Does this sound familiar? Your business goes through a long dry spell, during which you’re frantically trying every marketing tactic you can think of to drum up new leads. Your efforts work so well that you’re suddenly swamped with work, and for months you barely have a moment to breathe.

When you finally come up for air, you discover that because you put your marketing duties on the back burner to handle all the business, you’ve got no new business on the books.

For many small business owners, this feast-or-famine cycle is all too common. When busy entrepreneurs get really busy, marketing outreach is often the first thing to go. How can you make time for marketing, so you always have a steady stream of business coming in while still taking care of business? Take these steps.

1. Develop a Marketing Plan

Does your business have a marketing plan? If not, it’s time to create one. Knowing what you’re doing makes everything go faster, including marketing. When you have a plan laid out, all you have to do is act on it, rather than reinventing the wheel.

2. Break It Down Into a Marketing Calendar

Once you’ve got your marketing plan, create a year-long calendar for marketing activities. Breaking down your marketing efforts by the month, week or even the day will take some time on the front end, but will pay off later when you’re swamped.

Just check your calendar, and you’ll know what marketing activity you need to handle that week. It may be posting three blog entries, composing an online pay-per-click (PPC) ad or sending out a press release about your upcoming charitable event. If your marketing plan software doesn’t include one or you’re not using software, a quick online search will uncover many free sample marketing calendar templates you can download and use.

3. Devote a Set Amount of Time to Marketing

Like anything else in business and life, the key to marketing success starts with making time for it. Block out a certain amount of time each day and/or each week that you’ll devote to marketing (for example, one hour a day or five hours a week total).

This time might shrink a bit when you’re super-busy, but marketing should never disappear off your to-do calendar altogether. If you need motivation, think about the last time you had no business in sight. Brrr.

4. Delegate or Outsource

When you’re doing everything for your business yourself, that’s when marketing falls by the wayside. Do the math and you’ll typically find that the cost of outsourcing some marketing tasks will more than pay for itself.

While you don’t want to trust an intern with your social media accounts, there are plenty of experienced freelancers and independent contractors who can handle many of a small business’ marketing duties. Guru, Elance and Freelancer.com are some popular sites to find freelancers.

5. Automate

There are many tools today that can automate repetitive tasks involved in marketing. Use customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as Zoho CRM or Insightly, to maintain notes on your customers and prospects, schedule outreach such as emails or calls, and set reminders.

You can also use social media management tools like Hootsuite or Sendible to plan and schedule some of your social media posts ahead of time, and set them to post automatically. That way, you can work on social media when you have more time and know that it will take care of itself when you’re swamped.

These tools also make it easy to track all your social media accounts in one place, so no more logging in and out of a dozen accounts! You’ll also get quick alerts if something needs immediate attention.

6. Assess Results

Regularly track and assess the results of all your marketing efforts so you can see which ones work best. That way, when time is short, you can focus on those marketing activities that give you the best results for the least effort. For example, if referrals have a 30% success rate in generating leads while online advertising has only a 5% success rate, focus on referrals to bring in quick business.

If you’re interested in creating a great marketing plan for you small business, learn how to avoid overspending on your marketing efforts.

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