Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.44.30 PMA study by Marketo shows that businesses with documented marketing plans are more likely satisfied with their marketing efforts than those without one. But according to the same study, small companies aren’t implementing this strategy as widely as larger ones: only 56% of companies with less than 50 employees take the time to prepare a marketing plan, while 81% of companies with over 1,000 employees have one.

A marketing plan makes a big difference in getting your message across, and is essential for the healthy growth of any business, of any size. Below are some questions you should be able to answer to ensure that you’re on track to producing an effective marketing plan.

1. Do you understand your target market? 

You can’t develop a successful marketing plan if you don’t understand who your customers are. Carefully think about your ideal customers and consider questions like “what is the average age for your demographic?” or “how often do they need my product or service?” The more specific you can be with your definition of your ideal customer, the better you can target them.

2. How do your ideal customers get their information?

Once you identify your target market, you can begin determining what methods would be the best way to reach them in order to showcase your product or service. You can ask yourself questions like “Do my customers use social media. If so, on which channels are they most active?” One way to figure out what marketing channels to use is to look at how your competitors are reaching out and see what you might do similarly or differently. It’s also important that you maintain updated profiles and listings on heavily frequented directories like Google+ and Yelp, something Signpost’s marketing solution will help you achieve.

3. What is your marketing budget?

According to an article from the U.S. Small Business Administration, most small businesses should set aside 7 to 8% of their revenue to spend on marketing. However, as the same article notes, small businesses in the early brand-building years often spend as much as 20% of their sales to build their brand and drive awareness to their products and services. Ultimately, all businesses are different, and how much you put aside for marketing should be determined by how much money you’re generating.

4. How will you track your success?

It’s not enough just to plan and execute your marketing activities: you also have to track your results. This will help you gauge whether your business is moving in the right direction with its marketing efforts; what’s working, what isn’t, what needs improvement. With this information, you can adjust your marketing plan and budget as necessary. This is particularly important for budgeting, because you don’t want your hard earned dollars spent against ineffective marketing tactics. A marketing automation solution like Signpost can offer your business robust analytics software that will give you the intel you need to make the right decisions.

For more in-depth instructions on how to develop a killer small business marketing plan, you can download Signpost’s newest guide, “A Marketing Plan for Local Business” here.