In the digital age, more and more businesses are using digital content marketing to engage their audiences. This trend represents a shift away from traditional advertising: Companies are looking to provide users with content that’s valuable to them, rather than interrupting their experience with unsolicited ads.

Content has quickly gone from cutting-edge to mainstream. Major brands ranging from American Express and Virgin Mobile to Marriott and L’Oreal are incorporating digital content as an integral part of their marketing strategies.

But you don’t have to be a big-name brand to see results from this type of marketing. What can you gain from thinking about leveraging content for your small business, and how can you start to implement an effective program?

Why Content?

Some key advantages of employing content marketing at your company include:

  • Promoting brand awareness. According to Campaign US, a study by content marketing agency Seven found that 57 percent of consumers feel positive about companies that create content that’s valuable to them, while just 10 percent look kindly on advertising. Because customers are much more open to content than traditional ads, a consistent content marketing campaign can be key in reaching your target audience and reinforcing your brand.
  • Building trust. Creating content allows you to position yourself as the expert in your industry and the go-to source when your customers need to solve a specific problem. Once your prospects hear a story they can relate to and see your credibility in addressing their challenges, they’ll be more inclined to purchase from you.
  • Spreading your influence. Covering unique, relevant and timely topics in your industry will generate interest and widen your reach online. With the use of social media, your content may be shared over and over again, driving more potential customers to your business.

Evaluating Performance

Of course, content creation is a means to an end. Your campaign has to help you achieve your marketing goals, so you’ll need to crunch some numbers to ensure the practice is working for your business.

This is where clearly defined key performance indicators (KPIs) become essential. Your KPIs should provide insight into how your content is performing, alerting you as to which types of content are most effective, which strategies aren’t working and where you need to improve.

Tools such as Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and Moz can be extremely helpful in this effort. Analyzing traffic trends on your site, these data analytics programs help you see key points including number of unique visits, bounce rates, average time spent on a given page, page views and conversion rates. These kinds of KPIs will give you a sense of how your audience is responding to your content.

Making It Fit

So how do you fit content into your broader marketing plan? Here are a few tips:

  • Use social media. Explore various social platforms to distribute your content. By sharing your expertise and maintaining a steady flow of relevant blog posts, videos, infographics and/or other media, you’ll build trust with potential customers.
  • Optimize email marketing. Email and content can work harmoniously together. When you send marketing emails to your subscribers, provide links to your blog posts or videos to help drive traffic and generate leads.
  • Centralize your efforts. Develop a content hub that directs potential customers to your site. If your content is compelling and highly ranked on search engines, you’ll get visits to this hub through organic search. From there, prospects will begin following your business, laying the groundwork for you to forge a deeper relationship and convert those prospects into buyers.

To ensure that your content marketing efforts get off to the best possible start, make sure your strategies will work for your specific business, industry and audience. Test out different types of content to see which ones perform best. And be sure to consider factors such as budget, existing resources and available expertise, as you want a strategy you can execute on for the long term, not a campaign you’ll have to abandon before it really gets going.

The sooner you start investing in content, the longer your program will have to gain traction, and the sooner you’ll start seeing results.

Emmie Sahlan has a graduate degree in English and has been writing professionally for the past five years. Her niche areas are insurance, credit cards, personal finance and education.