Many new clients come to me without a marketing plan in place. If you are not looking for funding, then in this coach's humble opinion, the marketing plan is the single most important growth-process to have in place. But so many business owners get too caught up in the day-to-day operations to pay the slightest bit of attention to this important piece of the plan. As a result, they feel powerless over their business's growth — or lack of it.

Developing your plan is only a piece of the process. Once you do have an effective marketing plan in place, you'll find more customers and clients coming your way but what's prompting them to walk through your doors or ring your phone? What's working and what's not? How do you know where the customers are coming from? How do you know if you're spending your time and money effectively?

One thing many business owners forget it that it's critical track the results of each marketing technique. If you send out postcards, for instance, how do you know what your response rate is? Is it worth the time and expense of sending the cards out? Are the cards designed effectively? How current and up-to-date is your mailing list? To send out postcards and hope for the best isn't a great way to launch a strategy. So let's take a close look at this example of a marketing tactic. You can apply this train of thought to any part of your plan.

First of all, sending out postcards (or whatever your approach) is NOT enough. For some businesses, this could be an effective way to increase business, but typically it's only one piece of a much more complex strategy. So, let's say you have 7 strategies to your marketing plan and 3 of them have been implemented. When a new client knocks on the door, how do you trace his or her steps? Some business owners may ask, "how did you hear about us?" and that's great. But then what? Do you enter your information into a database? If you keep client records, are you able to track how any particular client heard about you and what exactly prompted them to call? If new customers come into your shop do your employees let you know? How do you "file" this information and what do you do with it?

It's not difficult to keep a database and it's important because you need to know what parts of the plan are effective and working for you. I have a client who spends a lot of money to purchase a mailing list, print postcards, and mail these costly pieces every few months. When I asked her what the response rate was, she couldn't tell me. When she thought about it, she said that she doesn't get many customers from the mailing, or so she thought — she still wasn't sure. So I asked, "Then why are you doing this?" How could she know it was worth the time and expense?

Develop a simple tracking system as part of your marketing plan. Ask your new clients how they heard about you. This can be done in casual conversation so the customer doesn't feel "drilled" for information. Another way to put it might be, "Thank you for stopping by (or calling). Who may I thank for sending you our way?" If your prospects are filling out a form on your website, make sure to add a field for this question. Keep a log of your responses. Then, compile your responses into a simple excel spreadsheet. Some businesses have client management tools that will hold such information. Remember, some prospects may have heard about you in more than one fashion — again, keep track!

Every quarter, you'll want to review your data and use it to your advantage. If, for instance, your postcard campaign garnered exceptional results, why wait until next year to do it again? If the results were poor, re-evaluate the process. Perhaps the postcard needs to be redesigned or perhaps your list is ineffective. Figure it out before pouring more time and money into the next similar project. Compare your projects and the results. Put your time and money where it garners the greatest results. If one methodology was very successful, create similar campaigns, get creative! Don't do something just because it's what most people in your business do — do it because it works for you! Break down the barriers, do something new — and watch the results. You won't know if you don't try and you won't know if it's worth it if you don't track results.

What have your marketing efforts done for you? How do you know if they're effective? Share your tracking methods and what you've learned. We'd love to hear from you!