The word “marketing” brings up a mixed bag of responses. Some people love it. Others grimace and try to change the topic. Some recognize marketing as a necessity to successful entrepreneurship. Others balk at the idea of sounding salesy, spending money, or being inauthentic.

Regardless of your feelings, marketing is essential for entrepreneurs. It’s the only way to effectively share your message and draw in leads (who then become clients). Luckily, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming, inauthentic, or even expensive. By keeping these five marketing strategies in mind, you can enter any campaign with confidence:

1. Know Your Audience

The most important action you can take before beginning your marketing efforts is learning as much as possible about your audience. Until you know who you’re marketing to, you won’t know how to market to them. This means starting conversations, paying attention to language, and building relationships.

From a practical perspective, this step involves diving into both the demographic and psychographic information that makes up your audience. Are you serving mothers? Entrepreneurs? Technology start-ups? Is your audience comprised of women, men, or both? Are you focusing on young adults or retirees? All of these questions are important, and they only represent the tip of the iceberg.

In addition to knowing the basic makeup of your audience, it’s also important to know their emotional state. What do they hope for? On the other hand, what do they fear? How do they spend money and why? What words do they use to describe their frustrations?

Begin building a file of information that pertains directly to your audience. This file will become indispensable during your marketing efforts.

2. Decide on Your Investment

There are two ways to invest in your marketing efforts. On the one hand, there is a time investment. On the other, there’s a monetary investment.

Most marketing campaigns consist of a combination of both time and money. It’s up to you to evaluate your resources and decide which investment makes the most sense. If you decide that a time investment makes the most sense for your business then you will be more concerned with active relationship building and organic growth through social media, articles, interviews, and more.

If you choose to invest with money, you may be looking at running paid ads or hiring a sales strategist. Generally, a monetary investment will see faster results, but both can be highly effective.

3. Create a Detailed Action Plan

All too often, new entrepreneurs will approach marketing without intention. A solid marketing plan is based on audience research, a reasonable time frame, and data. Unfortunately, many marketing plans aren’t approached with that much clarity.

Often, what happens is this: An entrepreneur gets an idea for an offer. They get excited about the offer and start creating marketing content. They blast the content out to the world.

Then they wait.

And wait.

And wait.

What went wrong?

Without a plan in place, there’s no audience research to direct your marketing. Without a time frame and conversion goals, there’s no way to measure success or know what to tweak. And without an eye on data, there’s no real indication of how the marketing campaign is going.

When you’re ready to begin marketing, set parameters around your efforts. Establish benchmarks and check in with your campaigns regularly.

4. Be Flexible

The beauty of the online world is that it is constantly changing. And if your marketing efforts are limited to online, they will also be changing. This presents a constant stream of new opportunities, while also turning into a bit of a headache.

The key here is flexibility. As entrepreneurs, we need to be willing to adjust and adapt with the times. As social media platforms, paid advertising, and search engine optimization evolve, so should we. Of course, we shouldn’t be chasing after every shiny object that crosses our path. A new social media platform pops up every day. Does that mean we need an account on all of them? No. But it does mean we should pay attention to the trends, and adjust as needed.

5. Pay Attention to Metrics

This may be the most important factor when it comes to your marketing efforts, though it’s the least exciting. Data-driven marketing campaigns are far more effective than those with no eye for metrics. When you know your conversion rates, lead acquisition, and response rates you can make better decisions overall.

Make it a habit to check in with your data frequently, but don’t obsess over every individual lead. Instead, look at the big picture. All too often an entrepreneur will throw a marketing campaign out, presuming it failed. In reality, it simply didn’t have enough reach to produce the desired numbers. Know the conversion rates for your industry, and make sure your marketing efforts are seen by enough people before you make a decision.

Marketing is a non-negotiable for entrepreneurs

Whether you love marketing or hate it, it’s a necessary piece of entrepreneurship. Your message is only going to reach your audience if you put it out to the world, and the more focused and streamlined your efforts, the faster they will pay off.