Smart marketing starts with your audience.
To have a smart marketing strategy you have to start with a buyer persona; the center of your target. If you aim for the center you're far less likely to miss.
Give them a story.
Start by understanding your business goals and your brand promise. Consider what clients you have that you'd love to duplicate: who is your ideal consumer? Then think through their background. Are they male or female? What is their family like; what is their personality; what is their age?
Give them a name.
Once you have some of these questions answered, give them a name and photo. This may seem like an unimportant step, but creating a name and face for this imaginary buyer will help you learn to talk to them: you'll have a face and name to think about when creating content.
Solve their problems.
The next step is to think through their challenges and goals. These can be unrelated to your business, or core to your product/offerings. Either way, to consider where they're going and what's stopping them from getting there can give you an edge.
Now that you know their challenges you can solve them! How can your business get them one step (or ten steps) closer to their end goal? Make a list of how you can help them achieve success, and how those differentiate from competitors.
Expert Note: working through these questions can feel like a lot of assuming. And it is. To get real answers to your questions, try shadowing an ideal buyer around for the day. This can be awkward, but very insightful.
Have a conversation.
This last step is all about follow-through. Discover when your persona is online, where they go when they're connected, and what they do while they're there. Consider what publications they read, how they consumer their news, what they drive to and from work looks like. If you have these answers, all you have to do is start the conversation.