So you’ve come up with a great idea for an online store – and you’ve built the business to match. Now, all you need to do is let everyone know what you’ve got to offer. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, lots of small ventures fail because they haven’t sat down and planned out an efficient marketing campaign. Here’s how you can avoid falling into the same trap.

First off, it’s important not to be overconfident about what you can achieve. Of course, you need to have faith in your project – but many people start off believing that what they have to offer is so good that customers will come flocking without the need for a solid marketing campaign. Experience, though, tells us that this is not the case – even the best, most innovative stores need the support of a top-notch marketing plan.

So what’s the next step? Well, first you’ll need an executive summary – a document that sums up your company and the product or services that you’re bringing to market. Typically, this should include a mission statement as well as the goals of your marketing plan. Do you want to hit a specific revenue goal, for example, or just focus on increasing your visibility within a certain demographic?

Next, it’s time to conduct some market research. After all, even the best-laid marketing plans can fail when they are based off of assumptions instead of solid research – so make sure that you’ve got the data to back up your approach. Surveys, analytics and social media are all useful tools here, with each offering a unique insight into your customer base. At this stage, you should also consider your competitors, and identify what gives your product or service an edge over what else is on the market.

With this information behind you, you’re perfectly placed to develop an effective marketing strategy. If you’ve done your market research right, you should know which channels your target audience are most likely to use – and you can plan accordingly. Are they avid social media users, for example, or more likely to respond to search engine-focused marketing? Or is it worthwhile branching out into an offline marketing campaign? Remember, although it might seem like a good idea to target all sales channels, you’ll get a far better ROI if you focus in on a carefully chosen selection.

Once you’ve got your channels, you’ll need to think about your actual content – do you want an audiovisual extravaganza, perhaps, or is simpler written content more suitable for your brand? Don’t forget, content marketing can be a never-ending commitment – so if you’re going down this route you’ll need to think about how best to sustain it. Hiring an external agency, encouraging user-generated content and partnering with influencers are all effective approaches to keeping things fresh, so consider what works best for you.

Finally, make sure that you have processes in place to measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. After a set time period, look back at your goals and see how your results match up with your targets. But don’t dismiss any failures out of hand – for example, you may not have achieved the increase in sales that you were hoping for, but still succeeded in boosting your visibility across the board. By taking stock of where your marketing plan has got you, you can plan more effective strategies in the future.