A marketing plan may not be at the top of every new business owner’s to-do list, but it should be. While a business plan helps map the direction for your company, a marketing plan helps your company understand how to get there by detailing important steps on the road to creating customer relationships.

“The single most important thing for a small business to include in its marketing plan is a very clear understanding of its customers and its competitors,” said Robert Thomas, professor of marketing at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

Though a marketing plan can be formal or informal, at a minimum it describes who your customers are, where they get information, and how you are going to reach them. Thomas said the development of a marketing plan requires four specific tasks with 12 sub-tasks: