a specific behavior from an audience, how you will achieve it, and when you will achieve it.  Typically, objectives do one of three things: increase, decrease, or inform.  Let’s look at our goal again.

To provide a world-class customer experience for ABC company (your company) customers while increasing market share and raising annual revenue.

This is a broad goal with several components. Our objectives will help us reach the various components of this goal. For example, the first part of our goal is to improve our communications with our customer base. The next part is to improve the customer experience.  Then, increase our market share. Finally, we endeavor to raise our annual revenue.

Because this goal is broad, we may develop several different objectives that will each address a specific part of the goal.  So, looking at the components of the goal above, let’s address one with an objective.  The first part of the goal was to improve our communications with our customer base.  Remember, part of the problem you have identified with your organization will come from the weaknesses and threats you identified earlier in your SWOT analysis.  In your marketing and communications plan, you will need to address some of these issues with your objectives. In the example above, a poor customer experience for your clients could have come from an organizational weakness where you don’t have a formal communications process in place or something similar. Review the weaknesses and threats you identified and see which, if any, might be contributing to this problem.

In order to set an objective, we must first know what we currently do in the way of communicating with our customers.  For purposes of this training, let’s say we only use one online channel, Facebook, to communicate with customers.  Let’s also say we only engage about 30 customers out of 3000 with our Facebook communications.  A sample objective to specifically support the customer experience part of the goal might be:

Increase customer engagement with a focus on digital media platforms by 75% by June 30.

The objective increases, provides a target measurement and a deadline.

Part 4: Develop your small business marketing strategies.

The strategies you use represent the road you are taking to reach your objectives.  They describe how you are going to reach your objective and may even apply to more than one objective.  Strategies may be action strategies, which represent internal changes your organization may need to make in order to meet an objective.  Or they may be communication strategies, which determine your message delivery or how you are going to reach your audience and ultimately reach your objective.  For practice purposes, let’s look at the objective above and determine effective strategies to help us meet this objective.

Objective:  Increase customer engagement with a focus on digital media platforms by 75% by June 30.

Possible strategies:  As you consider what strategies to implement, refer back to your list of strengths and opportunities.  Can you use any of your company strengths as part of your strategies? In looking at the objective above, we need to answer the question “What are the best ways for us to increase customer engagement?”

  1. Implement at least three relevant social media platforms designed to strengthen customer relationships.
  2. Capture customer data and feedback for use with message development and content development.
  3. Integrate an opt-in, list-building program for use with online assets. (This might be a subscribe feature, email signup, or other list-building feature).
  4. Provide valuable content to meet specific needs of the target audience.

Part 5: Develop your plan tactics.

All of the above strategies will help us reach our objective to increase our customer engagement. Once you have determined two to three strategies, it’s now time to consider the tactics you will use to implement your strategies.  Tactics and strategies are often confused.  Where a strategy is your overall road map, the tactics represent your on-the-spot decisions.  They are the actions you take to make the strategy fit the reality.  They are your everyday to-do list.

Let’s look at the tactics we could use with our first strategy.

Plan objective:  Increase customer engagement with a focus on digital media platforms by 75% by June 30.

Strategy one: Implement at least three relevant social media platforms designed to strengthen customer relationships by June 30.

Possible tactics: As you consider what tactics to use, refer back to your list of strengths and opportunities.  Can you use any of your company strengths as part of your tactics?  For example, maybe you have a team member who is very adept at two or three social media channels.  You can use this strength to help with the tactics. In the strategy above, we will use at least three social media platforms that have been proven to strengthen customer relationships and are relevant to our business or industry.  As we look at tactics, each of the platforms will have different tactics.

Let’s say we chose Facebook (since we already have an established Facebook page), Pinterest, and YouTube as the three platforms most relevant to our business.

Our Facebook tactics might be:

  1. Hold a virtual event.
  2. Create customized tabs to draw fans to our website or designated landing pages.
  3. Create a company photo album for Facebook that showcases customers using our product.
  4. Hold an online chat with our product designer.

Our Pinterest tactics might be:

  1. Create a Pinterest page with the following boards: New products, Customer testimonials, Customer resources and Support.
  2. Promote the Pinterest page through other social media channels.
  3. Send email invitation to existing database of customers announcing the Pinterest page and its benefits.
  4. Add product whitepapers and how-to ebooks to the Pinterest customer resources board.
  5. Add a FAQ photo and link to the Support board.
  6. Add photos of the many uses of our products to the customer resources board.

Each tactic we developed is helping us to create awareness about our business with our customers and to improve engagement with our customers.  We could easily determine several more tactics to help us support the strategy.

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Once you have determined your tactics, you can begin to build your messages.  What is it you want to say to the audience that will help engage them with your business?  Social media tactics are relationship based, meaning you want to use these tactics to establish a relationship with your customers.  In crafting your messages, consider what has resonated with you in the past with your own participation in social media.  What are your competitors saying in their messages?  Determine how often you want to post to these platforms. What is too much and too little? What has worked in the past or for other businesses?  All of these answers can be found during your research and show why ongoing research is so important.

In looking at the above tactics, Facebook allows you to interact with your fans with engaging dialogue.  The various couponing platforms, like Living Social, allow you to offer something special to your clients, either a discount or other incentive.  All of these are ways you are strengthening your relationships with clients.  When developing your social media tactics, look at our section titled Social Grind for tactic ideas.

IMPORTANT: When you craft your plan goal, consider the issues you uncovered in your research that ultimately led to the problem you identified.  In the goal above, we want to improve communications and relationships with our customers. Something caused or is causing this problem.  You have identified causes in your research and should include amending them in your objectives.  For example, if a key factor causing poor relationships with your customers is poor customer service, and this was uncovered in your research using a customer survey, you need to address this with your objectives, strategies and tactics.

STEP 4 – Implementation – Put your plan into action