Creating content to get your message out there isn’t a new concept, but many business owners still don’t understand how to leverage content to build their brand and increase market share. If you aren’t sure what content marketing is or why it is so important for your small business to get it right, reading these facts about it ought to inspire you to build an effective content strategy.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, the primary objective of content marketing is to “drive profitable customer action.” Essentially, this type of marketing involves the ideation, creation, and sharing of information online—think blog posts, YouTube videos, social media posts, streaming product demos on Periscope, and uploading images on Instagram.

Content doesn’t necessarily promote a specific product, but is used to stimulate interest in a brand with relevant, useful information that consumers can use to improve some aspect of their life. The three tenets of imparting information are: be entertaining, be informative or be inspiring. If it doesn’t embody at least one of these characteristics, what’s the point of your blog post or video? It should make readers or viewers want to share the info with their peers and colleagues.

Now that you know what content marketing is, let’s go back to basics. Here are 9 statistics about content marketing that every small business needs to know:

Stat #1 – 32% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy in place.

Studies show that firms who not only have a content strategy in place, but one that is well documented, have more effective campaigns. Why? A solid strategy is like a roadmap for the entire team: it states your purpose, goals, and KPIs to help keep you on track and force you to think through all the details and steps. Considering that 16% of businesses don’t have a document content strategy in place, and 48% have a strategy but not one that’s documented, by documenting your content strategy you will already be ahead of the competition.
Stat #2 – Small businesses (those with less than 100 employees) are more likely to have someone to manage their content marketing strategy than large companies with over 1,000 employees (78% compared to 58%).

Why is it important to have a specific person take charge of the content marketing strategy? Developing a solid strategy goes beyond just building a website and filling the pages with sales copy and product photos. Just as a sports team needs a coach to oversee and organize the whole process and lead and motivate the team, you need a specific person (Content Editor, Managing Editor or similar title) to ideate, edit, and format the blog posts, populate and organize the editorial calendar, and schedule social shares.
Stat #3 – 80% of B2B buyers prefer to get info via blog posts rather than an ad.

The decision makers at most B2B companies aren’t interested in your sales pitch so much as the information that you can provide. And they don’t just want info on the product or service—they want to get to know your brand as a whole. In fact, 70% of B2B businesses feel more connected to a company by means of the content it produces. Remember that unlike traditional marketing, content marketing is not about the sales pitch; it’s about building relationships and trust.
Stat #4 – 92% of B2B companies use in-house staff to do their content marketing.

If you’ve been stalling on creating content on a regular basis because you can’t afford to hire an outside expert, rest assured that most businesses assign this task to someone internal. You’ll probably get to a point where you’ll need to hire additional help, both for their expertise and to manage the workflow, but for now, to quote Nike: just do it!
Stat #5 – Successful B2B content marketers use an average of 6 social media platforms.

It isn’t necessary to develop content strategies for every single social site there is. Finding best-fit platforms where your target audience regularly hangs out may take some trial and error, but getting this right is essential. Google+, Instagram, and SlideShare had the biggest increases in B2B use in 2014, but this year it could be Vine, Tumbler or FourSquare that enjoys the largest expansion. Here is a great breakdown about which social networks your business should be using.
Stat #6 – 79% of businesses that blog regularly see a positive ROI.

The best marketers believe that blogs are the most effective tool in their marketing toolbox, and those who use it consistently are 13x more likely to have a positive return on their investment. For example, KISSmetrics made blogging a priority a couple of years ago and saw their blog visitors skyrocket from zero to over 350,000 and now their blog is responsible for over 70% of their leads. Some metrics to measure your own ROI include lead generation, sales, blog subscriptions, landing page views, and social shares.
Stat #7 – The most popular content tends to contain about 1,600 words.

According to Medium, “the average total seconds rises for longer posts, peaks at 7 minutes, and then declines.” They measured how long a blog post captured readers’ attention and then compared that to the word count, and concluded that a 7-minute read is about a 1,600-word post. Of course, as with any statistic, you must take into consideration that 1,600 words does not mean 1,600 random, poorly-written, uninteresting words.
Stat #8 – The purpose of content marketing is to establish trust, foster relationships, and develop leads—which then turns into direct sales.

The less effective a marketer is, the greater the emphasis they place on direct sales as a metric for content success. The least effective marketers rank sales as the 4th most important metric while the most effective marketers rank direct sales as the 8th most important metric. What this means is that by focusing on brand building and nurturing a positive reputation, the sales will come.
Stat #9 – About 32% of B2B marketing budgets are invested in content marketing.

Last year the portion of marketing budgets going toward content was just 25%, so it’s clear that businesses are understanding the importance of content. And the most effective marketers spend more than double what the least effective marketing firms spend (39% compared to 16%).
Conclusion

The days of the hard sale are gone. Investing in staff and resources to drive customer actions, whether it be to motivate social shares or convert a browser into a buyer, is an effective and profitable strategy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: content is king. Without it, you can’t expect to grow your business or build a reputation as a trustworthy brand.