If you look at your marketing options, you’ll more than likely agree that there is an overwhelming range of them. As recently as 20 years ago, you could count the number of marketing channels on one hand, but with the advent and growth of digital channels, businesses are now exposed to more choices for their marketing strategies than ever before.

With the average consumer spending hours each day absorbing content through a huge variety of channels, businesses face the daunting challenge of trying to choose among the hundreds of marketing channels out there, from PR, to influencers, events, digital, podcasts, print, newsletters, partnerships etc., and pick the ones that will work the hardest for the smallest amount of money.

It is no easy task trying to determine which channels to invest in – but the good news is that with the right strategy, you can market to your consumers with the right messages in the right marketing channels at the right time.

Develop your goals and message:  What are you trying to achieve? Yes, more business, but be specific – more loyalty purchases, or more online purchases, or more catering business. Then craft the theme of your message. It can be as simple as an offer for need-times or it can be a position you state about your business (e.g. “We are the go-to restaurant for business/office casual catering needs.”).

Know your audience: Having in-depth knowledge about your customers is key in choosing the right marketing channels for your business. Mine your CRM for customer insights, gathering demographic information and data on customer behavior. When you know about your customer in detail, where they spend time and where they don’t, will help you cut out the noise and determine which the channels they may populate. Use that information to create audience segments. Then target that segment with a message that is specific to them. For example, find loyalty customers that have order sizes that are less than a certain dollar amount and give them an offer that encourages a larger order size.

Check out the competition: Review what the competition is doing – see where they are marketing. This will not only provide you with some inspiration but it will also give you clues as to particular channels where they have had success from marketing and advertising. Similarly, should you decide to invest in the same channels, you’re likely to benefit by offering a better deal while appearing alongside them. Make sure you claim your turf in a contested channel but be on the look-out for channels that have been overlooked by your competition.

Consider the customer buying cycle: We all know that consumers go through a number of phases when contemplating a purchase – such as awareness, consideration and purchasing. Various labels and steps have been assigned to this process, though the basic elements are the same. Understanding the pattern customers go through, and where most of your customers are in the buying cycle is key to determining ideal channels to invest in. For example, one channel might be effective for creating brand awareness but not as effective for selling and converting. Not all marketing ends up generating a direct sale. Good marketers know that brand awareness is the sleeper technique – your brand is seen in many places and is top of mind when people think of ordering food. That is why the best marketers often sponsor charity events.

While there is a variety of platforms and tactics you can use to communicate with customers, being strategic in your approach to determine the most appropriate and relevant channels to your business will save you valuable time and marketing. And while you shouldn’t expect to get it 100% right the first time, by adapting and tweaking your marketing strategy as you go to fit your brand best, over time you will reap the rewards of reaching, retaining, and growing your customers.