Marketing Planning & Reporting

The Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning and Budgeting

marketing planning & budgeting

We all know how important it is to have a good marketing plan in place if you want your small business to succeed. But how exactly do you get started when it comes to marketing planning & budgeting?

Firstly, don’t panic! Creating a marketing plan, and ensuring you have a suitable budget available, just requires some forward planning. I’ve broken it down into eight easy steps, to help you take control of your marketing planning & budgeting.

1. Look at your strategy

Before you even start putting together a plan or budget, you should begin by looking at your marketing strategy. And don’t be afraid to update your strategy if it has changed since the last time you looked at it.

Consider things like:

  • Your goals – what do you want to achieve from the business?
  • Your USP – what makes you different from other small businesses?
  • Your audience – who are your customers, both potential and existing?
  • Your competition – who are your competitors, and what are they doing?
  • Your brand – how do you portray your business in terms of design, tone of voice, values etc?

By putting together a strategy, you’ll get a clear idea of what your business goals are – as well as how marketing planning and budgeting can help you achieve them.

Find out how to create a marketing strategy for your small business.

2. Define your overall budget

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The amount of money available for marketing will vary from business to business. But, in general, it should usually be around 5% of your annual turnover.

So, for example, if your annual turnover is £100,000, you should consider setting aside £5,000 for your marketing budget.

If you’re aiming for high growth, then you should add a bit extra to your marketing pot. For this, your budget can go as high as 15% of your annual turnover.

It’s important to remember, however, that this should only be done for relatively short periods to give your small business marketing an extra boost when it’s most needed.

3. Choose your marketing channels

The next task when organising your marketing planning and budgeting is to list all the marketing channels you currently use. Also, take note of any possible additions that you might want to start using. (For inspiration, check out my list of available marketing channels.)

This will give you an overview of all the marketing channels available, and help you decide which ones are best for which type of activity.

Marketing channels can be everything from social media and e-newsletters to flyers and radio adverts. Don’t worry about being on every channel (some just don’t work for certain small businesses!), but do note down all the ones which are relevant for you.

4. Cost planned marketing activities

marketing planning & budgeting
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To create a sustainable marketing budget, you’ll need to have a good idea of how much certain marketing activities are likely to cost.

There’s no point creating an all-singing-all-dancing marketing plan if even the cheapest activity is more expensive than your entire year’s budget!

Add up all the costs associated with each of your planned marketing activities. So, think about print costs, paying freelancers, investing in new resources or tools, travel expenses, advertising costs, venue hire and so on.

Then you’ll have a good idea of how much each activity is likely to cost, and which ones are most suitable for your budget.

5. Prioritise your marketing activities

When it comes to marketing planning and budgeting for small businesses, it’s often impossible to do everything that’s on your list. So it’s really important to prioritise potential marketing activities to ensure you’re making the most of your time and your budget.

To do this, examine the relevance, effectiveness and potential return of an activity in relation to its cost. Your top priority should be tasks which are cheap, easy to do and have lots of potential.

Activities which are more expensive but have high potential should go in the middle of your list. Those which are expensive, complicated to organise and with low potential returns should go to the bottom of your list.

Take a look at my cost/potential matrix diagram here to help you understand how to number your tasks in order of importance.


6. Fit your activities to your budget

Next, take your top two priority activities and look at the costs for these. When added together, do they make your ideal budget – around 5% of your annual takeover?

If they are over budget, you’ll need to take away some elements to reduce the cost. For example, you’re planning to shoot some campaign images for social media.

Instead of organising a full-day photo shoot with two models, why not reduce it to a half-day photo shoot with one model?

Likewise, if you’re under budget, add in extra elements to ensure your marketing activity reaches its full potential.

If you had planned to work on sponsored content with 10 local influencers, why not increase this to 15? Or use the extra budget to do some Facebook advertising around your influencer campaign?

7. Cover the whole marketing funnel

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When putting together your marketing planning and budgeting, it’s vital that you make sure your potential activities cover the whole marketing funnel (that’s the journey you want to lead people on to become loyal, paying customers).

The funnel has four main steps – from potential customers just getting to know you and your business, then starting to like what they see and trust it enough to make a purchase.

Finally, you want them to fall in love with your products and services. So much so that they happily buy from you again and recommend you to their friends.

For your marketing plan to cover all these steps, ask yourself the following questions:

  • KNOW – How do people currently find your small business? Your marketing activity should raise brand awareness and ensure more people become familiar with your business.
  • LIKE – How do you keep in touch? Make sure your marketing activity provides value to potential customers.
  • TRUST – How do you convert them into paying customers? Your marketing activity should provide people with the reassurance they need to part with their cash.
  • LOVE – How do you retain them and get referrals? Ensure your marketing activity encourages repeat business and amplification through shares, recommendations, reviews, referrals, links and clicks.

8. Put together your plan

Finally, it’s time to create your marketing plan and budget! Take your overall budget and divide this between your priority activities.

Make sure each marketing activity has a clear purpose and goal, and a set budget to stick to.

As you go along, be sure to monitor results. Check how much money is being spent on particular activities, and record the results each activity gets.

Keep a close eye on things – if an activity isn’t performing well, it may be worth adding a little extra budget to give it a boost, or alternatively cutting the budget if it would be better spent elsewhere.

Find out more about how to measure results from your marketing campaigns and find out if your marketing is working.

Over to you: Next steps

Whether you want to plan your marketing activities for the next 3, 6 or 12 months – there’s no right or wrong time to do so. (The only mistake you can make is to not do it at all.) So, don’t wait until the end of the year or the next quarter to get started.

And here’s an example of a marketing plan & more info on why you should plan your marketing in the first place.


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
Your Small Business Marketing Plan: What is it, Why Do You Need it & How Do You Get One?
Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses: Why You Need One & How to Define it
How to Find Out If Your Marketing Is Working – Marketing Analytics for Small Businesses
How to Create a Successful Marketing Campaign for Your Small Business

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.