Marketers nowadays lead with a content first approach. In fact, content is the core of most of the best brands' strategies.  Technology has enabled companies of all sizes to leverage content as a means for dispersing branded information through a number of channels.

As the barrier to building content decreases, it is easy to see the negative side of this too,when consumers get overwhelmed with information overload. When consumers see the same messages continually, they pay less attention.

With all of this competition, it becomes so much more difficult for brands to distinguish themselves and differentiate their messages from others.

The good news is that most of the content out there is not breathtaking and memorable. This opens up the opportunity for those who are willing to invest in distinguishing themselves through educating their consumers.

These are 4 ways to differentiate yourself in the marketplace:

1. Switch to video

If you haven't noticed, video is becoming the primary method of communication online. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are making a major shift from text to video and the content creators are following their lead. One of the best ways to affordably create video is to use a service like The Draw Shop, a company that creates incredible animated and whiteboard explainer videos. The key to video is to make it memorable and easy to digest.

Animated videos are often ideal for marketing your message because they transition naturally across all channels. That means you can invest in one video and increase your return on investment by spreading it across all of your distribution channels.

Explainer videos are perhaps the best way to efficiently advertise your brand or product because they are actually interesting and exciting to watch. As a result, you should expect to see higher conversion and click through rates from self-selecting customers who watch your entire video.

2. Be authentic

More marketers are using templates and themes to create their content. As a result, you see a lot of messages that look and sound the same.

To stand out, simply create a piece that is customized to appeal to your target customer. Inevitably, some of your customers will have different tastes, motivations and preferences than some of your others. All that is is an opportunity to show each and every customer that you care about them and what they want.

How you build an authentic and transparent voice is up to you. Some of the best brands do this by offering a behind the scenes look at how your company runs via Snapchat or Twitter. Others do this by having live question and answer sessions with the company's CEO. You can definitely get creative with how you customize your message, but regardless, you should always put an emphasis on building a real relationship with your customer. At the end of the day, customers are real people, and they respond best to companies that treat them that way.

3. Offer consistency

A big problem in marketing is expectation management. Far too often, inexperienced marketers and companies expect to get results in the short run for their marketing efforts. Very rarely, if ever, do you actually see these short term stunts actually work. To build a successful marketing campaign, it's crucial that you understand, upfront, that you will need patience to see any results.

What does work, time and time again, is a consistent quality effort. This turns off a lot of marketers who are not prepared to wait for results. People get excited about the ends and forget about the means that will get them there.

Optimizing for the long run and producing content for a lengthy period of time is the only way to build relationships with customers. Differentiated brands are those that are willing to put the time in so that they can stand out. Customers always recognize the brands that are consistently showing dedication to their mission, and will reward them with long term support.

4. Provide Value

Perhaps the most ironic piece of marketing today is the incredible lack of valuable content in the market. Everyone claims to be producing great content, but when you really look at it, most of it is just a compilation of buzzwords that do not really say anything. It's crucial that if you are going to invest in building out a marketing campaign, you prioritize producing something that someone will actually want to read or watch.

If you do not have something interesting you can add to the conversation, then you are just contributing noise to the industry. No matter how you cover it up, bad content is still bad content.

Instead, produce things that people actually want to digest. Your job becomes 10 times easier when you make content people like, because they will then be coming to you to watch or read it. When your job becomes less about chasing your customers and more about interacting with them, that is when you are able to start cultivating real relationships.

The best marketers are able to produce valuable content on an extremely consistent basis. It is really tough to balance the two ends of the spectrum, but if you can hit that sweet spot and get into a rhythm with your content marketing, you will be able to increase your conversion rates and attract more customers.

Published on: Nov 14, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.