Marketing can be a source of stress for small business owners–after all, while many of them have not studied marketing and don’t feel confident about their abilities, they know that to succeed they must do it and do it successfully.

If you want to formulate a strategy of your own, or just understand the basics of creating a marketing strategy, we’ve come up with a quick overview for you.

  1. Create a mission statement. Succinctly define what your company is all about and where you are headed.
  2. Do your homework. Research the market for your product or service. Figure out an optimum pricing strategy and reliable distribution channels. Find out marketing costs and average ROIs for a business like yours. Learn who your competition is and what they’re doing.
  3. Create a realistic marketing budget with some built-in flexibility for the unforeseen.
  4. Use your research to set some realistic long term and short term goals, and commit to them. Assign responsibilities to each team member, and create an accountability structure. This will keep everyone motivated to succeed.
  5. Take stock of your own company. What are your best sellers? To whom? Why? Ask your clients for feedback about what you could be doing better. Look for opportunities to differentiate yourself and create a niche market, such as an industry need that’s not being met, or a demographic that isn’t being reached. Then create a strategy for how you can improve based on your findings.
  6. Identify/refine your target market. Who wants or needs what you’re offering? How old are they? What’s their income level? What will motivate them to buy your product or use your service?
  7. Create or adjust your message. This is the core statement that you’ll use to reach your target market to motivate them to choose you. Your message should reflect your brand and directly impact your target audience. Then determine where and how your resources should best be spent to share your message with your target market.
  8. Offer great customer service. If you don’t back your marketing up with a superior product and great customer care, it won’t matter how many people you reach with your message–in this day and age, the savvy consumer is king, and word of mouth can make you or break you.