Top of main content

How to create a marketing plan for your small business

Coming up with an innovative idea and starting a business is tough enough. But attracting customers is another challenge altogether.

An effective marketing strategy is essential to making your business a success. Before thinking about how exactly you'll do your marketing, it's important to take the time to answer these questions:

  • Which of your business goals can marketing help you achieve?
  • Who is your audience, what do they want, or need, and where can you reach them?
  • What is it about your business that will make your customers' lives easier or better - and how will you reflect that in your marketing?
  • What's your marketing budget?

Answering those questions will help you figure out the right mix of marketing tactics for you.

Here are some tips on how to generate interest in your brand.

Find the right mix of marketing channels

There's a lot of choice when it comes to marketing channels, including social media, email, search, advertising, sponsorship and public relations. Which ones you choose will depend on the type of goods and services you offer, your target audience and your marketing goals.

Social media now forms a key role in most companies' marketing strategies. And having a Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, or LinkedIn account can help you tap into a huge pool of potential customers you wouldn't otherwise be able to reach. But getting people to notice and engage with your content can be difficult, particularly at first.

If your budget allows, consider investing in paid social media posts to reach a bigger audience.

Whether you opt for paid or organic (free) posts, or a combination of the two, keep your target audience in mind when creating the content and choosing a channel. It sounds obvious, but try to capture their attention with something they want or need, and present it in an engaging way.

Social media is not the only way, of course. Could you build up an audience by incentivising people to sign up to emails, with discounts on their first purchase, for example? Or would sponsoring local events help you increase your reach? Again, you need to think about the right options for your business.

Consider microtargeting

Microtargeting can help you reach a specific segment of people – defined by their behaviours or attributes - in a simple and cost-effective way. For example, this could be people who've interacted with your blog or online videos, who you think may be more likely to buy from you.

Microtargeting can be much more specific than "previous visitors to my website", though. For example, if you pay to use Facebook as a tool to reach customers, you could target "lawyers under 45 who work in Malaysia and have an interest in hiking".

Does this level of detail help your strategy? If the answer is yes, and it fits within your budget, then it's worth considering. But you need to ensure the content you produce resonates with this smaller group.

However, if this level of detail means you're focused on too small a group for your business needs, then consider how to refine that target marketing.

It might be that going too deep into your niche market might hold you back and waste your advertising budget, rather than help you. Focusing your attention on an engaged group can pay dividends, but it's only one part of a strategy.

Choose your words carefully

Whether you're creating marketing content yourself, or through a freelancer, or agency, it's vital to get your wording and messaging right.

It's an extreme example, but let's say you're trying to reach a group of over-60s with an interest in art and literature.

Communicating with them in "text speak" and emojis will probably not be effective, and could put them off your brand altogether.

Marketing can be far more impactful when you use the language your audience uses. That language and messaging should reflect your brand, and what it stands for, too.

So create brand guidelines, including tone of voice. They should outline how you'll speak to your audience. Do your research to make sure you use phrases, cultural references, and colloquialisms, if appropriate, that will resonate with your audience so they know you understand them.

And double check you've got no grammatical or spelling mistakes - error free copy can help build trust in your brand. 

Think about SEO

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is important when you're trying to get your business noticed. The idea is to make it easier for search engines like Google to find and categorise your content, and - if it's any good – make it more visible.

There are many aspects to a successful SEO strategy, one of which is making sure you have content - and answers to questions - that people commonly search for.

You can find out the most searched words and phrases on any topic through various tools, including Google's Keyword Planner.

Let's say you're a dentist and you want to get people to visit your website. You could put "dentist in Kuala Lumpur" in the Google Keyword tool, and it would come up with a host of alternative keywords and tell you how many times they're searched for each month. They might include "dental bridge work KL" or "dental hygienist KL", for example.

Search engines aim to rank good quality, useful content highest. So while you might want to include some of these keywords, don't overdo it. Focus on creating content that's original, easy to read and useful, so it will help your customers.

Paid search - known as pay-per-click (PPC) - is another way to increase the visibility of your content. When you look up keywords and phrases in Google Keyword Planner, for example, it'll tell you the bid price. This is the amount you'd have to pay the search engine to show your content at the top of the first page of search results.

The higher the price, the more congested the market is for that particular phrase, and the more you'd have to pay to get your content seen.

Track results

After implementing any marketing strategy, review it regularly to check how well it's working. You can do this in several ways, such as monitoring website traffic and engagement, through tools like Google Analytics, and tracking email registrations and additional sales.

If you find you're not seeing any return on investment, analyse why and, if necessary, try other ways.


This document is issued by HSBC Bank Malaysia Berhad 198401015221 (127776-V) ("we", "us" or "our"). The contents of this document are confidential and are intended for use by the customer whom this document is prepared for and addressed to the customer ("you" or "your") exclusively and may not be divulged without our prior and express consent. This document is provided to you solely for the purposes of enabling you and us to review how we and other members of the HSBC Group (collectively "HSBC") currently provide products and services to you and to discuss how HSBC can enhance and improve on the same. Any other use is prohibited unless you first request and obtain our written permission.

While reasonable care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of this document, HSBC does not make any representation or warranty (expressed or implied) of any nature including, without limitation, the adequacy, accuracy, currency, correctness or completeness of the information contained herein (whether the information is generated from or held within the HSBC system or is provided by third parties) and HSBC does not accept responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions. Any opinions in this document constitute the present view or judgment of HSBC and is subject to change without notice. This document is intended for reference and to facilitate discussion only and should not be relied upon by you for any purposes and shall not be capable of creating any contractual commitment on the part of HSBC. Any examples given are for purposes of illustration only.

To the extent permitted by law, HSBC shall not be liable for any damage, loss or liability (whether arising in contract, tort, including negligence, or otherwise) arising out of or in connection with your use of or reliance upon this document. The aforesaid exclusions apply to any damage which is direct, indirect, special, incidental or consequential or consists of loss of profits, business, goodwill, opportunity or data. All of the above exclusions apply even if you have advised HSBC of the possibility of the above types of damage, loss or liability.

All intellectual property rights (including, without limitation, copyright, database rights, design rights, patents and trademarks) in this document are owned by or licensed to HSBC unless otherwise stated. Without limiting the above, unless you first obtain written consent from HSBC, you may not copy, reproduce, duplicate, publish, modify, adapt, publish, broadcast, create derivative works of or in any way exploit all or any part of this document.

You may also be interested in?

Tips and insights to help your SME grow.
You don't need a big budget for cyber security.
Ask yourself these 7 questions before developing a business strategy for post-COVID-19.