Having a great idea can be exciting, especially if that idea is something that’s not currently available or something that does exist but can be improved. Aspiring entrepreneurs start businesses every day, but you might be surprised at how many of them don’t last. If you’re going to pour your heart into something, it’s best to do it in a way that will provide you with the greatest opportunity for success.

As an entrepreneur, you really need to know how to market yourself and your product. While many people equate marketing with advertising, brochures and websites, the truth is there’s much more to learn.

Growing up as a teen in New Jersey, my father started his own company and so I learned firsthand how businesses were built. My marketing knowledge, which I’ve continued to accumulate over the years, is playing a major role in my own entrepreneurial ventures as I’ve opened a golf complex in Oakville. Here are 4 of the most important marketing skills every entrepreneur should have.

Study your audience

First, you need to know who your target audience is. You may want to start by conducting a focus group. This will allow you to gather information like buyer motivations, thoughts, and opinions. It is also a way to get to know your audience on a more personal level. The more you know your audience, the more you can target your marketing efforts to appeal to them.

Market research

You can’t know with 100 percent certainty, but you can usually predict people’s buying habits based on their demographics, psychographics and past behaviors. Conducting market research means learning everything you can about your intended audience so that you can develop a profile of your ideal customer that indicates their interests, buying habits and other characteristics.

Conducting competitor analysis

Another component of starting a new company is learning about who your potential competitors are, what they’re selling, whom their customers are, how they promote their product and, most importantly their commitment (or lack thereof) to customer service. In order to compete with them effectively, you need to differentiate your company or product in a way that’s meaningful to your target audience. If what you’re offering is new and/or unique, and you believe your audience will support it, you’ll want to introduce it before other competitors run with the same idea. And, in the case of the customer experience, show you care!

Promoting your venture

Today, there are more channels for spreading the word and selling than ever before — from traditional advertising and public relations to websites, ecommerce platforms, social media, online video, and more. To reach your audience members effectively, it’s crucial to know what social platforms they are using and what kind of marketing is most likely to motivate them to buy. One way to track customer behavior; for example, is through applications like Google Analytics, which will allow you to view visitor statistics including most-visited pages and web addresses. Plus there are many other useful apps like Advanced Campaign that integrate email, social media & marketing initiatives.

These pointers barely scratch the surface. There are a range of resources available to help you devise a solid marketing plan. Regardless of what outreach ultimately fits best to your needs, developing an understanding of best marketing practices and applying them to your company’s long term plan will only enhance your business.