Ask business owners what the biggest business challenge is, and at least 90 percent of them will say it is increasing sales volume.

When I get that answer, I ask, “What extra marketing efforts are you planning on doing in order to get the additional sales you want?”

Typically, they tell me something that indicates to me they are going to do pretty much what they’ve done in the past and hope for better results. That’s the pop culture definition of insanity!

I have a neighbor whose son, Steve, is an excellent high school basketball player with a dream of getting an athletic scholarship to a major college. He is tall, fast and athletic but very thin. He knows that, with his slender frame, he will be overwhelmed by bigger, stronger players unless he bulks up. I asked him the same question, “What is your biggest challenge to getting that basketball scholarship?”

“My grades are fine; I’m a great ball handler and shooter; but I’ve got to gain at least 15 pounds of muscle without losing my speed, otherwise I’ll just get pushed around.” He sounded much like the business owner who wants “more business,” except this young man isn’t just hoping to increase strength and weight. He has a plan, a very specific plan.

I asked him how he is going to gain that muscle without losing any of his speed and quickness. He told me he is working with a personal trainer. He and the trainer have developed a daily, weekly and monthly growth and fitness plan. He then opened a notebook. The book was filled with graphs, menus and checklists with a different page for each week. He has a set exercise program for every day of the week filled with strength training, agility training and running in addition to his basketball training. He has ongoing goals for each type of exercise by week. He has worked with a nutritionist and records everything he eats. He can track and monitor his progress in weight, strength, speed and agility gains.

Steve has a detailed, specific plan to accomplish his weight and strength goals. In looking at all the completed pages in his binder, it is evident he is committed to his plan and is working hard to achieve it. I have no idea whether Steve will fulfill that dream of playing for a major college, but I’m absolutely positive his chances of achieving it are far better than they are for those who don’t commit to a plan.

If your challenge is to increase your sales volume, you also need a detailed, specific plan and the commitment to work that plan constantly. That means if you are going to get the sales volume increase you want to get this year, you have to get yourself to the “Marketing Gym” pronto!

Neither marketing nor exercise are “one size fits all” activities. In a regular gym, there are many different exercise options to work on upper body, lower body and core strength, cardio, and a number of routines that combine different activities to meet specific health, strength and cosmetic goals.

Which exercise program is best for you? In order to make that determination you need to know what you want to accomplish — from having six-pack abs to training for a marathon to greater overall fitness, energy and stamina.

You will have much the same experience walking into the Marketing Gym where you will find row after row of exercise machines for every muscle group. It starts with pumping iron on the row of Strategy Machines where you go from station to station:

  • Goal Curls: Define your ambition, create your marketing goals and then establish the marketing strategies. Just as Steve wants to gain 15 pounds without losing speed and agility, you must have specific goals. And from those goals you will develop marketing strategies, promotions and events to accomplish those goals.
  • Target Lunges: Determine your geographic and demographic targets. The geographic element will define where you market; the demographic element will define to whom you market.
  • Competitive Advantage Lifts: Discover your competitive advantages (and weaknesses) so you can accentuate the positives.
  • Branding Crunches: Invent (or reinvent) your brand, tagline and logo to make your business identifiable and memorable to your targeted prospects.
  • Treadmill Timing: Create your promotional calendar to be ready to market when customers want your services.
  • Budgeting Stairstepper: Develop your budget so you will have the money to pay for your marketing events.
  • Media Mix Stationary Bike: Develop a mix of media (from paid advertising to networking to social media to cold calling and far beyond) designed to be seen by your targeted prospects at appropriate times.
  • Message Kettlebells: Craft messages that will attract those targeted prospects with text and graphics that will make your phone ring.
  • Database Squats: Build a data system so you can discover which marketing activities have the desired results, which need to be modified and improved the next time you use them, and which are not worth doing again and must be replaced.

You will need to rest for a few moments after using each Marketing Machine to mediate and reflect on whether the decisions you’ve made and the conclusions you’ve reached have a high probability of attaining the goals you’ve set out to achieve.

After you’ve been working out on these machines in the Marketing Gym you should be a little sweaty and out of breath. Remember the saying, “No pain, no gain.” You’ve been through the pain of building your marketing plan; now it’s time to go into the next room in the gym — the implementation room where you will start the marketing plan rolling to achieve all that your ambition demands.

Following his plan will help Steve get that basketball scholarship, and following your plan will help you grow your business.

Most businesses need to build their marketing muscles with some combination of these activities, budgeting monetary and energy investments to achieve the best results.

Once you know what you want to accomplish, get into the Marketing Gym, pump some iron, sweat the details, and create and implement your marketing plan, and when you stand in front of that mirror and flex, the sales figures will reflect the results of your efforts in the gym.

So put on your sweat suit and sneakers. Stretch a little to warm up your muscles. Then hit the floor running to market, market and market some more.