Marketing products and services today seems like it should be easy, doesn't it? There are so many ways to reach potential customers, including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can seek out and target very specific demographics, like grandmothers in Kansas City who love to bake cookies.

But in reality it's not easy at all. I've been using social media to market products and services for years now. These platforms have gotten noisy -- very noisy. There are so many individuals and businesses clamoring for our attention on social media, I find marketing there to be quite a challenge. Am I reaching my customers, I wonder? Shouldn't my networks grow faster?

Fortunately, I was asked to review a book this fall that has me seeing things differently. After reading This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See -- the latest book by marketing guru Seth Godin -- I'm surer than ever that I will keep using these platforms to tell my story and reinforce my brand promise.

Full disclosure: I've been a huge fan of Seth's for a long time because he has his finger squarely on the pulse of consumers. Several of his books, including Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable, are some of my all-time favorites.

He also gave me some priceless advice when I interviewed him for an article. After pointing out flaws in my company's website, he told me that I didn't have to market inventRight services the way I was, which was with loud claims. For example, "Make millions with your ideas!" Hearing that hurt a bit. But I pivoted to focus on providing my customers with great content instead, and as a result, my business grew quickly.

Today, because of his insight, inventRight products and services are leading the industry in helping inventors reach their goals.

This Is Marketing is not for the fly-by-night set. You won't find any get rich schemes. It's for entrepreneurs who are committed to offering great products and services that they genuinely believe others need. If that's your goal, it will speak to you like it did me.

The biggest takeaway is that marketing today is about solving your customers' problems. This requires patience, dedication, and empathy. Building trust is paramount. In fact it's absolutely essential to your success.

Here's what he thinks you don't have time for:

Social media, which goes around faster and faster but never actually gets you anywhere.

Hustling and interrupting.

Spamming and pretending like you're welcome.

Making average stuff for average people all the while hoping you can charge more than a commodity price.

Begging people to become your clients and feeling badly about charging for your work.

Looking for shortcuts.

Instead, you had better start insisting on a long, viable path.

Holy cow!

How many of us can relate? I made some changes to the weekly newsletter I send out immediately -- namely, cutting out the spam.

Let's start with the title of the book. Why do marketers need to learn to see? Seth lays it out clearly. The first step to success is inventing a thing worth making, that has a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about. He's basically saying: Have a product or service that actually helps your customer and/or solves their problem. If you do this consistently, your customers will start to spread your message.

You have to earn their support, and that won't happen overnight. Start small. He urges us to remember that we can't be something to everyone -- so why would you market that way? He goes into great detail on this.

A lot of us want to spread the word as fast as we can to as many people as possible, but that isn't the right path. Seth explains that "a relentless pursuit of the masses will make you boring, because mass means average, the center of the curve, which requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone." Leading to compromises and generalizations.

This is so true. When you try to please everyone, you don't please the people who matter -- the right people. I also believe that having a point of difference is more important than ever. Taking a stance on things that matter is one way to stand out among the noise.

Seth asks us to think deeply about the promises we're making to our customers, which was extremely useful to me. Are you delivering? What does your brand really stand for? Your brand isn't your logo. It's how you treat people -- customers and non-customers alike. Authenticity is increasingly important as well. 

Here are the biggest takeaways for marketing your business in 2018.

1. Start with the problem you want to solve first -- not the solution. Effective marketers don't begin with solutions, Seth says. Instead, they begin with the group they seek to serve, the problem they seek to solve, and the change they seek to make.

This is so simple but so important. You must continually ask your customer about their particular problem. When I've been at fault, it's because I thought I knew best. This is a mistake. You must listen to your customer and what the market is telling you. Not what you think is right! When was the last time you called one of your customers out of the blue? I do this all the time to stay current.

2. Look for opportunities to create tension. It's easier to market to someone who is new and hasn't set a pattern of purchasing yet, because those patterns are difficult to disrupt.

One way of doing so is by creating tension. For example, the feeling of not wanting to miss out is an opportunity to create tension. Going out of business sales capitalize on this emotion. People cannot resist a bargain, even when they know they won't be able to make a return. (Not to say that this is a strategy you should make use of yourself.)

Tension is not the same as fear, he makes clear.

You can also create tension just by telling your story.

Instead of asking, "How can I get my message out? How can I get more people to listen to me? How can I convert more leads into sales? How can I find more clients?"

Ask: What change do I seek to make?

When your product or service solves a real problem, change results.

In that way, he perceives that marketing today is about changing the culture.

3. Keep sharing your story. Because most of us get bored telling the same story over and over again, we move off to tell a different story. This is a mistake. Seth states very clearly that in order to build trust, you must keep telling your story -- even when you're bored with it. The frequency and consistency of your story of is one way of building trust.

And there are limitless ways to share that story these days. Most people don't believe in giving things away for free. But in my experience, if you give good information away for free, people realize you have more information that is valuable -- and that they will pay for. That's the approach I took with my first book, One Simple Idea. I shared the same 10-step process I teach students from all over the world in a $20 book. 

If you're truly an expert who shares good content that actually helps your customer, there will be many people that will want more information and pay for your advice.

Everything you do to share your story builds awareness, permission, and trust -- which give you a platform to sell things that are worth paying for.

4. Don't discount. Lowering your price doesn't make you more trusted; in fact it does the opposite. Seth explains: When you're the cheapest, you're not promising change. You're promising the same, but cheaper.

"The race to the bottom is tempting, because nothing is easier to sell then cheaper. It requires no new calculations or deep thinking on part of the consumer. Lower price is the last refuge of a marketer who has run out of generous ideas."

Personally, I needed to hear this again, even though I don't believe in discounting. It's a slippery slope.

5. Stop spamming. This chapter hit me like a ton of bricks. Marketers who spam are basically attempting to steal others' time. You're better off treating people with respect, as that is the best way to get their attention. Give them good information that actually helps -- not spam.

If you do good work that helps others, you won't need to be discovered -- people will discover you!

Truth be told, I devour self-help books. They're one of the best ways you can invest in yourself. My favorites are those that offer tips and tricks you can implement immediately. This Is Marketing delivered and then some. In fact it was difficult to put down. Once again, Seth makes good on his own brand promise.