Developing a marketing strategy is an essential part of running a successful small business and will ensure that your organisation has focus. Also, it means resources like time and money are spent on the things that will best work towards achieving your objectives. 

This article takes you through what a business marketing strategy is, why it’s important, and how to develop yours - including a free marketing strategy template to download and use to create your own strategy. 

What is a marketing strategy?

The easiest way to explain this is to explore the differences between marketing strategies and marketing plans. 

Your marketing strategy will define what you’re going to do to reach your objectives. Your marketing plan will detail how you’re going to get there. 

It needn’t be a complex spreadsheet or an expansive document, it's more an acknowledgement in writing of how you plan to approach and achieve your objectives - so it can be as short or as long as it needs to be. 

But before you create your strategy, firstly there’s the need to set the business objectives. This is most likely to be a revenue target but could also be market share, social followers, number of new customers, and so on. (You can have more than one, and different ones for different parts of the business - but don’t over complicate things). Objectives should always be S.M.A.R.T

  • Specific - What exact result do you want to achieve? 
  • Measurable - How will you know when you’ve achieved it? 
  • Attainable - Is it possible to achieve it? 
  • Relevant - Is it the most important thing to achieve right now? 
  • Timely - When do you want to achieve it by? 

Try not to get caught up in not knowing the exact details of how long the objective might take to reach and if it’s achievable in that time. The important thing is to set a S.M.A.R.T. objective. It’s a target to aim for the future (so you can’t possibly know exactly) and there will have to be a certain amount of guesswork that’s based on the information that you have access to. 

Let’s take a look at a business example of marketing objectives, strategies and plans...

 

 

Yellow Leaf Hotel is a ten bedroom boutique hotel based in Cornwall and has been running for four years. 

Business objective: To increase turnover by 15% every year - this year £350,000. To do this they’d like to increase the average length of stay from 2 to 2.5 nights and average spend per booking from £180 to £220. 

Marketing strategy: Increasing average length of stay and average spend per booking by encouraging guests to turn their short break into a longer holiday. They’ll do this by focusing on communicating how much there is to do in the area, targeting the type of people likely to take longer trips, and offering promotions and special packages for longer stays.

Marketing plans: The hotel’s marketing plans detail the marketing techniques and tactics, including communication channels and promotions to reach customers, with budgets and timings. 

Why is it important to have a marketing strategy?

Without a marketing strategy, your business is just trying to sell more stuff to more customers, without any thought as to who those people are, how much they’re spending, what you should sell them or how you’re going to reach them.

It’s easy to assume that you know what your objectives and strategy are, or that you don’t have time to do it, but researching and writing down your strategy as part of your business or marketing plan should be a priority. It will make sure that you’re using your time most efficiently and that everyone involved in your business is moving in the same direction. 

“Having a marketing strategy is making a commitment to the direction of your business. First get your employees to love your marketing strategy and then your customers will love it.” 

Jasmine Willford, Marketing Coordinator for Snugs Headphones 

Make sure you set time aside for objective setting, marketing strategy research, planning, tracking and reviewing. 

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” 

Sir Winston Churchill

What are the types of small business marketing strategies to achieve different goals?

Marketing strategies, and therefore plans, will differ greatly depending on many things including: 

  • Objectives
  • Budgets 
  • Target market 
  • Business values 
  • Competitors 
  • Opportunities within the market 
  • Skills within the business 

Marketing strategy examples

Click on the different businesses to find out more about their different marketing strategies and plans… 

Yellow Leaf Hotel’s strategy to reach their revenue targets this year is to increase the average length of stay and average spend per booking

Find out more

The marketing strategy:

Yellow Leaf Hotel are investing in a video for their website and social to showcase the amount of things to do in the area. In selected periods they will be giving a fourth night free when you book three and they’re working with the local surf school to put on two four-day ‘learn to surf stays’ in the spring. 

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Bob’s Your Uncle Salon wants to hit their quarterly targets by increasing average customer spend. They’re reviewing their pricing strategy and adding higher value services to their range.

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The marketing strategy:

The salon hasn’t increased prices in two years so is taking this opportunity to redo it’s price list and also review the services offered. They will be adding higher end colour services and optional additions like head massages, with a focus on females who tend to spend more. In line with the new services and increased prices they’ll be investing in the look and feel of the salon, updating their logo, and customer service training for the staff - hoping to attract a more affluent customer longer term. 

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Sadie’s Riding School fills all of it’s after school classes so is looking to increase the number of customers by targeting new markets. They’ll add daytime and weekend classes for adults who want to learn to ride.

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The marketing strategy:

Sadie’s will be focusing on advertising it’s new adult classes in the local press, to their email database and on their Facebook page. They’ll be running ‘bring a friend’ days for adults who have never ridden before and are partnering with local accommodation providers to offer riding lessons to guests.

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The Indian Coffee House has noticed people tend to only visit on average once a week and aims to increase repeat purchases to grow the business. 

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The marketing strategy:

They know they need to give their customers something new and a reason to return. Firstly they’ll be dedicating time to customer research, to find out what their customers want and how they can improve service. Ideas suggested by the team that they want to research before launching them this year are - a loyalty programme, coffee making classes, and new products - cold coffees, bags of coffee beans, healthy snacks and boxes of donuts.

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Download: free marketing strategy template

Often businesses will set short, medium and long-term marketing objectives and strategies and review them regularly. Short term might focus on what you’re doing over the next few months or year, medium might look ahead to the next two to three years, and long-term five to ten years. The closer the time frame, the more detailed your strategy and plans should be. And make sure your plans to achieve your short, medium and long-term strategies are working alongside each other. 

A marketing strategy might run from January to December and then be reviewed, but it can start and end at any time. It needn’t be a huge intimidating document - in a similar way to your business plan, what matters is creating a practical, working document that provides a clarity of vision and is backed up by some sound thinking and research. This template will help you formulate a strategy by factoring in all the considerations in this article.

Download your free marketing strategy template here and create your own successful marketing strategies.

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Next Steps

How to write a marketing plan

Now you’ve created your small business marketing strategy, it’s time to create your marketing plan.

Read more

How do I market my business online?

This article covers all the main aspects of digital marketing so that you can consider which channels are best for you. 

Read more

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