If there were such a thing as a marketing “silver bullet,” then I’d either need to find a different line of work—because everyone could do it—or I’d be super rich, because I’d be the keeper and dispenser of marketing’s secret sauce recipe.

But marketing is not easy and automatic. It’s much more than a press release here, an advertisement there, a product launch or two there. Marketing is a composite of multiple approaches, platforms, and techniques designed to present a product/service and a company’s brand to consumers over time in ways that make them react positively to whatever it is you are selling.

Marketing is not a spigot that can be turned on and off. I recall early in my career getting numerous requests from company higher ups along the lines of “We need more foot traffic next week, can we do some marketing to get people in the door?” or “We’re really busy this week, can we stop marketing for a while?” as though there was a magical marketing on/off switch that I only needed to turn one way or the other to get what my bosses wanted, when they wanted it.

If only it were that easy!

Many consider marketing an “anyone can do it” sort of profession, if only they had the time of course. I disagree. While anyone can go through the motions of marketing, successful marketing takes skill. It’s one thing to place an ad, write some Web copy, or design a nifty logo—but it’s quite another to place the right ad at the right time, to craft the right message, and create a brand identity that connects with a target audience and gets the results you want. That’s what separates the marketing wannabes from the pros.

  • Marketing requires information. Do you know who your customers are? Do you know what they think of your products or services? Who is your ideal client? What kinds of messages do they respond to best? What are your competitors up to? How do you differ from them? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you should. Far too many approach their marketing on hunches and assumptions. As they say, knowledge is power. Information is actionable, and it sure feels good to move forward from a place of knowing rather than guessing.
  • Say No to Evil MonkeyMarketing requires a plan. You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints (at least you shouldn’t); nor should you engage in marketing with a “seat of your pants” approach. Make a plan. Document your goals, action steps, timeframes, and what success looks like for you. Even 1 or 2 pages is better than a bunch of ideas and numbers floating around in your head. Putting it down on paper (or the computer screen) makes it real . . . and do-able.
  • Marketing requires buy-in. If you’re a one-person team—shout out to all you solo-entrepreneurs out there!—then this one’s easy. You need to believe in what you are doing and remain accountable to the plan, or else you won’t be successful. If you have partners or employees, they need to buy-in to the marketing approach as well. Involve them in the planning, information gathering, and goal setting. Give them some skin in the game.
  • Marketing takes frequency and consistency. Even if you develop the most compelling sales copy and the most attractive mailer and send it to the most targeted list possible, chances are few if any will see it and even fewer will respond to it if you only deliver the message once. Each of us has only so much attention bandwidth to spare. To assume one message, no matter how good it is or how right, will do all the work for you is folly. Research pegs the number of “touches” necessary to get prospects to respond as anywhere from 3 to 8. You have to tell your target audience once, tell them again, and then tell them some more.
  • Marketers understand that building brand awareness and reputation takes time and commitment. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was any successful marketing campaign. Case in point, Apple floundered for years until they got it right. If you’re serious about success, give your marketing the time it needs to take hold. Marketing, and business in general, is not for the faint of heart. When it comes to marketing, tenacity can be a virtue.
  • Marketing needs metrics. Just because an idea seemed right at the time (or was right at the time) doesn’t mean you’ll get the results you want. Marketplace conditions change. People change. Track your marketing efforts, measure their effectiveness. Note what works and what doesn’t work, and use this information to refine your plan.

From information to planning to execution to metrics and back to information again, marketing is a never-ending cycle. Even if you don’t think you’re marketing, you are (just not very well). How committed are you to marketing your business? Have you made marketing a part of your everyday workflow? What’s worked or not worked for you?

Share your experiences here.