If you’ve been reading my column for a while, you probably already know how important marketing efforts are in relation to running a successful business. A clear marketing strategy not only enables you to promote your business, but the mere act of planning ahead allows you to be more proactive and can help bring order to your tactics, as well as sanity to your work life.

Marketing efforts should never be considered “one and done.” It’s crucial to foster your plan, regularly analyze your tactics and make necessary tweaks to continue to build on your successes. When considering a new business pursuit, I look at two things: will the new company benefit from my firm’s skills and capabilities, and will the business effectively add to my company resume in a meaningful way. I like to think of my marketing efforts as an ongoing job interview – the more consistent my efforts are, the more appealing my business is to other potential new clients. Here are five important things I do every month to keep my marketing efforts fresh:

1. Audit and Prioritize – Every month you should ask yourself what’s working, what’s not and which activities need to be repositioned. Review your marketing plan line-by-line and determine what can be improved upon, where you can grow and how to properly shift your focus based on your business’s immediate and long term goals. Think of it as a mini analysis of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) – capitalize on the positive and identify your needs, while prioritizing areas to improve and grow.

2. Identify Networking and Business Opportunities – While networking is critical to the success of your business, it’s also time-consuming and overwhelming if you aren’t strategic in your approach. Seek out professional organizations and industry groups, and identify and keep a list of networking events. Don’t be afraid to ask around about networking opportunities – keep in mind that some of the best ones come by word of mouth from colleagues, partners and vendors. And remember, as a business owner it isn’t possible to attend everything yourself; enroll your whole team and empower individuals to represent your business and you.

3. Identify Trends – Stay connected to your industry and your various communities by keeping on top of market trends and remaining aware of how small shifts are affecting those around you –and, furthermore, how they can impact your business. What’s changing? What’s staying the same? Is there a new technology that your firm or your clients can benefit from, or a tilt in consumer behavior? Staying knowledgeable allows you to modify your plan to embrace the positive changes, circumvent the negative impacts and stay ahead of the game!

4. Review Website Analytics – One of your best stand-alone marketing tools is your website. It provides a quick snapshot of your expertise and your company culture and often serves as the first impression of your business. Websites can be extremely costly and time-intensive to build, and while you can breathe a small sigh of relief when it’s live, you should never consider it complete. A website can be the easiest way to consistently tell your story and make modifications to that story, ensuring it’s interesting, timely and relevant to everyone. Chances are that you already have analytics built-in – use that information to measure traffic and make improvements. Where are people spending the most time? What keywords are bringing them to your website? Keeping a close eye on what’s bringing people to your site in the first place can help you adjust the keywords to continue to generate interest…and business!

5. Summarize and Track Efforts – Create a monthly summary and tracker that includes detailed information that highlights your marketing activities. What events did you or your staff attend? Who did you talk to? What follow-up is needed? Are there new materials you need to create, or new mediums to pursue? What would you consider your monthly successes? You should also track what may not have worked so well – so you can either make it better or shift your focus to those activities that are working.

The most important takeaway from all of these tips is this: your marketing plan should never be considered “final.” Think of it like you do your garden – you may lay the foundation and plant the vegetables and flowers in the spring, but you still have to provide nutrients, adapt to changes and continually work on it to make it grow if you want to enjoy the bounty it provides. Your business can only thrive with consistent attention to your brand, and your willingness to get in and do whatever it takes to foster its growth.

– Lori