Why should business leaders spend time creating expert content when there’s so much else they are responsible for in their businesses?

It’s a question we get asked a lot here at The Community Company.

The simplest answer is that publishing valuable, non-promotional content on a consistent basis creates trust, and trust leads to business opportunities. Expert content isn’t about selling — it’s about educating and informing an audience over time.

I recently spoke with John Hall, CEO of Influence & Co. and an expert on content marketing, who distills the benefits into a simple formula: Trust + Top of Mind = Opportunity

“When you gain trust with an audience and then you stay on top of their mind, opportunity happens. It could be a sale, it could be brand advocacy, but ultimately, if those two things are happening, you’re going to benefit.”

Becoming a go-to resource for your audience can mean the difference between getting a keynote speaker gig or being in the audience; between nabbing an important meeting or sending cold emails; and more importantly, between a customer trusting you with their personal information (and eventually, money) — or going to your competitors instead.

The Benefits of Educating vs. Selling

Content marketing is increasingly important to businesses large and small. Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 annual research surveys of marketers in North America found that 76 percent of B2C respondents’ organizations now use content marketing, compared to 88 percent of B2B marketers’. Both surveys revealed that companies plan to create even more content in 2016.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, you could just do direct selling,” Hall explains. “Now we’re in this era of the informed customer where they know the information is out there — and your brand has to be one that is getting that information to them and gaining their trust.”

While specific objectives will vary company to company, here are some high-level benefits of this “informed customer” approach, regardless of your industry:

    • Trust: Consistently valuable content creates trust: in your brand, your company and your ability to deliver on your promises. And trust leads to opportunity — with investors, customers, partners, and potential hires.
    • Engagement: People don’t interact with ads per se. But they do interact with (and share) content that educates, informs and entertains.
    • Sales: Expert content that addresses customer pain points or topics of interest can serve as useful collateral for your sales team. And of course, contributing content to other websites can generate inbound leads and referral traffic too.
    • Hiring: Top talent isn’t easy to entice — unless your organization is seen as a trusted leader to prospects who value your culture and authority.
    • Culture: Here’s a fun idea from my conversation with Hall: try using your content marketing pieces during onboarding to help new hires get up to speed on your brand’s mission, message, and culture.

TIP: For more information about creating and executing a complete strategy, Hall outlines 5 critical factors for content marketing success here.

Three Ways to Get Started

In addition to creating informational content on your website and for marketing channels (e.g. email, social, white papers, or research reports), contributing content to other sites and publishers is an essential component of any content marketing strategy.

Participating in building and publishing opportunities is an easy way to get started, allowing you to reach a wider audience and build credibility where it counts.

Here are three ideas to kick off your efforts and position yourself as a leading expert in your field:

  • Answer Expert Panels: By answering several questions each month on topics you know your audience cares about, you’ll position yourself as an expert on Forbes.com.
  • Submit a bylined article: While articles do require an investment of time, they are also a unique opportunity for you to build your thought leadership platform in a public venue. Start by identifying topics that align with your organization’s goals and your industry expertise (e.g., attracting top developers to work for you) and create expert educational content that helps, instead of sells, your target audience.
  • Share a recent accomplishment with our blog editors: If you’re tight on time, this is a great way to get a quick writeup about your company featured on our blog.

The above benefits are available to members of groups managed by The Community Company, including Forbes Councils, Ad Age Collective, Business Journals Leadership Trust, and Young Entrepreneur Council. Click here to learn more about these communities.