We all know that a marketing plan is critical to every company. Even the kid with the lemonade stand should take a few minutes to decide how she is planning to sell her product.

If you work for a tiny company or a startup, chances are that you don’t have a marketing plan. You probably know that you should have one, and you might even have tried to put one together — but looking at all the books and templates out there, you get lost somewhere between the elevator pitch and the SWOT analysis.

If you don’t have a plan in place yet, commit to taking just one hour out of the day to create what I’m calling a Minimalist Marketing Plan. This plan has the bare minimum of what you need, just 6 things to do and document so that while you are getting your company off the ground, you can rely on more than just luck to make some sales and move forward.

Like this? Download the Minimalist Marketing Plan PDF.

#1. Designate a marketing person

If your company consists of more than just you, take the time to discuss who should be the “marketing face” of the company. It’s fine for everyone to be out in the world talking about the company, but be sure you have a unified voice, someone who is the main face, and someone who is ultimately responsible for your marketing.

#2. Get a real domain + email addresses

Nothing says “amateur” like using a generic email address in your business. It is easy and inexpensive to get your own domain. If you are using a gmail, yahoo, or Comcast email address for your business, stop RIGHT NOW and read my post about Your Business Name and Domain.

#3. Get a website

Even if you have nothing else in place, get a website up that includes at least the name of your business, a carefully-crafted (and spell-checked!) sentence about what you do, and contact info including your email address. Yes, your final website must have much, much more than this – but having this bare minimum site online is better than no web presence at all. Be sure to consider this an intermediary step and plan to get a “real” website as soon as you can.

#4. Write messaging for your company and key products

Messaging is a critical part of any marketing plan. You need to have a clear description of what your company doe, and of your top products and services. If you don’t have a lot of time right now, at least make sure you have messaging for your overall company. See my post about Messaging 101.

#5. Set pricing for key products and services

Will you have a set hourly rate for everything you do? Will you have different pricing for non-profit organizations? Will you have discounts in place for bulk purchases? Make these pricing decisions  and write it down to save yourself from having to figure it out from scratch every time someone asks you “How much?”

#6. Set an initial marketing budget

Now that you have the basics in place, take a look at your finances and see if you can set aside some cash for marketing. There are some things best left to pros, and logo design is just one of them.

… and more

I could make this list much longer, but these are the main things for the minimalist to get started. Many other things follow such as a logo, a real website, social marketing plans, and more. After you have these basics done, if you have the budget, hire a pro and get going. If you simply don’t have the bang in your bank account yet, go to my Resources page and  listen to my talk about Shoestring Marketing to get started, and take a look at my post on Text-based Logos. And before you worry about brochures and other things, make a good website your top marketing priority.

The moral of the story

A marketing plan is critical to every company. If you don’t have a plan in place yet, commit to taking just one hour to create a “Minimalist Marketing Plan” so you can rely on more than just luck to make some sales and move forward. But don’t stop here! Once you have the time, be sure to get a “real” marketing plan in place.

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