Clate Mask is CEO of one of the Inc 500’s fastest-growing companies, Ask him about how to build a successful business, and he’ll say, “There are three, and only three, factors that really have an iron grip on the profits of any marketing effort.

The smartest marketing minds on the planet have boiled these factors down to this simple, but incredibly powerful, formula: The right message, to the right market, at the right time.

The problem is, most businesses send out a message that’s only relevant to the company owner—that is, to people who are not in the market for their product or service, at a time when they are probably not interested in buying!

We often hear people say “I meant to get around to doing some marketing, but I just didn’t have time, so we just put something out there.” Or, worse, “I got a great deal on this program but I didn’t realize 90 percent of it went to people who don’t buy what I sell.”

Many small business owners spend money on “image” advertising, with no direct response offers included at all. There is no “next step” called for, and thus, no way to measure the effectiveness of the ad. Advertising just your brand is great if you’ve got a million-dollar budget like Nike or Coke, but it’s marketing suicide for the rest of us!

The objective of your marketing efforts is to generate leads—finding people you can follow-up with. When you convey the right message, to the right market, at the right time, you get leads. Social marketing tools in particular, can really help you do this inexpensively and effectively.

Here’s how: You want to attract people who are interested in what you’ve got to sell so you create a dozen powerful, benefit-filled headlines offering to provide free reports or “how-to” documents (or even a dozen different titles for the same document), e.g. “Free report—What you should know before hiring a contractor.” Or, “Get the facts: Learn how to work with a contractor before you renovate.” Offer them on and see which headline generates the most response. Expand the program by posting the same short message on your company’s “fan page” and your profile (you have these, right?). Use the same approach to learn what generates the most interest in a free webinar (that you could offer).

Create a series of three-minute videos introducing yourself and offering something—a free guide, a seminar etc. See which one gets the most response and build on that knowledge.