I can’t tell you exactly what to do to improve your marketing without knowing the specifics of your situation.  But I can describe the fundamental stepping stones of the path to better marketing.  This list and related advice is the product of what I’ve seen hold business owners back and what we’ve learned as a result.

Plug the holes in your sales cycle.

I’ve never seen a bullet proof sales cycle.  Check yours for periods when little is happening.  Start with the most obvious: after the initial contact is made.  Add touches that provide value — that educate — instead of just selling.  Educating is selling.  Just because a prospect hasn’t taken another step since they downloaded your brochure or gave you their card at the conference doesn’t mean they aren’t interested.  Less obvious is before your traditional initial contacts are made.  Always test new types of touches.

Find more cheap leads.

The cheap leads are on the internet.  First, fine-tune your website to improve the percentage of visitors who convert into leads.  Doubling your leads by doubling your conversion rate from, say, .75% to 1.5%, is a whale of a lot cheaper than doubling your traffic.  Simplifying your website is the best first step to doubling your conversion rate.  Next, get in front of more people when they search for what you sell.  This means search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search (Google Adwords, etc.).   Yes, SEO “takes forever.”  So get started right away.  And I know, you’ve tried Adwords and it didn’t work.  That doesn’t mean Adwords doesn’t work. It means it didn’t work with the budget, selection and number of keywords, bidding strategy, ads and landing pages you used.

Simplify your website.

Two things you probably know about your website that bare repeating.  First, 50% of the people who come into your website leave from that page; a one-page visit.  And, the average visitor session is three minutes, during which they see an average of just three pages.  What do you want people to know when they come to your site?  How many pages does it take to accomplish this?

Keep moving and improving.

Keep improving what you do.  Keep moving forward with expertise, problem-solving, providing value and increasing the ease of doing business with you.  People get used to what they have, regardless of how innovative or customer-centric it was when they first started buying.  Your great customer service and your innovation aren’t nearly as great or innovative as they were to your customers last year.  Keep moving forward.  The old cliché “What have you done for me lately?” is alive and well today.

Talk to more prospects.

Don’t discount the physics of marketing.  The larger the number of people you prospect to, the larger the number is of that small percentage who naturally have a need for what you sell right now.  The larger that number, the better the odds of you closing one.

Talk to prospects more often.

Another physical marketing law.  The more often you touch prospects, the better the odds of your message reaching people who naturally have a need for what you sell when you touch them.

What else can you be doing?

How can you broaden what you offer?  Boundaries are dissolving.  Freight companies now manage inventory.  And they should.  CPA firms now offer business consulting.  And they should.  What should you be doing for your customers now that you weren’t doing two years ago?

The only failure is not taking the next step.  Step wisely, but take the step.  What step?  That step you just thought of.