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Free 3-page marketing plan template for a small business

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 21 May, 2024
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Use our simple, 15 section download to quickly create a marketing plan for your business

Many marketing plan templates you will find online were created long ago for larger businesses and aren’t so relevant to small and startup business competing in today’s marketplace where effective digital marketing is essential. Long plans with sections labelled ‘mission and vision statement’ and ‘corporate strategies’ are irrelevant for smaller businesses. The template we recommend in this post  is far more practical since it relates to the real-world challenges and opportunities of a small business.

In this post, we'll recommend what needs to go into a marketing plan and how to structure it. At the end of the article we link to a Word document you can download to write your own plan.

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is an essential tool to compete and grow your business since it gives focus to your marketing activities by setting realistic, achievable priorities within your budget. It simply defines what you want to gain from your investment in marketing and how you will achieve these goals through selecting the best marketing strategies and channels to acquire and retain customers.

About Smart Insights

Since we launched in 2010, we’re proud to have supported the growth of many businesses by reducing their need for costly consultants or agencies. Our self-service Learning Path platform and actionable templates are aimed at making it quick for you to learn what you need to and then rapidly take action. Our RACE Growth System provides a simple, yet comprehensive framework to plan, manage and optimize your marketing communications with a focus on the digital marketing activities that are fundamental to future success.

About this template

The template shares the key features of our RACE Growth system since it is designed to be:

  • Quick to create and implement an actionable plan with simple steps
  • Data-driven, defining SMART objectives based on forecasts
  • Practical to implement using a 90-day planning approach to give you focus
  • Designed for smaller businesses, but relevant for larger businesses too.

You can download your copy of our free marketing plan template below. Or, keep reading for a summary of the structure across Opportunity, Strategy, and Action.

Structure of this marketing plan template

This template is structured around the OSA process, of which you can see examples in different sectors in our editable Word plan templates, is structured in three parts:

  • Opportunity: Situation review including marketplace analysis (customers, competitors and channel partners), performance analysis and SMART Objective setting based on forecasting (spreadsheet tools available in our templates)
  • Strategy: Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning (STP) and the tactics forming the 7Ps of the marketing mix.
  • Action: Budget, resourcing including team and tools and marketing technology (Martech) and 90-day action plans.

For each of the three parts there are 5-steps relevant for every small business.

Section 1. OPPORTUNITY — Where are we now, what do we want to achieve?

Step 1. Performance review

A summary of financial and marketing performance for the previous year (existing business) highlighting future potential.

• Performance against target for Sales, Profitability
• Customer acquisition
• Customer retention

Recommended resource: Performance review template

Step 2. Marketplace review

Opportunities and threats from changes in customer profiles, behaviour, competitor, and intermediary activity.

Including changes in:
• Customer preferences and behaviour
• Competitor activity
• Intermediaries, (e.g., digital)

Recommended resource: Brand audit and marketplace review template

Step 3. PESTLE review

Identify key opportunities and threats arising from recent changes in the broader macro-environment.

Factors to include:
• Political
• Economic
• Social
• Technological
• Legal
• Environmental

Recommended resource: PESTLE analysis template

Step 4. Key Issues SWOT 
Use an 8-cell TOWs matrix analysis to review SWOT against potential future strategies. Then summarize key issues. Including:
• Strengths + SO Strategies
• Weaknesses + WO Strategies
• Opportunities + ST Strategies
• Threats + WT Strategies

Recommended resource: Create a SWOT using RACE​

Step 5. SMART objectives

Use a conversion-based model to calculate sales based on channels.
Recommended resource: Digital marketing planning spreadsheet Including:
• Sales forecast by month
• Profitability by month
• Targets for target audience by channel

Recommended resource: Digital marketing planning spreadsheet

2. STRATEGY — How will we prioritize investment to achieve our goals?

Step 1. Your brand value proposition. Start with why?
Why will people buy from you? Priority improvements to your brand and how you communicate it.

All business are brands, so define and refine your brand messaging and offer including:
• Elevator pitch
• Digital Value Proposition
• Brand identity
• Brand tone-of-voice

Recommended resource: Brand positioning template

Step 2. Customer segmentation and targeting 

What are your priority audiences for your different products and services?
• Priority target audiences
• Customer personas
• Content mapping
• Layered targeting approach, (demographics, behaviour, intent, and value)

Recommended resource: Customer persona guide and template

Step 3. Modern Marketing Mix 
How will you improve your products and services and the experience delivered through your Digital Value Proposition?

Factors to include:
• Product
• Pricing
• Place
• Promotion (Step 4)
• People
• Process
• Physical Evidence

Recommended resource: PESTLE analysis template

Step 4. RACE communications strategy

What are your priorities for improving inbound, always-on and campaign communications?

Including 25 core communications activities from:
• Plan
• Reach
• Act
• Convert

Recommended resource: RACE​ communications strategy audit/healthcheck

Step 5. Business Model Canvas summary 

What are the priorities for these key elements for a small business?

• Value proposition
• Customer segments
• Customer relationships
• Key activities and resources
• Channels
• Cost structure
• Revenue streams

Recommended resource: Online start-up business model template

3. ACTION — How will we implement and resource our plan?

Step 1. Marketing budget and resource plan
A monthly summary of media, agency, MarTech and staff spending.
Recommended resource: Marketing budget spreadsheet template

• Acquisition media spend
• Creative spend
• Content marketing and SEO activities
• PR and events
• Team or staff costs
• Website and MarTech costs

Recommended resource: Marketing budget spreadsheet template

Step 2. Marketing dashboard 

Define your KPIs for reviewing performance across the customer lifecycle.
Recommended resource: RACE Marketing Dashboard

• Year-on-Year and Month-on-Month performance for Reach, Act, Convert and Engage

Recommended resource: RACE Marketing Dashboard

Step 3. Campaign plan process 

A standard, repeatable process for each campaign will improve results.

Factors to include:
• Campaign goals and tracking
• Target audience and targeting
• Key campaign messaging
• Media plan and budget
• Campaign editorial plan

Recommended resource: Marketing campaign template

Step 4. Always-on plan and MarTech 

Define how to automate and optimize your online communications and how technology can support this.

• Prioritized plan across RACE for each quarter for activities
• Defined MarTech stack

Recommended resource: Marketing Technology selection guide

Step 5. 90-day action plan summary 

Select the priority activities for each quarter for campaigns, media, content, and website.

• Reach – Media
• Act – Customer journeys and content
• Conversion
• Engage – customer communications and loyalty

Recommended resource: 90-day action plan template

Next Steps?

Download our Word template free marketing plan to quickly access a three-page format for structuring and aligning your marketing strategy.

We hope this free template helps you quickly summarize your marketing priorities and gives you a solid basis for future growth. We’d love to support you as you refine and implement your strategy with the detailed planning templates recommended for each step.

Our Business Membership gives marketers and business owners a comprehensive library of templates and Learning Paths for a planned, structured approach to all modern marketing channels; from campaign planning and content marketing to search engine optimization and social media.

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. 'Dr Dave' is known for his strategic, but practical, data-driven advice. He has trained and consulted with many business of all sizes in most sectors. These include large international B2B and B2C brands including 3M, BP, Barclaycard, Dell, Confused.com, HSBC, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, M&G Investment, Rentokil Initial, O2, Royal Canin (Mars Group) plus many smaller businesses. Dave is editor of the templates, guides and courses in our digital marketing resource library used by our Business members to plan, manage and optimize their marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is also keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

This blog post has been tagged with:

Marketing planMarketing planningSmall business marketing

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