The economic downturn has left many companies struggling to retain existing business, scrambling for ways to attract new business and seeking opportunities to cut costs. Decreasing marketing budgets seems to be a common solution — just look how many publications, creative agencies and printers have gone out of business due to a lack of revenue.

While cutting costs may be a necessity, halting your marketing efforts when business slows can make things worse. Be smart. Think smart. Market smart. Send an email instead of a letter; create and send a postcard instead of a catalog; change your marketing mix, and stay in front of your customers if you wish to maintain and grow your business.

Once business picks up, time may be at a premium; but once again, that’s no excuse for allowing marketing efforts to slip. Keeping a constant presence in the marketplace will ultimately even out your sales swings.

To use your time and marketing dollars wisely, and steer your business toward growth, take note of six common marketing mistakes to avoid:

Mistake #1: Marketing without a plan

It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, but a “road map” of how to market your business is nothing short of essential.

Mistake #2: Muting the agency

Even if you pride yourself on your marketing prowess, don’t override your agency’s recommendations. This can, and often will, lead to disaster. Listen to the hired experts providing recommendations based on sound research and experience.

Mistake #3: Multitasking collateral

Don’t expect one marketing piece to meet too many objectives. Doing so can muddle your message and lose or confuse your prospect or customer.

Mistake #4: Cluttered collateral

Filling every inch of a marketing piece with words or pictures is a turn-off. White space rests the eye, is more inviting and entices your audience to read, making key messages easy to find and digest.

Mistake #5: Focusing on features before benefits

Features define your product, but benefits sell. Focusing on the benefits defines your unique selling proposition, sets you apart from the competition and helps you to sell a product or service.

Mistake #6 Keeping your team in the dark

The fastest way to waste hard-earned marketing dollars is forgetting to inform your staff on how to communicate marketing offers and information to customers and prospects. Consider the sales clerk who doesn’t know about a current promotion to help sell additional products to existing customers. Or the courier in the supply room who might have a friend interested in the current offer or coupon. Always include the entire team in your marketing plan by engaging them in how to use each tactic to increase business.

Finally, don’t find yourself falling into the trap of W4TP2R marketing. Give up? This stands for the marketing approach known as Waiting for the Phone to Ring. Just because you send out letters, emails and press releases, place ads, or launch a new website doesn’t mean that merchandise will fly off the shelves right away. Effective marketing takes diligence, persistence, repetition, follow-up, follow-through and time to bake.

Give your programs a chance, stay consistent and work it. Eventually, you will see results and reap the rewards.

On April 10 the marketing community and the world suffered a great loss when Sherri May’s life was taken abruptly. Her marketing know how, spirit, and words of wisdom live on and inspire through her team at Sherri May & Co.