For many businesses today, marketing has become less of a luxury, and more of a necessity. Whether your objective is to quickly turn around slumping sales, or to seize more long-term market share – or both, now is the time to take a close, hard look at your marketing efforts. Here are five tips to give your business the advantage it needs to weather the economic storm, and come out ahead in the long run:

#1 Develop a Solid Marketing Plan

Before you start writing those marketing checks, make sure you have a solid marketing plan in place. A good marketing plan typically includes these main components: business objectives/strategies, marketing objectives/strategies, market research/demographic analysis, media mix/percentage, budget, ROI, flowchart calendar, and lastly, tactics and next steps. Planning ahead will help you avoid making impulse marketing decisions that may not fit in the overall big picture.

#2 Set a Realistic Timeframe, and Stick to It

It’s easy to panic while waiting for marketing efforts to bear fruit. Remember, marketing is an investment, and depending on the objectives, it can take time to see results. This goes back to the importance of having a solid marketing plan in place. Typically, it takes about four to six weeks to see if a certain campaign is going to pay-off. Avoid the temptation to tinker or micro-manage your plan too much. Once per quarter is a good time to review your marketing results and make proper adjustments.

#3 Choose the Right Media Mix

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Much like a personal investment strategy, it’s important to have a balanced portfolio. Whether it’s print, broadcast, direct response, internet, etc., each medium has its own pros and cons. They all differ when it comes to lead time, response time, ROI, branding, short-term benefit and long-term benefit. Make sure to include as many layers as possible for the best results.

#4 Tracking, Tracking, and More Tracking

There’s an old saying in our business: “50% of my marketing works, I just wish I knew which half”. Proper tracking of media types and target audiences can help you determine which half to focus on. It’s easy to set-up simple tracking systems for each campaign such as vanity phone numbers, multiple phone extensions, and PIN# codes. Find out which ones work best and adjust accordingly.

#5 Partner With the Right Resources

Watch out for over-promises: “I can triple your sales in one week!”. Marketing is hard work and takes a clear understanding of your business objectives to deliver the right results. There are many qualified marketing professionals out there available to help you. Do your research, ask for case studies, check references, and most importantly, hold your partners accountable on what they promise. Marketing is a relationship business, so always choose carefully!

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