Once your small business is up and running, you need to increase brand awareness and reach out to a larger audience to draw in customers. This is where marketing comes in! Read these five steps for building and executing a successful marketing plan.

Once your small business is up and running, you need to increase brand awareness and reach out to a larger audience to draw in customers. This is where marketing comes in! Read these five steps for building and executing a successful marketing plan.


1. Determine Your Marketing Goal and Measurable Objectives

The first step towards creating a successful marketing plan is to determine what your plan is supposed to do – what you want to achieve – get more customers, keep your customers or win back former customers.  This would be your goal.  Determine the objectives that help you achieve the goal: increase your business’ social media following, drive more sales to your ecommerce site, bring in more foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar location.  Make your objectives SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound).  .

If you need help figuring out what goal and objectives would best benefit your small business, take a few minutes to sit down and do a SWOT analysis for your business. Then talk to your business advisor to get an expert opinion. While a mentor won’t know your business better than you, they are industry experts who can help you figure out the best marketing goals and objectives for your small business.

2. Create a Budget

Marketing does not come free. While there are great free resources online to help you with your marketing plan, even free tools take time to learn and use effectively. Make sure to count for the time your paid employees will need to use tools and create content!

Sit down with your business mentor and your accountant to find a healthy amount of your budget to allocate to your marketing plan. You should create a budget large enough to effectively execute your plan without hurting your cash flow. If your business is struggling, pouring more money than you can afford into a desperate marketing attempt is not going to help. Always prioritize maintaining a positive cash flow.

3. Research Marketing Channels and Methods

The channel through which you advertise and promote your business will vary depending on your goals. If you want to drive traffic to your social media profiles and your ecommerce, then using inexpensive social media tools and email newsletters will be easy. If your budget allows, spend a little on ads on either Instagram, Facebook, or Google Adwords.

Don McPeck from Mess Hall Canteen considers social media to be vital to marketing, especially food trucks, because clean, creative, and consistent branding is what sticks in people’s minds.

However, if your goal is to attract in-person sales and new clients at your physical location, consider coupons or specials handed out in your store and listed online (such as on Groupon or Living Social). This way you can easily track how many sales and new clients are associated with your marketing efforts.

There are many inexpensive marketing methods you can use depending on your goals and budget. Spend some time researching different ideas online to see what you can realistically use to market your small business. Talk to your business advisor before you commit to a plan – remember that having a second opinion never hurts!

4. Create Content and Execute Plan

This is the part that can be the hardest or easiest step in your marketing plan. Once you’ve done your due diligence researching, planning, and budgeting, it is time to create your content and execute the plan.

If you aren’t a creative person or don’t have an employee who can take on this work, consider outsourcing tasks to freelancers. They can help with the legwork of creating the ads, graphics, and other content that you might need created.

Create a project timeline for when you need the work done by, when you will put your plan into action, when/if it will finish, and when you will take the time to look at the effectiveness of your marketing campaign.

5. Analyze the Outcome of Your Marketing Efforts

Analytics appeal to a very special kind of person, and you may be less inclined to pour over data and metrics. However, crunching the numbers and evaluating if your marketing plan achieved your goals is important.

If your plan didn’t achieve your goals and benefit your small business, then try a different method or a different goal. Effective marketing takes time to work, but you should see some positive effect after a few months if you’ve decided on the right way to market your small business. Talk to your mentor to dig deep into the data and see why your plan didn’t work and how to do it better.

If it did, then congratulations! We hope your small business grows and thrives.


For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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