The key to running a successful business is to draw the maximum value out of whatever resources are available. This is particularly true of the organisation’s marketing budget.

A multimillion-pound marketing campaign can count for little if it is targeted in the wrong area or implemented ineffectually. On the other hand, a far smaller shoestring budget can boost a company’s sales and reputation greatly if it conveys the right message to the right people.

In order to ensure that your marketing is on target, it’s helpful to ask three questions, the answers to which should provide the backbone of your marketing strategy.

1. Who is the customer?

First and foremost in the equation should be the customer, for at the end of the day it is they who will determine the success of your product, which might otherwise be collecting dust in a warehouse. Studying overall market demographics can be helpful to a point, but it’s essential to remember that neatly categorised groups do not buy products, people do.

Once you’ve identified the type of person you’re marketing to, it’s important to get to know them – not only in terms of what they need and how your product can fulfil this need (as discussed below), but also what they do in their leisure time, what they watch, listen to, read, and so on. This information will enable you to answer the third question below more accurately.

Online customer surveys, previous customer complaints, focus groups and face-to-face contact are all effective ways of getting to know more about your core customers.

2. What benefits does the product provide to the customer?

It is the benefits of the product in question that should provide the thrust of all marketing efforts. Before parting with their hard-earned money, customers want to know what your product will do for them, and why it offers a better solution than your immediate competitors. For instance, will it save them time and/or money? Will it make some element of their life easier? Does it provide a more elegant solution to a specific problem than was previously available?

These benefits are the key selling points of your product, and after identifying these the next step is to consider how your product is more effective in providing these benefits than similar products in the marketplace.

3. What is the most effective way to convey these benefits to prospective customers?

The real magic of a successful advertising campaign is in tying together the information gleaned about the customer and the benefits honestly identified in the product. The more you know about the customer, the easier it will be to communicate with them.

Today there are more avenues for advertising a new product than ever before, but covering all bases is likely to be inefficient and unnecessary. With the advent of the internet and digital age, consumers now have an unprecedented level of choice over the information they are exposed to. Getting to know your customers better should give you a good idea of what media they are most likely to be watching/reading/listening to, and will prevent you from shouting about your product in the wrong places.

It’s also worth remembering that in this bold new information age, weary consumers are constantly being bombarded by advertisements left, right and centre. While logic might seem to suggest that large volumes of advertising are needed to compete in such a cacophony, often it is the smaller yet shrewder voices that are heard above the din.