Overwhelmed with how to market your business? Jonah Berger might have the answer.

Online or offline? Paid vs. organic? Social or traditional? And what is this new content marketing stuff? Think you have the marketing secret? There are so many marketing choices. There are so many marketing tactics. There is so much to learn and master. How will you choose to market your business today?

Organizations like the SBA recommend allocating 7-8% of your total budget for small businesses, while others typically advise between 5% and 10% of your overall budget to marketing. But, maybe we are asking the wrong question. Instead of concentrating on following everyone else down the tactic(s) path (Twitter cards anyone?), maybe we should back up and ask a different question.

Jonah Berger in his latest book, Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, asks us marketers to stop and first uncover the factors that influence buyers. For most of us, we spend too much time hitting our prospects over the head with our message using any number of the above-mentioned tactics. Maybe, just maybe there is a different tack we should take. Maybe we should be looking to see how our prospects are being influenced. And, by influence Jonah discusses the invisible or secret influences that impact our behavior.

Jonah has been researching this topic for over 15 years. His first book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, follows the Malcolm Gladwell mode of taking everyday stories and using those stories to reveal simple and basic insights. For any reader of Jonah’s books, these will be through the lens of current day marketing. To market effectively today one must break through the noise and clutter. Doing what everyone else is doing will not work for those of us who have not established a brand as yet.

Our first mistake, first and foremost, is our compulsion to spend too much time on our product (service, technology, retail storefront) than on who our customers are and how do we acquire, influence and service them effectively. Too many companies are dead on arrival as they fail to allocate enough energy to uncover these basic customer nuances.

Today’s customers are influenced by their friends, their professional colleagues, online reviews, tweets, Instagram pictures, video’s from Facebook – the list goes on and on. Understanding social influence and unlocking its potential might be the Holy Grail for marketing we all yearn for.

All hyperbole aside, obviously there is no Holy Grail; there are ways to bring to light a better understanding of our target customers. If each of us can identify what influences their behavior then we can possibly design techniques that will uniquely connect with those target customers. And that my friend is effective marketing.

Invisible Influence picks up on this theme and extends the storyline a bit deeper. Jonah is inspired by entrepreneurs (just like you and I) and anyone who is passionate about their ideas and doing a great job at developing them. Sometimes others motivate us and sometimes they demotivate us. Grab one or both of his books and read them through the lens of your own business. Just maybe you will become more effective at influencing your customers.