Did you “try marketing” this year? If you did, you probably wasted your money. Here is what usually happens: You saw a television or radio ad for a competitor or received one of the company’s postcards — by mistake. You assume that everyone hears or sees the messages and decide that “since my competitor is doing marketing, I have to do it, too.”

You come up with what you think is a better ad or message and send a postcard, place an ad in a newspaper, or buy radio or television advertising. You do it once. When you don’t get great results, you decide that it didn’t work and that your competitor is wasting money.

Or since you’ve heard that social media is the best advertising method, you put together a Facebook fan page or a LinkedIn or Twitter profile, but don’t invest the time in these social media tools and, as a result, “marketing doesn’t work.”

You’re right. Marketing doesn’t work if you do it once, you don’t track results, or you do it without planning. You just wasted your money and time. Marketing that produces results takes time, planning, money and tracking.

You now know that sending one message is a waste of money. Putting up a Facebook fan page and not keeping it fresh is a waste of money.

So before you waste your marketing dollars in 2017, put together a reasonable marketing plan, execute it and track the results. Here are some suggestions.

Determine the number of dollars you can invest in marketing. The rule of thumb is 3 to 6 percent of service and replacement revenues. Try to use as much manufacturer cooperative money as possible to reduce these investment dollars. If you are trying to rapidly increase your service base, you might invest more than the 6 percent. Just be sure that you target your marketing to specific geographic areas.

Review what marketing activities you invested in this year. What were the results? Did you diligently track results? Every time a potential client calls, did you ask “By the way, how did you hear about us?” and record the results? This is the only way to know what worked and what didn’t work. Then do the same type of marketing that worked for 2016 in 2017.

Choose one or two marketing methods and stick to them. This way you can be most effective with your marketing dollars. Be consistent with your message. The recipient should recognize the message format after one or two messages. Consistency might be a tag line, message layout, message postcard color or theme.

A word of caution: Once you have decided on the marketing methods, don’t be tempted during the year when a salesperson walks in with what he or she says is the marketing method that you just have to spend money on. If you think it is a good idea, put it on your potential list for 2018.

Copyright Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King at Profitability Revolution LLC, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093; email ruthking@profitabilityrevolution.com; call (770) 729-8000.