We\u2019re all hearing a lot of talk right now about content marketing. We\u2019ve already told you why you shouldn\u2019t fear it and even offered up some content marketing ideas to help get you started. However, you still may be asking yourself, what\u2019s the point? What does content marketing mean and why is it so important to your business? The goal of content marketing is to create informative content that is designed to, over time, convert customers and to keep previous customers loyal to your brand. It\u2019s an attention marketing strategy where you use content to attract people to your brand and then keep them there. As you can imagine, there can be a pretty big time investment associated with content marketing. So\u2026as a small business owner, why should you be doing it? What\u2019s the payoff? Below are five reasons content marketing matters to your business. Awareness The biggest benefit content marketing has to offer to a small business is awareness. After all, a customer can\u2019t make a purchase from your brand if they don\u2019t know about you. And content is a great way to make that initial introduction. Whether it\u2019s a blog you consistently update, an eBook you distribute, a webinar series you participate in, a newsletter you write, a tool you create, etc, by regularly creating content \u201cstuffs\u201d it gives you something to promote, to be found for, and to use as an awareness tool when courting a prospective or repeat customer. Each piece of content you write and publish is a trail you leave for the search engines and your users to find and associate you with. Trust When you create something of great value and then give it away to your customers simply because they deserve it you create trust. You help them to trust that you have their best interest in mind, you help them trust that you\u2019re a valuable resource, and you help them to trust that your business is one that honors its customers. And that\u2019s what content marketing is based on. Its hand delivering content to your customers today for free in an effort to build a relationship you can cash in on later. You trust they\u2019ll be around when you need them, and they trust the same thing right back. Lead Generation Of course, building awareness and trust are only your first obstacles in business. Once that initial hello has been uttered, you need to start the lead generation process to convert those eyes. That means using content marketing to do more than just build awareness about your company \u2013 but to provide authoritative and resourceful information about it. This is where you use content to share information about your products, your services, the industry that you\u2019re a part of, your unique company story, what you\u2019re passionate about, etc. This stage of the content marketing stage is all about setting your company up as an authority and showing customers, through your content, that you\u2019re capable of handling their needs. It\u2019s where you begin telling your story to pique that interest, while also demonstrating your unique abilities as a service provider. Upselling Content marketing aids in the upsell process by helping customers to see the relationship between certain products and services. Let\u2019s face it \u2013 many of us aren\u2019t good at upselling customers. We know that even if it\u2019s sometimes in a customer\u2019s best interest to purchase services or goods in bundles, we\u2019re not always the best at presenting it to them. Or at least not verbally. However, content marketing makes this a little easier. You can use the content on your Web site to show the relationships between two different products and how they\u2019re used together, and how they help make a process easier. You can paint the picture for your customers and help them see a new reality. Don\u2019t make your content another commercial for your products, but do highlight how seamlessly two products go together for better results. Or show data that lets your customers see that people who purchase X and Y together actually see a greater ROI. Content marketing allows you to tell a more compelling story. Shorten Sales Cycle If you\u2019re doing content marketing right, you can be sure that LOTS of people are stumbling across it. Your current customers are reading it, past customers, competitors, people who find you via keyword searches, your vendors or partners, etc. But do you know who\u00a0else is reading what you\u2019re putting out? It\u2019s arguably one of the most important groups of all. Prospective customers. We\u2019re talking about those people in the \u201cin between\u201d stage. They have a problem/need and they\u2019re still researching what company they want to seek out to help them fix it. They\u2019re doing their research \u2013 reading your blog, checking you out on social media, reading articles you\u2019ve written, etc. They want to know what your process looks like, what types of services you offer, and if you have experience with their exact need. Smart content marketers will understand these prospective customer types and then craft content around their needs, giving them something to find during the \u201chomework\u201d process that goes into selecting a vendor. It\u2019s strategic content marketing at its best. Those are just a few ways that a content marketing investment may make sense for your business. How are you using content marketing for your business or how would you LIKE to be using it?