Small business owners are being dragged in a million different directions on any given day. They’re responsible for human resources, accounting, operations, marketing and everything in between. If they don’t have a background in marketing, it can be difficult to know where to start. In the beginning, it’s important to keep things simple. The five steps outlined in this post are a good jumping off point for developing a successful small business marketing plan.

1. Understand your market

The first thing you should do when developing a marketing plan for your small business is to conduct market research. Doing so will help you understand the inherent risks involved, help you identify which way the market is trending, and help you zero in on what the best opportunity is. There are a number of resources and data available from the government to help you get started.

We also suggest going straight to the source and interview potential customers in the community where you’re planning on launching. Conducting primary research is harder than sifting through secondary research, but it can prove to be more valuable. This data can be collected via focus groups, one-on-one interviews, or email surveys.

2. Know your audience

A major part of understanding your market is getting to know who you will be selling to. What are their likes and needs? What are the best ways to reach them? Do they value price or quality? Businesses that fail to get to know their audience will struggle to gain a foothold in the market. It’s important to take a step back from what you think your customers want and stand in their shoes for a while.

Visit other businesses like yours and experience how the competition treats their customers. Identify what is working and what isn’t and use that data to inform your small business marketing plan.

3. Know your enemies

Speaking of the competition, small businesses should have a keen understanding of what the competition is doing, but shouldn’t let them drive their strategy. In the past, many businesses used SWOT analysis to help identify threats (i.e. the competition) in the marketplace and how to respond to them.

However, according to Dave Lavinsky in an article on, businesses would often get stuck focusing on their threats and vulnerabilities when what they should focus on is their strengths – or more accurately what will help them defeat the competition. Lavinsky said, “Forget bulletproofing yourself, instead capitalize on strengths and move so fast that bullets can’t catch you.” What this all boils down to is whether your business is proactive or reactive. Let your strengths and the opportunities in the market determine the direction your business heads.

4. Identify key differentiators

Your competitive analysis will also help you identify what your key differentiators are and what you can do to exploit them. It’s important for you to know what is different, better, or special about your business and more importantly, whether consumers care. In a lot of markets, differences in price and product are going to be fairly negligible, so the key differentiator is often going to be the type of service and experience provided.

One of the best ways to exploit superior service and experience is by encouraging your customers to leave online reviews. Businesses with good online reviews will stand out from the competition and build trust and credibility with consumers. This is because most consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends. To ensure your business is capitalizing on online word of mouth, it should implement an online review management platform. This will streamline the invitation process and make it very easy for your customers to review your business and highlight its superior customer experience.

5. Set trackable goals and metrics

Before embarking on any new marketing plan, you should have goals and metrics in place to help track success. Outside of the basics like increases revenue and profit, you should be tracking things like acquisition cost and customer satisfaction. Every business is going to have different ideas of what success means. Taking the time to thoughtfully identify your KPIs and allocating the necessary resources to track them will ensure success.

Make Podium part of your small business marketing plan

Request a demo to see how Podium’s cloud-based solution can help you use text messages to invite all of your customers to review your business. Podium’s efficient, mobile process can help your business build a strong online presence on the sites that matter most. This will, in turn, improve local SEO and ultimately boost revenues.