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For many small business owners, marketing can feel overwhelming. You’re so busy delivering for your customers and clients or working with your employees that adding “marketing” as a regular task feels overwhelming. 

That may be why some studies report almost “half of small businesses spend less than two hours per week on marketing efforts.”

There’s just never enough time in the day when you’re running your own small business!

But developing a marketing plan and executing effective marketing strategies doesn’t have to be a huge time or effort commitment. With the help of technology, you can literally 

The tools are at your fingertips; all you need is a solid plan.

So today, I’m going to outline a 30-minute framework in which you can easily and simply create a marketing plan. This 30-minute plan should act as a spark to light the fuse that will ultimately take your business to the next level. 

It’s not magic. It won’t solve all your problems on its own. 

But it WILL get you over the hurdle of developing a marketing strategy in your small business. From there, you can add, adapt, improve, and leverage your plan to make the most of your marketing efforts.

Let’s dive in!

Why a marketing plan?

“Hold on just a minute,” you might be thinking. “Why do I even need an official marketing plan?”

Maybe you’ve been posting on Instagram or generating word-of-mouth customers for a while now and don’t think you need a marketing plan.

And I guess you might be right. 

Sort of. 

But what you’re missing out on if you don’t develop a marketing plan—even a simple one like I’ll lay out today—is the opportunity to predictably grow your business.

If you’re not 100% sure where your sales are coming from but you just know your current marketing activities are “working,” then what happens when an algorithm changes, or your audience changes, or your advertising channels get saturated?

Any of those changes could be catastrophic if you don’t know what’s working and what’s not when it comes to your marketing.

Not to mention all the time you’re spending on marketing when, according to the Pareto principle, probably about 20% of your actual efforts account for 80% of your sales.

When you build a plan, test what works, and identify what’s not working, you can easily cut out marketing activities that just aren’t delivering.

But if you don’t have a plan to brainstorm, test, analyze, and adapt, you’ll never get to the point that you can grow predictably.

Rethinking “marketing”

Before we get to the framework, I’d like to suggest a paradigm shift in how you think about marketing.

When we think of the word “marketing” most of us tend to think about tasks that are actually classified under “advertising.” 

These tasks include: posting on social media, putting an ad on the radio or TV, printing flyers, or sending out text messages.

In reality, these actions are just one small part of “marketing” and are most effective when considered together with the other portions of what marketing is in reality.

So what is marketing then? To put it simply, marketing consists of three important phases:

  • Research & Audience Identification
  • Advertising & Promotion
  • Customer Experience & Satisfaction

Why am I telling you this?

The truth is: you’re probably spending more time on “marketing” than you think. For example, you’re doing marketing anytime you give a customer a positive experience with your company (increasing chances of high ratings or referrals and further business).

So as we go through the marketing plan today, keep in mind: there’s way more to marketing than just advertising your product to people who may want to buy it.

It’s much deeper than that. 

In reality it’s about finding a “market” fit with your product or service and then providing the best possible solution to your target audience.

The 30-minute marketing plan

Okay, without any more lead-in, let’s get into the actual 30-minute marketing plan. If you follow this framework, you should be able to build a basic, yet impactful marketing plan in 30 minutes or less.

10 Minutes: Audience

You don’t even need a full-length, fancy audience breakdown – you just need an actionable marketing persona. To begin, take around 3 minutes each to provide 1-2 sentences answering all of the following questions:

1. Who is my target audience? 

Think demographics like age, gender and income, but also psychographics like why they buy things, what they’re interested in, or daily behaviors.

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2. What problem will I solve for my target audience?

Author Chris Guillebeau explains a good business idea lies in the convergence of things you’re interested in AND things people are willing to pay for.

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3. Where does my target audience spend their time?

For example, are they heavy smartphone users? Or do they listen to the radio in their car more? Are they on Instagram or Pinterest? Etc. This will be extremely helpful in the next section.

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10 Minutes: Sales

Next, take about 5 minutes each to answer the following questions in 1-2 sentences. The key here is not to get too far into the weeds.

4. How will I get my audience’s attention?

It helps to consider how you stand out from your competition and which media you can leverage to get your company in front of the right customers (see #3 above).

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5. How will I convert attention to lead generation or sales?

Attention is one thing, but actually getting someone to give their contact information or purchase what you’re selling is an entirely different matter.

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5 Minutes: Advertising & Promotion

Then take 5 minutes to brainstorm some advertising promotion ideas. Focus on high-level ideas here and save the nitty-gritty for later. Remember, this is a foundation, not a to-do list.

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5 Minutes: Customer Experience

Finally take 2-3 minutes each to answer the following questions. Remember that some of your most important marketing has to do with the experience you give your customers since they can often lead to future business in the form of repeat sales or customer referrals and ratings.

6. How will I surprise & delight my customers?

As marketer Clay Mosley put it, simply offering good customer service isn’t enough anymore. That comes standard. Instead, identify how you can go above and beyond for your customers or clients.
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7. How will I generate referrals & encourage repeat business?

According to The Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. That’s why focusing on repeat business and generating referrals are critical to the future growth of your business.
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Repeat the process often

What’s great about having such a quick framework for your marketing is you don’t have to dread the idea of drafting up a new marketing plan for you or your team to follow.

Since it only takes 30 minutes, this is something you can revisit over and over again as your business grows, your product evolves, or your audience changes.

As you learn new things about your product or process, add them to the next iteration of your marketing plan.

Answering some common questions…

Because this was such a quick framework, you’re probably left asking a few questions. Below, allow me to answer some that I think you might have.

What about the tactics?

First, you might be asking: what about all the tactics? The day-to-day marketing “stuff” I have to do?

You’ve got a point. This marketing plan won’t work at all without a similar brainstorming session to address, in more detail, all the little things that need to happen in order to actually DO marketing.

But remember, this 30-minute plan isn’t about DOING, it’s about PLANNING. And far too many small business owners get caught up in the PLANNING too often and never actually get to the DOING. 

By limiting the planning to 30 minutes (repeated every few weeks or months) you can spend more time actually executing on your marketing plan.

You may also want to subscribe to our blog for frequent marketing ideas for small businesses.

What if I don’t know all the answers?

Depending on where you are in your business, you may not have all the answers to the questions above. 

In that case, your first time through it may take you more than 30 minutes. 

If you don’t have a quick answer to a question, I suggest you not get hung up on it. Answer it the best you can and then revisit with any time you have left over. Some questions may help dislodge answers to previously difficult questions.

Some answers may require further investigation: such as where your audience spends their time or which technology you’ll use to capture leads.

You’ve got this!

The whole point of this marketing plan is to get some traction. Marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You don’t have to spend half your working hours on it (unless you want to) and you don’t necessarily have to hire for it.

With this quick plan, you’ll have a framework in place to move forward and make real progress in your small business.

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Short on time but need to get a marketing plan down on paper? Complete these exercises in 30 minutes to build a foundation for your marketing strategy!

Preston Lee

Preston D Lee is the founder of Millo and the Freelance Report.

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