A killer marketing plan could have you swimming in a pot of gold at the end of a beautiful rainbow. But knowing how to get started can be a challenge for small business owners, especially since there is always so much other work to do. Don’t let marketing come second or even third on the to-do list because it could be just the thing that helps you go from breaking even to breaking records.

Here is an easy step-by-step guide to tackling your marketing plan:

1. Define your business.
You have a product or service, and you have the elevator pitch down. While investors might grasp the concept, you might not have given as much thought to your customers. The next step is showing your customers the value of your product or service. How is this going to help them? How will it improve their life?

Now is the time to think beyond the practicality of what you’re offering. Now is the time for having vision. You need to find your company’s voice and create a full-fledged brand. Come up with a motto or philosophy that describes your culture both for potential employees and customers. Use that as a guiding force for everything you do moving forward.

ThinkstockPhotos-4542779692. Determine your target market.
Ok, I know you’ve perfected a product or service that customers absolutely need. But the most successful businesses determine their niche market and cater to those customers first. Narrowing your customer base makes marketing more manageable and also helps you stay tuned to their needs, so you can evolve accordingly.

3. Conduct competitive analysis
Every business has competition. Your job is to find out which companies are your biggest competitors and then determine what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Learn from both. Most importantly, you need to figure out what makes you different from them. You’ll have to point out what makes you unique (and therefore better) than your competitors as you create campaigns and have a dialogue with consumers.

4. Write a marketing plan.
After you have all these other pieces to the puzzle in place, write down your intentions for marketing. Be specific. For example, spell out which social media outlets are right for your business and what you anticipate your cover photos to be across these sites. Include your final logo and decide where you are going to advertise and what the campaigns will be like. Write down any plans related to promoting the business.

Finally, present your strategy to partners or other senior executives. Hash out the details, and tweak it according to recommendations. Of course, you get the final say but defer to the expertise of your colleagues when appropriate. Then, take action and follow through on the vision.

In the end, businesses that take the time to navel gaze a bit and truly set themselves apart from competitors will have an edge over others when it comes to creating a marketing plan. Having an in-depth understanding of what you are as a brand will help you share your story with others and convince consumers to buy whatever you’re selling.

How did you determine your marketing plan? Any advice for others? Leave your comments below.