Businesses today have to do everything they can to get noticed. That means creating messages  prospective customers want to read — and making them easy to access. Supplement the sales pitch with helpful information, and those same prospective customers will perk up and engage.

This approach is called content marketing, and it’s got to be on every business’s agenda. Not sure where to start? Take a look at this Q&A to see how content marketing drives results and value.

What is content marketing?
A marketing approach that involves the creation and distribution of materials (like blogs, social posts, podcasts, and videos) that do not explicitly promote a brand, but drive interest in it.

How does content marketing differ from product marketing?
Product marketing — things like data sheets and product-specific collateral — is focused entirely on sales. Content marketing is more about education; your content answers specific questions and provides readers with valuable bigger-picture information. While product marketing usually dead-ends with the reader, content marketing is made for sharing and engaging. It’s a great way to 1) differentiate your product, 2) build your brand, 3) demonstrate expertise, and 4) start a conversation.

Why should businesses engage in content marketing?
Creating content on specific topics tells your audience you know your stuff. By becoming a credible resource on those topics, your business is more likely to get discovered by potential customers and build a *trusting* relationship with current customers (trust is key!). All of this strengthens your brand, your customer relationships, and your bottom line.

I’m not sold. Isn’t content marketing a lot of work?
Consider it from the perspective of a potential client. If someone is evaluating two products that are pretty much equal, but only one of the companies has a blog discussing value-add topics and demonstrating industry expertise, who’s going to win the business?

Does content marketing actually deliver leads?
It can. Some content — ebooks and infographics, for example — usually require users to complete a simple form before they’re able to access it. Once this information is captured, that contact moves to your database and becomes a lead or opportunity. Other content — like blogs and videos — are less lead-driven and more for brand awareness. Their goals are often education, engagement, and shares.

How do I know if my content marketing is successful?
Before you begin a content management program, it’s vital to create a strategy. Why are you building a content management program, what are your goals, who’s responsible for what, how can you gain maximum value. The old “publish-and-pray” method won’t cut it today, so you’ll need to determine how you’ll measure success; perhaps it’s a specific number of new leads, an increase in Twitter followers, or a certain number of clicks, shares, and downloads. Create a mini focus group and discuss your content with a few current customers to get their thoughts. Finally, experiment away! Try several things to see what resonates with your audience.

What are some simple ways a business can start with content marketing?
Content marketing can range from simple/free to complex/expensive. After you put your content marketing strategy in place, here are some basic ways to get going.

  • Company blog: Adding a blog to your company website is an easy update and provides a platform to make announcements, express ideas, and demonstrate expertise. Consider including how-to guides, interviews, listicles, and thought leadership.
  • Social media: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are an easy way to distribute your content to an audience that has chosen to engage with you.
  • Newsletters: The cost for sending a newsletter is minimal, but they do take considerable effort to write and maintain. But it’s another good way to engage with people that have chosen to share their email addresses with you.

As you gain traction, you can advance to content that takes more planning and/or design resources — like ebooks, infographics, and videos, or you can invest in marketing automation.

How often should I publish content?
There’s not a universal cadence that works for everyone. You have to balance the needs of your audience with your own ability to generate high-quality material. Posting a blog once a week sounds great, but may not be realistic for small businesses that don’t have a dedicated marketing team. So start with an easier goal — a new blog post once a month, a newsletter every quarter, or one ebook a year.

RJM Creative is a content marketing agency focusing on enterprise SaaS technology. Learn more on our website or by following us on Twitter or LinkedIn.