The success of your small business is heavily reliant on how effective your marketing is. Marketing to the wrong audience, for example, can be just as lethal to a growing business as making no effort to market your business. And while creating a marketing plan can seem like quite the daunting process, it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive; you don’t need an elaborate plan for achieving your marketing goals, but you do need some sort of plan to make sure that your marketing efforts are appropriately targeted toward achieving your goals.These step-by-step instructions can help you define what your small business’ marketing goals should be and hit your targets.

How Do I Define My Small Business Marketing Goals?

Determining and setting marketing goals for your small business is the first step you should take when creating a marketing plan. But where do you begin?

  1. Figure out your end goal. The first step in any marketing plan is starting with clear goals. Do you want sales from new customers? Plan upgrades from existing customers? Website visitors filling out contact forms? Once you know what you want, you can work backwards and figure out where to improve performance of your process for attracting potential buyers and converting them to customers (this is often referred to as a marketing funnel or conversion funnel). Make sure you have an understanding of how your current clients found out about you and decided to make a purchase. Did they stumble upon your website after an online search, browse your products or services page, and then decide to purchase something? Was it a word-of-mouth referral from a colleague or friend? Did they see one of your advertisements?
  2. Decide how to improve performance, and at which step. Once you learn more about how your current customers were drawn to your organization, you’ll want to figure out how you can improve upon those methods. Are you going to start advertising on AdWords to draw more traffic to your page? Do you want to improve the product descriptions on your webpage to convert more users? Will you introduce abandoned cart remarketing to induce more customers to return to the page and make purchases?
  3. Set a marketing budget. Not including your marketing strategies in your overall budget is not an option because of how essential it is to growing your business. If you’re a startup or small business just starting out, this may mean borrowing money or taking out loans, paying out-of-pocket, or outsourcing to a marketing assistant. No matter how you get it done, you need to dedicate a percentage of your projected gross sales to your monthly or annual marketing budget. Many small business allocate 2-3%, 3-5%, or even as much as 12% of their annual revenue to marketing; however, what your company spends on marketing will depend on its needs and earnings. Remember to include everything from costs of production to the labor and hours required to complete your marketing strategy. You’ll want to consider pricing of SEO, paid advertising, social media, content marketing, email marketing, lead conversions, as well as other traditional advertising methods.

How Do I Reach My Small Business Marketing Goals?

The proof of any marketing plan is in its performance. While sometimes, you’ll see great results from the get-go, more often, you’ll need to optimize your tactics. This can involve adding new keywords (including negative keywords) if it’s an AdWords campaign, conducting A/B testing to see which ads perform best, narrowing your focus to a particular channel (e.g., Facebook over Instagram or vice versa), or identifying a content area that resonates particularly well with customers. Here are some tips to guide the process of optimizing your marketing strategy.

  1. Check in regularly and track results. Determining what is and is not working will require frequent and careful reporting of metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs), and your return on investment (ROI). This data is what will help you show the worth of your marketing campaigns.
  2. Be consistent. Use the same data points when collecting metrics. Paying attention to social media followers one week and then lead conversions the next week won’t paint a clear picture of how harmoniously your marketing is working over time. Use the same platforms for collecting and reporting metrics. Most importantly, be consistent in your approach. For example, if you are adopting a content marketing plan, regularly publish marketing content so that you have a clear track record to assess what content works, what needs to be tweaked, and what content should be abandoned.
  3. Use a project management system. Marketing plans often consist of numerous moving parts. Keeping track of each element of your marketing strategy can therefore be a challenge. To get better control of over implementation, utilize a project management system. This system can be software-based, involve incorporating a project manager responsible for executing your marketing plan, or both. You’ll want a central location that lists timelines, due dates, check lists, and documentation. Assign clear roles and responsibilities to your marketing team so no tasks fall through the cracks and don’t get completed. Ensure everyone checks in regularly, especially if there are issues people are encountering or if components of your marketing plan are consistently underperforming.

Marketing goals are specific, realistic, measurable objectives that are intended to better your business financially over a predetermined amount of time. Make sure that you have the right resources to create, implement, and manage your marketing plan. If you don’t have the bandwidth to do this or if you don’t have the right resources in-house, you can always look for an outside marketing strategist to assist.