August is winding down, and my daughter is now officially back in her Junior year of high school. We’ve had a lot of long and interesting conversations over the summer as she begins to lay down the path for her future.

On one hand I would love to have her do the traditional way – high school, great college for four years, and find a job. Yet in reality, I know most kids that opt for that lifestyle will find anything but success. It’s just not in the cards any more because we’ve changed as a society over the past decade.

And what is facing today’s high school and college students is also facing adults too.

If you plan on working at a company for years, doing one job until you retire, and then planning on a nice retirement for the rest of your life – well, you really are in for a surprise.

So like many people, you decide to start a side business, and hope it turns into something more. Something that will help you build a comfortable income now and well into the future.

Yet if you read anything on marketing, its very old school and very traditional. Five years ago, Facebook didn’t exist, and social media meant something entirely different than it does today.

If you receive an email, a postcard, or even a newspaper at home today, chances are you barely give it a second glance when it comes to finding people to do business with. Why rely on a business telling you how great they are, when you can find “friends” online that will gladly recommend someone they’ve had an excellent record with?

So how do you market a new business? How do you find relevant information that will help you build a business for the future?

It’s really not as hard as it sounds.

Traditional marketing teaches you the fundamentals. The fundamentals will always be relevant – it’s just the tools that change. Here are 4 essential steps to put in place anytime you are building a new business.

Create a great product or service

The first step is the most obvious. Whatever product or service you have, find a way to make it the best possible for you and for your clients. Change it as you get feedback from your clientele. Add to it along the way. Refine it. And do it all over again with every product or service you create.

Be comfortable with how to sell it

Having a great product or service is mandatory. And believing in it and being able to sell it without selling it at all is essential. The more comfortable you are with your product or service, the more you will be able to talk about it, anticipate people’s needs before they ask, and showcase why they should choose you over your competition. But remember, it should never be about selling. Selling today means to build a relationship, tell stories, and showcase your product and services without having to become a “hard sell”.

Build a system that connects with prospects and customers

This is the most important step, and one that most people ignore, forget, or simply never put into place. There are many steps an average business takes to move someone from initial contact, to the sale, to follow through throughout the life of your relationship with a client. It involves many steps, and many tools. That is your system. That is what brings you success. And that is what separates a successful business from a fledging or failing one.

This is also where your tools will change. The plan never changes; only the tools change. Twenty years ago, you may have had five ways of bringing in clients through advertising, including a magazine ad, the yellow pages, and a newspaper. Today those tools may have changed to Facebook, Google and banner ads on a complimentary website. The plan is still the same. They system is still in place. Only the tools have changed.

Work the system every day

Marketing is a never-ending process. You have to work it today, tomorrow, next month, and next year. If your business is to stay in business, you have to work the system. That may mean putting a time on your calendar where you work on your system every day. Or it may mean hiring help – a virtual assistant, a marketing team, or an office manager – to do the work for you.

However you choose to do it, realize it has to be done. And then do it. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve when you set your mind to it.