In shaky economies, companies that invest in their marketing often come out on top. But for small business, making these investments often feels risky. Not only are time and resources tight, many small business owners feel they lack the knowledge to make the marketing choices that provide a return.

In fact, figuring out “what works” is the top marketing concern for nearly 80 percent of small business owners, according to a recent survey by Deluxe Corporation.

“Most small business owners are talented at their trade, but not at promoting their businesses,” says Stephanie Chandler, entrepreneur, speaker and author of “LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business.” “They’re willing to work long hours and invest whatever is necessary to grow their businesses, but demystifying the marketing process and having the confidence to try new approaches can be daunting, especially if they have tried something in the past and were burned.”

The survey also showed that more than 60 percent of small business owners would be more confident investing in marketing if there was a way to guarantee return on investment.

Chandler says that there are five things all small business owners can do to rev up their marketing and see better results.

* Plan the work, then work the plan: Decide specifically what you want your marketing to do – raise awareness, generate leads, retain customers – then choose the marketing elements that will accomplish your goals. Stick to the plan and give your efforts time to work. If you are not sure where to begin, SCORE, counselors to America’s small businesses, offers free advice.

* Let leads lead you: Look at the leads you are already generating, or the ones that most often convert to actual customers. Ask them how they found you so you can efficiently invest in those areas to increase your likelihood of success.

* Ask an expert: If you have a specific marketing need, like designing a logo or writing Web copy, ask an expert for help. Look for resources among your peers or in online forums such as PartnerUp.

* Polish your social skills: Social media is here to stay. Look at sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. See where your customers are engaged and join the conversation. Start with one tool. If it is working, it is easy and free to keep building your social media connections.

* Know what success looks like: Decide what indicates success for your business – new customers, leads, website visits, coupon redemption – and track your progress over time. Look for times when your marketing efforts overlap with increased performance.

To help small business owners learn to market well, Deluxe has partnered with SCORE, a national non-profit group that counsels entrepreneurs, and Chandler to launch Project Rev – a yearlong, marketing lab to help small businesses find marketing solutions that work. For more details on these and other small business marketing topics, visit