Of all the business functions you’re juggling, marketing is the most important. Why? Because marketing — including all of its components — is the only revenue-producing business function there is. Additionally, marketing should be integrated into everything you do. From operations to budgeting to your phone message to hiring employees and more.

The key? Consistency keeps your pipeline full. Don’t ever let yourself get caught in a situation such as this former client did: He spent 18 months on a construction project and during that time he let this fall by the wayside while he was so busy. At the end of the project, he found himself with no prospects because he had let his pipeline run dry.

‘What has long been neglected cannot be restored immediately,’ wise Buddhist saying

It is far too important to your livelihood so stay proactive and ensure that your marketing stays afloat at all times. It will recalibrate up and down as your business fluctuates, but should always be top of mind. That’s why I call it a Marketing Mindset.

Prioritize Marketing — For most, this begins with your website. It is your home base and the place where you own and can control your image, brand, and content. From there, any number of traditional as well as digital marketing strategic elements will be combined. Which ones? Study up and learn the best practices for your industry. Watch what your successful competitors are doing and find a way to STAND APART from them with benefits they can’t offer. Don’t think you have to discount to do this. For example, there was a dry cleaner in my old neighborhood that was open on Sundays. This was a tremendous no-cost competitive advantage for the owner who once told me that she was there on Sundays doing the books anyway, so she started opening the store and found it became very popular. I know it was with me!

Make time to work ON your business, not just IN it — It is recommended that 20% of a business owner’s time be spent on marketing. Understand the rhythms of your industry and the needs of your customers so that you can plan for success. Is your customer list up to date? Is your email signature set up correctly? If you’re doing social media, is it regularly scheduled? Are you thinking of new products or services you can offer? Is your website’s copyright footer the current year? In other words, when prospects see your materials will it be clear that you’re on top of your business?

Create and use a Marketing Calendar — Once you understand your customers’ needs, and any seasonal cycles, then you should implement a marketing calendar tool. Why? Because knowing what’s around the corner reduces frantic, last-minute stress and helps with best-practices strategic planning. It’s easy to create reminders in advance using a calendar app to help you plan.

Be your own customer — To crystallize your marketing efforts, change your perspective. Have you….Dialed your own business phone? Purchased from your own website? Sent yourself a package? Tested all the forms and links on your website? Signed up for your own email list? Googled your business? Googled your name? I recently had a call from a client who by accident found out his order form didn’t work. Thankfully, the customer called to check up on their order which uncovered the problem. Upon digging further, it turns out that something happened to the contact form links as well. He had had dozens of inquiries and didn’t know.

Always gather contact info — Tether your customers to you so you don’t have to chase them all over the neighborhood (or the internet). Doing this from the very beginning will give you a tremendous competitive edge. This can be done in several ways including using an email service provider and linking it to your site to capture prospect information, or if you have a front desk it’s easy to capture information there, and also consider creating a snail mail list to send special promotions, holiday and/or birthday cards to those you do business with, and collecting phone numbers can pay off big too.

Keep a sample file — Doing this makes it so much easier for you to create your own pieces and emulate proper benefit-driven marketing verbiage. Start a literal folder or large envelope and label it ‘Samples’ to store tangible pieces you receive such as postcards and other mailings, even those you may pick up while out and about such as menus, etc. Also, create a ‘Sample’ email folder so you can save email promotions you like and can emulate them in the look and feel of those as well. It got your attention, didn’t it? I’m telling you this works wonders.

Understand basic SEO to use to your advantage — Labeling your content with appropriately optimized language amplifies your messaging to the audience that is looking for your business. 97% of consumers start their search for something online. Can your best prospects find you? Once you know the verbiage, incorporate it across all your marketing channels such as: website, social media, blogging, posting articles, etc.

Content is everything — Learn to write solid, edited pieces to publish online and position your expertise so leads come to you. LinkedIn articles, blog + tie it to your site, press releases — these are all opportunities to create digital content. Repurposing your own content is fast and easy. You can use it on your social media, blog, write articles, use in newsletters, and more. When consistently using the same words and phrases you increase your SEO rankings.

Never underestimate the power of a business card — I have some in the glove compartment of my car, every tote and purse too. And, don’t forget the back of your card either. This is a billboard opportunity to advertise a new product or service, or even as a coupon to hand out at networking meetings. Stash them everywhere so you’re never caught short.

Front line employees have a bigger impact on brand perception than any amount of Marketing spend — In fact, this can make or break a customer relationship, especially in retail and service businesses. Train the daylights out of anyone who represents you to the public. Remind them that it is ALWAYS appropriate to say Thank you to someone who just gave you their hard-earned money. Treating customers right keeps them coming back. Did you know it can cost up to 10x more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one? Great service directly impacts your bottom line.

60% of consumers say they would pay more to buy from a small business, Inc.com

Creating a Marketing Mindset that aligns with customer interaction training is your very best competitive advantage against the big box stores and online giants. Discounting should not be the go-to, fall-back strategy to grow your business.

Spending time doing this each day increases your chances of long-term success.

So, what are you waiting for?