Good ideas don’t just thrust themselves out into the world without a push. To get the most out of your product and put it in the right hands, you need to do some research. Before you start your campaign, you should not only know everything you can about your own company, but you need to know who your target demographic is, and what your competitors are doing.

However, it needn’t be overwhelming: social media and marketing tools make marketing much less expensive than it used to be, you can do your marketing all in the comfort of your own home, and yet, the potential for growth is unlimited. To jumpstart your marketing strategy, here’s what you need to know.

Know your brand inside and out, and know what works for your target demographic

It’s easier to know what your product will be useful for than to know who your product will be useful to. Before even thinking about launching a marketing campaign, you should put your product through a series of branding exercises, or even attend and use a brand strategy workshop, to find out exactly who you are, how you want to appear to the world, and to whom you want to attract for your product or service.

Cues – pinpointing ideas like – your company’s spirit animal, the color of your brand’s aura, what kind of cocktail party-goer your company is perceived as, may seem silly at the beginning, but these unusual thought processes will help you identify deeper questions and answers about the indications of brand identity and the kinds of people you want to attract.

  • Are you technologically forward-facing?
  • Are you sleek or funky?
  • Budget or luxury?
  • Are your values more grassroots or corporate?

These are clues to how you should price yourself, who your users are, how these customers will use your product or service, and help you identify potential partners and influencers. After all, good marketing is a holistic process these days, and involves selling people an experience, not just a product.

This is something I found Meerkat to be doing very well and why I use it to grow my Twitter following… and it’s working!

Launch a clearly thought out email and social media campaign

By calibrating your brand direction, you can begin to make considerable efforts towards how to reach the people you want to attract. Once you figure out your target demographic, the next step is finding out where they can be reached. For a general breakdown of social media sites by demographic, refer to this comprehensive infographic by Adweek. And, as it’s always easier to retain your current customers than to acquire new ones, send out monthly mailings with promotions to keep your subscribers in the loop.

Your social media campaign should also be tailored towards the company you want to keep. For example, if you want to catch the attention of young, tech-driven and aesthetically inclined millennials, then try to think up an inventive Instagram or Snapchat campaign; if your product is perfect for younger baby-boomers, then find a nostalgic campaign and promote it on your Facebook.

Find similar-sized businesses and influencers and cross-promote

By aligning yourself with other businesses and influential bloggers in your field (who aren’t direct competitors) and collaborating with them, then you can broaden your company’s awareness around the people you want to gain access to. Studies have shown that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people over direct marketing campaigns, and these days, most large brands have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into influencer marketing.

Finding the right influencers gets you an introduction to their readers, a valuable stamp of approval, and creates a sense of trust between brand and consumer. Of course, it’s easy to go overboard with this marketing tactic – as the New York Times reported recently, the more corporations rely on influencers to market their goods, the less effect the influencers have.

Research your competition

To get a shot at the top of your industry, it helps to have an idea of who your competitors are. It doesn’t have to be considered dirty work: simply keeping an eye on the competitors social media presence, what kind of events they go to, what new projects they’re rolling out, and who they’re marketing to will keep you ahead of the curve and help you see where you can improve your own product or service.

It’s important to view this exercise not as stealing customers but simply doing research on how to better fine-tune your product to fit your clients. The key to marketing is not doing exactly what the other guy is doing, it’s distinguishing yourself from the competition and delivering a different experience than the other companies customers are getting.

This article was written by John Rampton from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.