Content-Marketing (1)

For many organizations, it can be difficult to see the real value in content marketing. It almost seems too easy — all you have to do is create good, consistent content, and customers will start coming to you? It appears a little too good to be true.

While content marketing certainly isn’t that easy, and the results are far from immediate, the fact remains that it provides almost limitless value for businesses of all shapes and sizes. By engaging in a relatively inexpensive content campaign that includes articles, blog content, social media, press releases and e-newsletters, you can engage your existing and potential customers in a conversation that eventually leads to sales.

Related: A primer on content marketing for small businesses

Perhaps the greatest aspect of content marketing, however, is the fact that it’s accessible to all. No longer does it take an enormous investment of funds to market your business. You can now do so effectively and affordably by simply leveraging the expertise you already have in your field to provide content that interests readers. Sure, there are some initial start-up costs associated with setting up a blog and distributing press releases, but these things are far less costly than buying TV and radio ads or renting a billboard.

If you still think this is all hype, let’s take a look at some of the statistics related to content marketing. According to a recent study by WebDAM Solutions, social media marketing budgets are set to double in the next five years. Not only that, but companies that blog regularly tend to gain 67 percent more leads than those that do not. And almost all businesses worldwide currently engaged in content marketing plan on increasing their efforts by the end of 2014.

If you own or run a small business, this is all great news. With the right content, you can compete with the largest organizations in your industry, even those with huge marketing budgets. Google doesn’t care how much you spend on your marketing — all its algorithms know is if the content you produce is informative and if readers have taken a liking to it. If you can start to build a loyal audience, you could see your search results skyrocket.

Developing your approach

So what does a good content marketing strategy look like? At a basic level, it should include regular social media updates. Where you focus your social media efforts depends on the type of business you have. If you’re mostly a B2C company, for example, Facebook and Twitter might be the best avenues to reach customers. For B2Bs, better results may come from focusing on LinkedIn and Google+.

Secondly, and perhaps just as importantly, you should start a company blog. Although you may think of this as something people do in their personal time, most businesses and organizations today maintain and regularly post to their own blogs. Again, the main idea is to create rich, informative content, and your blog serves a great hub for it.

Additionally, you may want to explore the benefits of writing longer, more extensive pieces, in the form of articles, white papers and case studies. This content may vary wildly in length, depending on your business, your industry and your target audience. You should also look into creating and distributing regular press releases, which can have a tremendous impact on your company’s brand awareness. A press release, distributed online through a service like SBWire or PRWeb, can also have a tremendous impact on your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

More robust content strategies may include videos, e-newsletters, podcasts, free webinars and various other types of written or visual content. As you ramp up your efforts, you may be able to explore new opportunities to share your industry expertise with people who are looking for the information.

So, to answer the initial question, content marketing is truly an effective way to reach your target audience and build long-term trust with your customers. As more of your competitors begin to realize the benefits of this strategy, it’s important to act quickly before your business begins to fall behind.

Steve Bailey is the president of ProPRcopy, one of the nation’s leading copywriting services for businesses and organizations worldwide.