A marketing plan can increase your business — but it can remain effective only if you make adjustments from time to time.

Creating benchmarks to evaluate your marketing plan is the only way to grow your business with certainty, says Mark Wardell, president of Wardell Business Development Inc. in Vancouver.

These tips can help you evaluate your marketing plan, measure its results and keep it on track:

> Know what success looks like
Think about what a successful marketing campaign means to you.

Success in market will be different for each advisor, says Sandra Bekhor, president of Bekhor Management in Toronto. For you, it might mean meeting more new prospects. Or, success might be something strategic, such as building a client base in a new niche.

> Track your results
Monitor the results of your marketing activities to determine which are working.

Create a key performance indicator that you can measure for each activity, says Bekhor. For instance, use a call to action for an e-newsletter such as: “Send this newsletter to a friend.” You can track how many emails were passed on.

To track that information, you would need to work with a third-party company, says Bekhor. For example, Constant Contact Inc. (www.constantcontact.com) creates a template for you to use and reports results, such as how many people opened the email and how many people opted out of the newsletter. The company offers a 60-day free trial and prices start at US$15 per month.

Or, if you are including links to your own website, Bekhor says, you can use hits to those articles as an indicator of how many people read your newsletter.

> Keep a visual record
Get a sense of how your marketing is working by drawing a picture of your results.

Wardell recommends a tool called the “referral tree, which is similar to an organizational chart. At the top of a page, write all of your marketing initiatives, such as networking, advertising and your referral sources.

Whenever you get a lead from one of those sources, draw a line down from the appropriate box and write in the prospect’s name. If you receive a referral from one of those leads create another level of boxes.

Soon, you will begin to see which activities generate leads and, more specifically, which provide high-quality prospects, says Wardell. When creating next year’s marketing plan, use this chart to allocate funds.

> Set realistic expectations
Be practical about what you can accomplish with a marketing plan.

“If you expect 50% of the people [who received your direct mail piece], to call right away, you’re starting with false expectations,” says Bekhor. “You are going to be disappointed.” (Five per cent is excellent.)

> Make changes when necessary
If a marketing activity doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up on it. Look for ways to improve that initiative.

Consider the quality of the materials you sent, says Bekhor. If you created everything yourself, it may be best to work with a marketing professional next time for a better look and strategic guidance.

As well, if you feel that your marketing isn’t working, she says, ask clients for their opinions and do a little fine-tuning.

> Avoid external comparisons
Every marketing plan’s results will be different; what works for another advisor may not work for you.

Each initiative depends on several variables, says Wardell, such as your target market and the city or town you are working in. It’s better to look at your own results than at a fellow advisor’s success when making decisions.