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What To Do If Your Marketing Plan Isn't Working

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Ask any small business owner if they have a written marketing plan and the affirmative response rate is pretty low. Some business owners don't know how to or don't want to make the time to write a marketing plan, or they believe storing it in their head is enough. A marketing plan is one of the essential elements for a small business. It's not hard to write one - the hard part is figuring out what to do if your marketing plan isn't working!

confused man


When you run a business, your business plan outlines your objectives and goals. Those goals usually relate to the financial, service standards, growth, and community goals to name a few. This is the vision for where you want your business to go and your marketing plan includes the steps you need to get you there.

Without a marketing plan, you are likely doing business with inconsistent, untargeted marketing activities . Without measurable results, this will cost you time and money. And a lack in the right type of marketing activities could lead your business to slow and eventually come to a halt.

marketing plan infographic showing components


S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Creating S.M.A.R.T. goals provides clear expectations and expected results.

Specific: What will be accomplished and what actions will you take? Who needs to be involved? What is the reason for the goal? Use actions such as provide, maintain, direct, coordinate, plan, update, upgrade, develop, create, implement.

Measurable: What data will you use to measure your goal? If a direct measurement result is not available, what other measurement options can be used to determine success? Use reports, tests, surveys or samples.

Achievable: Is the goal doable? Do you have the necessary skills and resources?

Relevant: Does the goal align with broader business goals? Why is the result important?

Time-Bound: What is the time frame for accomplishing the goal?


Your fitness studio has a business goal to increase memberships by 30% each year over the next 5 years. You have created a series of marketing activities you can do to help you reach that goal, including a print campaign, social media campaign, email marketing and website changes.

You start with your website. The website was designed three years ago as a static site and has not been updated since development. You can see that you receive over 100 new visitors per month, most of which are coming from your social media posts linked to your classes page on their mobile device. After less than a minute, prospects are leaving your page.

GOAL 1: Update the classes page on the website with dynamic pages and direct CTA signup links to increase group class attendance by 15% before the end of the first quarter.

This is a specific goal that has the ability to measure results (track class attendance) using website editing skills (achievable) to increase attendance (relevant) within the first quarter (time-bound).



  1. First, identify your target clients, what are their challenges and how you can help get your client from their before state to their after state. (See Niche Marketing blog post here.)

  2. Next, research your competitors to look for gaps in the market for your product or service.

  3. Review your business goals and outline what activities you need to take to work toward those goals. See the example above.

  4. Outline the marketing activities you can use to achieve your goals. For the example listed above, you have identified a combination of a print campaign, social media campaign (including ads), email marketing campaign, referral campaign and website changes to increase your memberships by 30% this year. Read this blog post regarding Core Marketing Ideas for Every Business to help you identify strategies you can use to reach your goals.

  5. Establish your budget. The business needs to invest in marketing activities in order to help grow your business. Look for opportunities that will give you the best value to help you reach your goals.

  6. Monitor. It's important to analyze results, look for shifts in the market, and adjust your plan accordingly.

Annual plans can provide you with the broader picture of where you plan to take your business. However, don't be afraid to break down your marketing plan into smaller bite-size activities. Some business owners prefer quarterly while others prefer monthly goals.


Put your goals in a place you will see them regularly:

  • Use them as your computer or cellphone wallpaper

  • Print and hang them in your office

  • Break them down and put the tasks into your CRM or other project management software with reminders.

  • Use whatever works for you to keep your goals and tasks in the forefront of your mind.


If you find you are not reaching your marketing goals and objectives, there are a few things you can do:

  • Start by looking into what happened. Were there unforeseen challenges, a change in the market, seasonal patterns, or did you set unrealistic goals?

  • Review your metrics, past experience and look into industry averages. Adjust any goals that are out of alignment with this data.

  • Slow down - if you are trying everything, everywhere you are probably spreading your efforts and budget too thin. Use the top 3 strategies that are most effective for your target audience. For example, if most people see your work on social media (i.e. Facebook and Pinterest) put more efforts here. If the next largest segment of your business is from referrals, create content that is easily sharable and send it to your best clients asking for referrals (this can be e-mail and/or print).

  • Recognize and accept changes in algorithms can affect your marketing strategy. Whether it's a Facebook or Google strategy, you constantly have to be monitoring your results in order to make sure you keep up in this fast-paced digital world.

  • Check your format to see what works best: images, video, text, or audio. Invest more time creating content that serves your targets.

  • Check your messaging. Do you have the right tone, target client, relatability, value, conciseness, or clarity? Are you part of the white noise or is your messaging grabbing attention?

  • Give it more time. Remember short-term strategies (promotions, sales and ads) can give immediate results, but investments in content strategies can take 10 - 12 months to start to see results.

Keep in mind, marketing strategies need to be monitored and adapted regularly. Don't be afraid to adjust your expectations and be flexible with your plan. Marketing has been called an art and a science. It is a lot of work, requires attention and takes time.

If you need help with your marketing strategy or execution, contact Core Marketing Now for a complimentary 15 minute call.

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