Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

Like most small businesses, you may be wondering where to put your marketing dollars. The Yellow Pages is calling, your website host is constantly pitching online advertising, and advertising salespeople in droves promise you the next best thing in advertising. Where do you start? In this three part series, we’ll discuss the foundation of effective marketing

and how to determine where to spend your marketing budget. Part 1 focuses on having a strong brand, positioning and messaging.

Part 2 will cover things you can do for free, or guerilla marketing. Part 3 will help you establish an integrated marketing mix and put budget against that plan. So, let’s get started.

Part 1: Brand, Positioning and Messaging

The starting place is to assess your current brand and positioning and develop a branding statement for your business. A branding statement is living document where you articulate the following important marketing concepts:

  • Who is your target customer? Are they in a specific industry, do they hold a specific job function, what do they have in common?
  • Who are your top competitors? Sometimes your competition is simply a different way of doing things.
  • What is your customer’s pain that needs to be resolved? Why do they need your product or service? What does your target customer desire?
  • In a single statement, what is your brand position as it relates to the target customer, their need, and what makes you unique among your competition?
  • What is the specific core benefit that you want customers to ascribe to your brand?
  • Why should prospects choose you to provide the product or service? Do you have the best technology, are you an expert – explain why I should believe in your brand.
  • What are your brand’s unique personality characteristics? Are you fun, serious, honest, fast, natural, etc.
  • Fuse together your brand benefit and what the target customer desires into three to five sentences to create a single-minded selling proposition.

You’ll want to write these down and refine them until they are clear and concise. Once you have a draft, you’ll want to vet it by asking a few people for feedback. What questions do they have after reading your branding statement? Where do they challenge you? Take this input and further refine your branding statement.

Next, develop your key product messaging. What are three to five key things you want prospects to know about your products or services?

Once you can articulate these cornerstones to effective marketing – the branding statement and your key messaging – you are ready to move to the next step in creating an effective marketing plan. In Part 2 of this series, we will examine the low hanging fruit that should be a part of every marketing plan.' About Melody Appleton

Melody Appleton consults with businesses to accelerate brand awareness and revenue growth through a critical combination of strong positioning and messaging, marketing planning, and integrated marketing programs. Melody's strategic and integrated approach helps small to medium enterprises build momentum and get results.


  1. Hi Melody,
    Love the way you organized this.

    Things change so quickly and businesses morph about as quickly, in order to keep up with our fast changing world. Do you have recommendations regarding Marketing Plan updates? How often might one review this living document? Are there certain sections that we need to review more often than others?

    Looking forward to Parts 2 & 3.

    Thank you, Kathie

  2. Hello Kathie,

    Thank you! Those are very good questions. I’ll answer briefly here, and write a blog on this soon.

    The brand statement should be reviewed every three years, at a minimum, just as the overall marketing plan should be. In industries that change more quickly, I would shorten the review time to no longer than two years. High tech is a good example of a fast changing market.

    The competitors list should be reviewed more frequently and a comprehensive competitive analysis done on the top three to four competitors. The reason competitors are listed in the brand statement is so that you can establish your unique positioning visa vie the competition. The number of competitors in the branding statement is limited to the top three to four — this is the competition that you want to be compared to (positioning) by the market.

    I suggest reviewing the tactical parts of a marketing plan on a much more frequent basis. Evaluate the effectiveness of new advertising, promotions, email campaigns, etc. monthly. You may decide to test for a full quarter, but you’ll want to evaluate and optimize on a fairly frequent basis.

    For ongoing marketing tactics that you know are performing to at least the minimum success metrics, you will want to evaluate on a quarterly basis. If they’re falling just below or at the minimum, review monthly in order to try to optimize performance.

    Thank you for your excellent questions!

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