Though you may not be aware of it, the history of marketing actually dates back to early antiquity. And while methods have grown infinitely more sophisticated over the past two thousand odd years, the core dilemma has remained the same: how can a brand identity engage with consumers most effectively? Unfortunately, modern sophistication still can’t provide us with any one specific answer. Times change. Consumers change. Needs change. And as advertising hedges into the twenty-first century to become a truly global phenomenon, the need to maintain a unique identity while embracing a diverse consumer base has never been stronger. In order to develop a strategy, you need to develop a technique. And while it can seem like an effective technique is often a case of trial and error, there are certain components which are more effective than others when developing a successful marketing strategy. All techniques begin with a process of identification. But where do you go from there?

1. Identify Your Audience

Effectively identifying an audience begins with as broad an audience base as can be applied to your brand, and gradually narrowing that base down until you find a key demographic. One factor many marketing campaigns fail to realize is that a key demographic does not necessarily exclude customers who fall outside of its range—in fact, far from it. Any public interest is good interest. What it means is to create a unique and viable brand identity connected with a lifestyle. A lifestyle can, of course, span multiple other factors of a demographic, including age, income and marital status. The key to remember is a singular lifestyle. Is your core demographic active? Leisurely? Creative? Fast-paced? Tech savvy? These are the sorts of questions which can help define your marketing strategy and allow you a much deeper insight into your customer base.

2. Building Awareness

With the advent of social media as a formidable marketing tool, building brand awareness is easier now more than ever. But it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Chiefly, how to distinguish your brand from competitors. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution for online marketing; nor have traditional methods of marketing (print, TV, word of mouth) entirely disappeared. But digital marketing has opened up an entirely new horizon for entrepreneurs and businesses. One in which it’s easier to establish an authoritative voice, particularly for smaller businesses—perhaps the single most important component of any marketing strategy.

3. Authority And Content

No one likes to be thought of as a newcomer. Despite the fact that the new breed of entrepreneurs and small businesses are innovative and engaged with the changing trends of the marketplace, there’s still a certain part of the public that equates being a newcomer with being an amateur. And no one wants to buy from an amateur. It takes time to build an audience. And it takes time to develop an authoritative voice. Prestige does not occur overnight, but gradually. How do you develop status? Through consistent and frequent generation of content. Eye-catching content. Attention-commanding content. The sort of content that forces your audience to stand up and take notice. And while successful content is largely a result of trial and error, there are numerous online platforms to experiment with for free (or at a minimal cost.)

4. Client Engagement

This is where smaller businesses are often at a unique advantage—and big box retailers are at a distinct disadvantage. It’s not enough to generate memorable content as a marketing strategy. Because social media and online marketing are two way platforms (and one in which consumers recognize they have a distinct right to voice their opinion about your product), your customers are expecting you to communicate with them on a personal level. And large corporations have neither the time nor inclination to do so. But if you’re a small business, you do. You’re there as much to address their questions and concerns as to provide your product or service. This gives you more than just a brand name. This gives you a human identity. One that your customer base can relate to. And that can sometimes be worth more than any million dollar marketing campaign.

5. Time And Commitment

Any successful marketing strategy is going to demand a significant amount of effort and attention. If you think you’re going to build an audience overnight, you’re sorely mistaken. In marketing, there are no shortcuts. Even if you’re lucky to have your content shared by millions of followers one week, it’s guaranteed that next week you could be forgotten in favor of the next new buzz. This is one of the reasons why keeping track of your audience—their motivations as well as their likes and dislikes—is critical. And it could be that your key demographic will change over time. It’s part of the nature of adaptation. But if your brand is strong enough, your voice authoritative enough, and your strategy flexible enough, you’ll be able to keep your head above your competitors.