When trying to keep track of every function in your business, marketing may seem like the least pressing issue compared to sales, client relationship management, and administrative duties. However, without a marketing strategy and schedule that you follow closely, you may find that your sales pipeline will start to run dry, and you will spend more time pursuing fewer new clients.

Too many entrepreneurs run marketing as an afterthought, using it to haphazardly patch holes in their sales strategy rather than treat it as a vital and standalone portion of the business. This results in wasted time, poorly allocated money, and disappointing results.

Be disciplined about your marketing
The better route is to create a plan with purpose and stick to a schedule to execute each phase of the strategy. Start out by setting goals for what you want to accomplish in the next year and three years down the line. How many clients do you want to gain in the years to come? What is the number of new prospects you will need to add to the pipeline to ensure you not only maintain, but grow your leads? Who are your ideal clients, and what are the message formats and types of communications they will respond to?

Once you have outlined those benchmarks, you can start to think about what steps will be required to get you to that point. Design a marketing activity calendar for the next 12 – 15 months outlining the strategies you will implement and specific activities that will drive them.

Build some flexibility into your marketing strategy. Marketing is about experimentation. The best plans are not set in stone – they respond to changes in client demand and sales numbers while taking into account the successes and failures of past tactics. Test out your various marketing efforts, be it direct mailseminars, events or social media, and measure the results. Determine which tactics should be kept and which need more finessing before they can be relied upon to produce results.

As you identify the various channels and tools, the marketing activity calendar can help lay out a timeline for the stages of each. If you send out a an email campaign in the first month, you can follow up with a phone call or email in the second month, and so on. Integrate these phases so that each strengthens and complements the others. Just remember, it is important to communicate with people via their chosen communication channel(s).