As a business owner, you probably consider yourself to be enterprising, entrepreneurial, creative. One thing you may not consider yourself to be is a marketer.

The frustrating truth is that running a business takes much more than the skills that led to your business idea in the first place. That’s why the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who can learn new things, adapt, and wear lots of hats. And marketing? One of the most crucial hats you’ll wear. But it’s important to get it right.

At best, marketing gone wrong can go unseen. At worst, marketing gone wrong can mislead, unintentionally insult, and drive away your business.

Marketing gone right, however, can get more eyes on your business, create a connection with your community, and enable you to rejuvenate your product over and over again.

So how to make sure you get it right? Follow along and we’ll get you there.

Develop a Buyer Persona

The first thing you need to do is understand to whom you’re marketing. If this isn’t the first step you take, there’s a good chance you’ll be redoing your campaigns later.

A little bit of research can go a long way.

Talk to your customers. What do they love about your services? What do they hate? (Yes, you do need to know both.) Besides that, get to know them on a deeper level. What do they hope for in life? What keeps them up at night?

Then there’s the basic demographic data. Are most of your customers male or female? How old are they on average? What do they do for a living? Where do they live?

Once you’ve learned all this, you can create a persona that reflects your average buyer. For example:

Tom is 32, he loves basketball and cars, and he feels bored at work.

Now that you’ve created a real person in your mind, you’ll have a much easier time meeting his needs and talking to him in his language.

Figure Out What Makes You Special

Next you should get to know yourself and your services on a deeper level. On the surface, we can all generalize what we do. (I’m a writer.) But if you dig deeper, you’ll see a specific angle that sets you apart from the rest. (I’m a writer that teaches small businesses best practices for marketing their services.)

Get it? So what’s your angle? Let’s say you’re a hairdresser. Is there something about your personality that stands out among your clients? (My hairdresser always makes me feel cared for and listened to. She understands my alternative style and never tries to make me look too mainstream.)

Everyone has an angle. If you look hard enough, you’ll find yours. That’s what’s going to help you stand out among the rest and should be in the forefront of all your marketing efforts.

Only Embrace The Marketing Platforms Your Customers Use

Should you be on social media? Yes, almost certainly. Should you be on all social media platforms? Definitely not. Should you have a blog? Maybe, it depends!

Spreading your effort across all marketing platforms is time consuming and, worse, it won’t work. Most people don’t pay attention to all social media platforms. Choose the ones your customers frequent to concentrate your efforts.

Let’s go back to our buyer, Tom. Tom’s into cars and basketball. If he likes to take pictures of his cars, he’s likely to be doing that on Facebook and/or Instagram. For sports scores and things, there’s a good chance he’s on Facebook. Do you think Tom tweets a lot or hangs out on Pinterest? Probably not. Another thing is his age: Tom is 32. Facebook is more popular with young professionals and older adults. People in high school and college are losing interest in Facebook (things tend to become less cool when parents use them too). Given Tom’s age, Facebook is a good bet.

As for blogs, they’re often a good idea. But not always – and not always in the same format. If you’re a hair stylist and want a blog to show off your work, you should probably focus on picture posts and quick tips only. If you’re a financial planner, a blog that’s more information-based and gives financial advice would be better. Think about the value you can add and then decide the best platform for it.

Speaking of adding value: social media and content strategy are never all about you, nor should they be. If you only talk about how great your services are, people will grow bored of your content. (Just imagine someone at a party who only talks about him or herself. Inevitably people will walk away…)

Your content should always add value and/or enjoyment to your customer’s day. Every. Single. Time.

Research Marketing & Research Your Industry

We talked about choosing only the platforms your customers use, but how are you supposed to know? For example, what if you had no idea people Tom’s age would be more likely to use Facebook?

Read.

The data is all there – all you have to do is keep an eye on it. Technically you don’t even have to do much research. Just follow a few reputable blogs* on Feedly and you’ll get daily updates on what’s new in the world of social media.

Likewise, you should spend some time reading up on your industry. What kind of changes are taking place? Why? What are your competitors doing? What are people asking for? Stay abreast of changes as they happen. You’ll learn to think ahead of the curve so you can market proactively instead of reactively.

Remember, I’m not talking about spending hours a day on this. Once you populate Feedly with blogs about social media and your industry, read over the daily updates while drinking your morning coffee. Fifteen minutes a day is all it takes.

And finally, NEVER try to use this information to game social media. Consumers (and Google) are savvy enough to know what’s happening. Any marketing you do must first and always come from a place of transparency and authenticity.

*A few suggestions: Buffer, CoSchedule, Hubspot, Social Media Examiner

Grow With Your Customers

If you want to avoid stagnation, keep the word “growth” forefront in your mind. Your business should always be evolving. What’s working, what’s not? What could you be doing better? But, most importantly, what’s happening in your customers’ world?

Grow with your customers and they will grow with you. Are they graduating on to different social media platforms? It may be time to expand or redirect your efforts to those platforms. Are their needs changing? Consider those new needs in your marketing language.

Marketing will never work if you don’t stay relevant. As your customers grow, what becomes important to them will change. Tune into that and they’ll notice. There’s nothing better than when a service just “gets it” – and those are the ones people tend to stick with for life.

Bonus Section: Have Fun!

There’s one final point that can’t be missed: always be you, always have fun! Marketing may be work – but it doesn’t have to feel like it. There’s a reason we as consumers love to use social media and there’s no reason we as business owners can’t feel the same way. Expressing yourself is fun!

When you’re sitting down to think of a marketing campaign or content to share, don’t edit out the stuff that makes you sound like you. It is perfectly wonderful to have personality – in fact, it’s preferred. So when that instinct to edit yourself flares up, squash it right back down. Your customers want to deal with people, not robots. Free yourself to have fun and everyone will enjoy the fruits of your labor.