This Balboa Capital blog entry gives you some valuable tips on how to develop a marketing plan. As you know, marketing is a great way to help build brand awareness, increase sales and keep you one step ahead of the competition.

Evaluate your current plan.

Before developing or revising your existing marketing plan, it’s important to evaluate what you have been doing to see what is working, and what is not working. Take a close look at how effective your current marketing strategies are. A good rule of thumb is to invest more time and resources into the strategies that are doing well. In addition, make sure you are pursuing the best market and channel opportunities for your business’ product or service. Many small business owners are amazed to learn that under-performing marketing efforts are the result of poor media placement, both offline and online.

Create a business strategy.

Start by looking at your product or service and determine how it meets the needs of your intended audience. Also, look at your business’ strengths, weaknesses and areas of opportunity to help formulate a position for your brand. In addition, one critical component of brand strategy is a competitive analysis, so write down what your main competitors are doing in terms of marketing, pricing and service offering.

Determine your goals.

Your campaign will be a key driver behind your small business’ success, so you need to set realistic goals of what you want to achieve. Obviously, every business has its own unique situation, but some of the more common goals are increased brand awareness, sales/revenue improvements, bigger profits, and a greater return on investment.

Establish a budget.

This is perhaps the most difficult part of marketing. With big goals and tiny budgets, small business owners often have a hard time determining which offline and online advertising strategies are the best for their specific goals. Print advertisements are expensive and have a limited run, whereas flyers, postcards and e-mail campaigns are more targeted and can cost less. Then there is social media marketing, which is fast-becoming one of the most widely used forms of online communications by large and small businesses alike. Look at your budget and allocate the funds you think will best help you achieve your marketing and sales goals. Lastly, take seasonality into consideration, as you would not want to run an advertising campaign during months that are slow for your business. If needed, consult with a local marketing professional or advertising company to get professional recommendations.

Complete your plan.

The final step is to put pen to paper and complete your marketing plan. Summarize it into an easy-to-read document that includes a summary, situation analysis, market opportunities, sales goals, advertising strategies, and monthly budget.