What is marketing? Consultant Stephen Wilson thinks of it as the circus coming to town.

Paint a sign saying the circus is coming: That's advertising. Harness the sign to an elephant and march him downtown: That's promotion. The elephant walks through the mayor's flower bed? That's publicity. Got the mayor to laugh? That's public relations. And if you planned the elephant's walk: That's marketing.

Marketing is the mix of all those methods — it's everything a business does that touches prospects and clients, says Wilson, of Biz-comm Inc. It should be the heart of your business, from which all operational and management plans flow.

So why do so many small-business owners fail to market or to develop marketing plans?

For one thing, marketing takes time. Owners are busy getting jobs done and landing new ones. Who has time to brand trucks with logos, or whip up marketing campaigns, or build job signs?

Plus, marketing takes money. And what $500,000-a-year business owner has an excess of that?

But done right and efficiently, marketing doesn't have to take as much time or money as most expect. And by creating a brand, instilling top-of-mind awareness, forging new relationships, and rejuvenating old ones, you will build a healthy, long-term business.

Where are those elephants?