No matter how great your business idea is, if it doesn’t make money, you won’t stay in business for long. So, how do you make sure customers know about your brand and buy your products or services? That’s where marketing comes into play.
Like all aspects of your business, though, marketing needs to be planned. You do have a budget to stick to, after all. Creating a marketing strategy is key to making sure you’re making the most of your money while targeting the right people through the right channels so you can grow your business.
In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about how to write a marketing strategy, so you can take your business to the next level.
A marketing strategy outlines your marketing plan, which includes how you’ll attract new customers, retain current customers, and promote your products.
When you create your business plan, the marketing strategy will be an important component. Within a business plan, the marketing strategy helps to explain how your business fits into the market, who your competitors are, and how you’ll stand out. Small business marketing is all about how you will promote your products or services to increase sales through customer engagement.
When you’re learning how to write a marketing strategy for your business plan, there are some concrete first steps you need to take to get started. No matter how far along you are in your business, putting together your marketing strategy is going to get you thinking about a lot of big ideas.
Your first step when learning how to write a marketing strategy is research. You want to look at your market as a whole, your competitors, their marketing strategies, and past marketing strategies you’ve used—if any. Your research will inform who your target customer base is, how to price your products, what marketing channels will best serve your business, how you want to interact with customers, and what your budget will be.
While not all your research will be included in your marketing strategy, it will help to inform your marketing strategy. The final product will be a much condensed and synthesized version of what you discover from your research.
Before you can learn how to write a marketing strategy, you need to understand the ins and outs of your own business. What makes your products or services unique? What’s your company’s mission? Why did you start this business in the first place? Reminding yourself what makes your business special will help you inform your marketing strategy and show potential customers why they should choose to work with you.
This may feel like a no-brainer—after all, you created your business so you know it pretty well. But it’s worth taking a step back and looking at your business from the viewpoint of a potential customer. You may uncover some unique selling points you hadn’t previously considered.
Your business and your product play one roll in your marketing strategy, but there’s something missing. Your customer. A perfect marketing strategy doesn’t exist unless you’re taking your customer into consideration and using this persona to inform all of your decisions.
For a business to succeed, you have to understand your customer, who they are, what they like, their pain points, how your product or service solves their problem, how and where they consume media, and how to communicate with them. Much of the success of your marketing strategy depends upon understanding and communicating well with your customers.
Identify your target market, and remember not to make it too broad. Narrowing your scope to a specific demographic—like athletes or parents, for instance—can help you pinpoint the best way to reach them. If you cast your net too wide, you may come off as insincere and struggle to attract anyone.
Your business’s unique selling proposition or USP is the thing that makes you stand out. If you want your product or service to sell well, you need to make sure it offers something your competitors don’t. To do that, you need to find your USP.
Thanks to the previous steps, you likely have a good idea already what your USP is, but it’s time to synthesize all of these great ideas into an easily shareable description. Consider this your elevator pitch. You want to be able to tell someone why your product or service is best in less than 30 seconds. You may also find a catchy slogan comes out of this, as well.
You can’t know what’s unique about your business if you don’t know what your competition is doing. While you need to make decisions that are right for your business based on internal information, you also should have a good understanding of what your competitors are doing and whether or not it’s working for them.
Take a look at their products, pricing, and marketing strategies. Check out their customer reviews to see what people really like—and really don’t like—about their business. Then use this information to make your business, and marketing strategy, even better.
A marketing strategy will cost money—however, it doesn’t have to be a lot. In fact, there are plenty of free marketing ideas you can try. However, you will likely need to spend some money if you want to make money in the long run. Understanding your business financials to come up with a realistic marketing-specific budget is crucial before you can decide on your concrete marketing plan.
It’s an old cliche, but it holds true here: A picture is worth a thousand words. If you have any marketing collateral already created, such as logos, ads, or social media posts, go ahead and include them in your marketing strategy.
This will show potential investors or lending partners that you’ve made concrete progress on your business’s marketing plan.
While writing out your dream marketing strategy is all well and good, you really don’t know if it will work until you test it. The only way to truly know whether your marketing strategy will work is to show it to real people and get their opinions.
While you don’t need to have your entire marketing plan created to get feedback, it’s a good idea to run some general ideas past a focus group to get their input. These can be potential customers or friends and family—just make sure you’re getting their honest feedback. Use the results to tweak your strategy to better suit your customers.
We’ve covered a lot of information on how to prepare your marketing strategy. However, you now need to synthesize all of this research into an easily digestible plan that shows yourself and potential investors you know how to market your business.
The first part of your marketing strategy should be an overview of the products and/or services your business offers. This is what you’ll be marketing, after all. If your business sells products, include the specifics of each one, including sizes, types, colors, etc. Be sure to highlight the features, as well as pricing.
If you’re selling services, detail what they are, what problems they solve, and why they will be in demand.
Next, provide information about your target customer. Who are they? How old are they? Where do they live? How much do they make, on average? Are they married or single? Do they have kids and/or pets? What are their interests, wants, and needs?
Being able to identify your customer will help you to target them in your advertising, so that they can find your business and discover the product or service that will make their life better.
Now that we have the specifics on what your business offers and who it will best serve, it’s time to detail your USP. How will you bring your business and target customers together?
What about your business is unique? What do you offer that no other business does? Or how does it solve a problem better than the other options out there? This is a hugely important aspect of your marketing strategy, so spend all the time you need here until you’re confident you have a strong USP.
Outline how much of your overall business budget you’re planning to allocate to marketing. This information is necessary before you can get into the weeds of what exactly you’ll do to market your business.
Based on your research, you can also include projections for how this budget will grow your sales.
Based on your target customers and how they consume information, what marketing channels will you use to get the word out about your business? There are various options, from online to email campaigns, to social media, to the more traditional TV commercials, newspaper ads, and billboards.
For a fully comprehensive marketing plan, you’ll likely use a combination of several channels. Detail what channels you plan to focus on, as well as the budget for each, and the returns you plan to see for each.
This is also a good place to outline what numbers you will track to decide which channels are making a difference, such as views, clicks, subscribers, etc.
While the majority of your marketing strategy will focus on getting new customers, a question some investors will want an answer to is how you plan to retain them. You don’t need to get too in the weeds, but you should outline a plan for converting leads into paying customers—and for retaining those customers and getting their repeat business. New customers are important, but it’s also important to improve customer retention. After all, it’s more expensive to find a new customer than it is to foster a relationship with an existing one.
Again, if you have any artwork or copy already created for your marketing strategy—from logos to ads to slogans—you should include this as well. In the interest of space, you may want to include just a couple of items within the marketing strategy section itself, and you can include the rest at the end of your business plan in the appendix.
When you’re starting a business, one of the many new skills you’ll need to learn is how to write a marketing strategy to include in your business plan. A business plan and marketing strategy are useful tools for any new business owner to plan out how they’ll find customers and sell their awesome products or services to make a profit.
Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a GM at NerdWallet.
Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.