While this may be hard for some business owners to come grips with – leaning instead towards the “marketing is a strange form of creative voodoo thinking” – marketing is not only a system, it may be the most important system in any business.

To understand how to approach marketing for your business, it may be helpful to understand our definition of marketing: Marketing is getting someone that has a need to know, like and trust you.

Now you can argue about what like or trust is in your industry, but now more than ever, this definition gets at the heart of the game you’re in.

Below you will find the seven core steps that make up the simple, effective and affordable approach to systematic marketing that I’ve developed after working with small businesses for over 20 years.

1. Develop strategy before tactics.

Most business owners take the “idea of the week” approach when a good marketing strategy is the most important aspect of any successful marketing implementation.

Before you decide on direct mail or a Facebook page, you must adopt and commit to a marketing strategy. All tactical decisions should be filtered through your strategy to see if they make sense or support the overall marketing strategy.

The concept of a marketing strategy may seem foreign or out of reach, but it’s really little more than determining and narrowly defining your ideal client and creating and communication some key point of differentiation.

The challenge in this comes when business owners realize it means they can’t be all things to all people, and saying they offer good service isn’t a differentiator, it’s an expectation.

2. Embrace The Marketing HourglassTM.

Maybe you’re familiar with the marketing funnel concept – get as many prospects in the top of the funnel and choke a few through the small end.

The Marketing Hourglass suggests that there is a logical path that each prospect should be led that starts with the large end of a funnel, but as in an hourglass shape and goes to work, turning new customers into an expanding base of advocates and referral partners.

This approach starts and ends with a significant focus on the customer experience and requires special attention to the creation of systems and processes that move prospects logically along the path of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.

3. Adopt the publishing model.

Marketers today must commit to producing content much like a publisher might. Prospects expect to search and find large amounts of useful information on any subject or challenge.

Consistent production of content that builds awareness and trust, such a client success stories, testimonials, and content that educates, such as blog posts, e-books and online seminars is a major component of the new marketing system.

4. Create a total web presence.

It’s simply not enough to have a website and think you’re really participating online.

The majority of purchase decisions made today involve some amount of research online. Today’s business must be easily found online, easily engaged, and easy to communicate with online. This requires a major focus on SEO and social media participation.

Of course, this also means integrating your online presence and activity into every offline business function.

5. Orchestrate the lead generation trio.

With a fully functioning lead generation system in place, a large portion of your leads can originate as referrals, but by building out your system with the addition of advertising and public relations, you amplify your efforts in each.

When a prospect comes into contact with your advertising message, reads about your new product in a trade journal, and then gets invited to your educational workshop by their accountant, they’ve practically sold themselves.

6. Drive a lead conversion system.

Most small businesses view marketing as an exercise in lead generation only when the true measure of success is lead conversion.

The same systematic approach that created a lead must be in place when a prospect wants to learn more. Simply having a well thought out path that every new lead walks, a way to nurture and educate leads, and a proven process for orienting new clients can dramatically and positively influence the bottom line conversion results an organization experiences.

7. Live by the marketing calendar.

The scarcest resource in any business is time. There is always more to do than possibly can be done. Some people deal with this kind of overwhelm by simply shutting down and doing very little.

Marketing momentum requires consistent work over the long term and this is best handled by the creation of a marketing calendar. The annual marketing calendar is a great planning device for campaigns and product launches, but it’s also a great tool to schedule out the many projects that you know must be done on time.

By creating monthly projects and themes, weekly action steps, and daily marketing appointments you keep the focus on marketing heightened and the building of your marketing system in full production.

So, what would happen if you started to view your marketing as the system described above?

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About John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.