As we look forward to rebuilding our economy, many small business owners need to build a business plan and marketing plan in order to succeed. A clear plan helps set the stage for your daily activities and microgoals. With a plan in place, business owners have a better chance of getting access to capital (loans or investment) and convincing employees to be contributing parts of your team.

If we examine successful businesses and how they engage in planning, I think we will see 5 basic steps to build a business plan and marketing plan. No plan survives execution but a good plan definitely helps ensure your business survives.

Step One – Get Clear on Mission and Core Values

When Satya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft, he took over a business which was once the largest market capitalization company on the planet and was now sliding toward irrelevancy. Rather than double down on the product lines at Microsoft, Nadella refreshed the mission statement and clearly defined the 3 pillars of Microsoft’s new culture.

Gone were the days of a Microsoft CEO calling Linux a Cancer, Nadella wanted to focus on building technology that empowers others not keeping free competition from entering the market. And Microsoft is no longer an irrelevant player in the tech field.

When you are considering the plan to build your business, think about what makes it unique; think about what you want to do to keep your business alive and growing.  

I recommend reading Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, specifically the chapter on preserving the core and stimulating progress to think through your mission and core values in more detail.

Step Two – Refine Your Who

Depending on how much experience you have in your business, this might need to be step number one because you don’t actually know who you serve. But for most business owners, you have enough experience to understand your core mission and values before you focus on this most important step for business and marketing planning.

When I teach people how to start their own business, I always say that a business starts with one. One paying customer is the difference between a business and a dream or a hobby.

One of the most defined customer-focused success stories is Walmart. Walmart exists to ““help people save money so they could live better.” This means that Walmart focuses on the type of person who wants to save money more than they desire high quality (Trader Joes, Costco, Whole Foods) or convenience (Walgreens, Amazon).

Whenever Walmart loses sight of their core customer, they tend to struggle. I remember that Walmart was on track to be the first business to break $1 Trillion dollars in market cap in the early 90s. They lost track of the cost savings capabilities of the internet and lost much of their market to Amazon; they also struggled with connecting with buyers outside of rural America and in other countries.

Even with all that struggle, Walmart’s core value never shifted. When it turned out that they were investing money on the fresh brand and more expensive organics, and losing their core market, they refocused. And, now market capitalization for Walmart is at near record highs.

Who do you serve?

It might be people who are price conscious. It might be people who have an overwhelming problem like managing relationships with kids at home.

You serve someone; think about who they are and how you can communicate with them more (marketing plan) and serve them better (business plan).

Cost/quality/speed pyramid from Provint Media Group

Step Three – Refine Your Process

A good plan shows how you are going to improve your business and marketing systems.

Among price, quality, and speed, you can pick two. Your business process is how you get a product or service to your customers. Your marketing process is how you communicate with potential customers. To come up with a plan, consider how you are currently delivering communication, products, and services and plan out how to improve the marketing system.

This is something that Marcus Lemonis often talks about on his CNBC show, The Profit. He discusses the three Ps of business: people, process, and product. If all three are aligned, then a business will succeed. This part of your business plan considers how to improve your business process. This is where you look at issues like quality control, time to market, improving your micro activities.

Step Four – Plan for Growth

Decades ago, Amazon was a simple online bookstore. After Bezos lead them to success, Amazon grew their market into more products, industries and verticals. This is the part of your business planning where you look at expansion, at needed changes in the future, and at how you are going to grow in your market leadership within your core products/processes.

Step Five – SWOT

A SWOT analysis looks at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths and weaknesses looks at your internal business. Opportunities and threats looks at your external competitors.

This final step is a great opportunity to summarize everything you have already looked at and distill a few simples steps to address your weaknesses, capitalize on strengths, capture opportunities, and mitigate threats.

In Conclusion

 Marketing and business planning requires 5 steps to really create a dynamic, high resolution picture of where you want your business to be. You need to have a clear identity as a business, a defined market, process improvement, plans for growth and a realistic analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.