These 10 commandments may be the answer to your marketing prayers.

Marketing isn't an optional expense. Although it's often the first budget lineto be sliced and diced when cash flow is low, it's important to remember thatmarketing your business is often the activity that turns tough times around.Abiding by the following ten commandments of marketing can help you avoid thepitfalls of many start-up marketers and guide you in getting the good word outabout your product or service.

1. Know your audience. The customers you want to attract should fit the profileof your "ideal" customer--those people making purchases at levels that are mostprofitable to, or best serviced by, your business.

2. Know your competition. Watch them closely--you might learn from their trialsand errors.

3. Know yourself. Examine the set of skills it'll take to market your business.We all have strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to recognize what youcan realistically do in-house.

4. Plan. The acronym RACE stands for a formula that marketing professionalshave been using for decades: Research, Action plan, Communication, Evaluation.

5. You need to communicate your key messages to your audience segments on aregular basis in order to get their attention and create a lasting impression.

6. Be carefully creative. It's important that your materials be creative--butnever at the expense of communicating your key messages. Make sure the benefitsof who you are and what you do are clear.

7. Diversify your efforts. Use the powers of publicity and cross-promotions tostretch your marketing budget.

8. Budget your time and your money. Marketing programs need to be tempered bytwo kinds of budgets: time and money. If either or both are limited, you needto carefully examine the strategies and tactics you'll employ to accomplishyour goals.

9. Measure your results. Use contests or surveys to learn which media vehiclesyour customers are choosing for information and entertainment--and beginincorporating those media into your advertising and public relations efforts.

10. Be flexible. By putting some thought into your promotional efforts beforeyou spend your money, you can achieve far more effective results than with ashoot-from-the-hip approach.