Content marketing is one of the big buzzwords of 2012 so far. With millions of websites vying for your customers’ attention and hundreds of emails clogging their inboxes, now more than ever you have to prove to your audience that yours is a voice worth listening to.

And that’s where content comes in. As Tim Berry noted in a recent Amex Open Forum post:

“Many experts prove themselves by offering content. One of the very best ways to validate who you are is by publishing what you know. And we do most of that for free.”

The idea of delivering relevant, useful information to your customers is not new. But it’s gone big-time. And the reason is the incredible amount of information that’s available to anyone who can operate a keyboard. For instance, do you know how many search results you get when you type the words “business plan” into a Google search — 127,000,000!

Hear more about content marketing with Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, on the eleventh episode of The Bcast, Bplan’s official podcast (at 14:02):
Click here to subscribe to The Bcast on iTunes »

All those results can’t possibly be of  equal quality, so Google does what it can to serve up the best results first using complicated algorithms. But how do you know who you can really trust?

Providing quality content is one way businesses can prove  that they’re a trustworthy and knowledgeable source  in a sea of questionable offerings. If your customers land on a page that doesn’t have the information they’re looking for, or a page that promises one thing but delivers another, or one that simply comes across as amateurish or unhelpful, they’ll quickly move on.

On the flipside, if they land on a page that explains something to them or gives them helpful information with no strings attached, they’re more likely to consider that a source to be trusted. And if they trust your content, they’re more likely to trust your product when you offer it to them.

The best part about content marketing is that it forces you to think like your customers and really hone in on what they want. Providing content that’s useless to them isn’t going to build any trust.  Offering thinly veiled advertising and calling it content is going to turn them off. Being good at content marketing means truly understanding who your customers are, what they’re looking for, and providing it to them.