In this highly competitive marketplace, it's vital to keep your marketing campaigns fresh, new and on target. This fall, kick your marketing into high gear with this seven-point checklist.

1. Reestablish Listening Posts
Smart marketing relies entirely on understanding your customer. You need to know not only who they are and what they buy, but why they buy -- and why they choose to buy from you. Redouble your efforts at dialogue through social media, message boards and blogs. And get direct feedback from customers or clients, or via your front-line salespeople.


2. Announce Special Promotions
Use special incentives to draw customers to short-term promotions. This fall (much like the last), cost-conscious consumers are looking for good prices and great value, and promotions are a winner with most all economic groups. Coupons are increasingly vital, and there is a major rise in the desirability of online coupons.

3. Polish Lead Management
Over the summer, lead tracking and follow up may have become a bit haphazard. Be certain everyone who takes inbound calls asks every new lead where they heard about your company. Make the leads generated by your online, print and broadcast advertising trackable. And where possible follow up all leads within 24 hours. Today's sales are built on trusting relationships that grow from excellent customer service.

4. Focus On Fresh Ideas
Don't rely exclusively on a small team or just your marketing staff to produce fresh ideas. Make innovation everyone's responsibility this fall with brainstorming sessions, company retreats or by giving special recognition to individuals with the smartest suggestions. If your business has few employees, assemble a seasoned advisory board or form an online advisory group made up of members of your target audience to give input in exchange for sales perks. 

5. Renew Retention Campaigns
Do you have regular e-mail or direct mail promotions that go out to your entire customer base? This fall, use e-mail to crank up your retention campaign by putting it on a consistent weekly or biweekly schedule. Soon you'll have discovered which incentives and messages work best to retain and upsell current customers and convert prospects, and yield the highest return on investment.

6. Enhance Your Giving
In this era of rising social responsibility, customers and prospects want to know you're a good corporate citizen, and this is a great time to align with a nonprofit. Businesses that rely on local customers benefit from helping community-based causes. You can provide pro bono services or undertake a promotional campaign to raise charitable funds. Just be sure to promote the undertaking via your website and the press. You'll provide help where it's needed most and earn appreciation from customers that leads to sales.

7. Freshen Your Content
When was the last time you updated the content of your website and your family of sales and marketing tools? Since your website is generally the first place prospects go to learn more about your business, it's crucial the site's appearance and themes are current. Imagine someone following a logical path from your website through each step in your sales process, and make sure all materials and messages they encounter flow seamlessly from one to the next. With more shoppers than ever browsing the Web this fall, it's a great way to jumpstart sales.