“People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it,” according to author Simon Sinek. The best brands give customers reasons to care about them. Unless your brand can climb into your prospect’s consideration set, that prospect will not seriously consider your brand for purchase. The earlier you reach your prospect in the customer decision journey, the better chance you have to make the sale. The secret may well lie in the power of content marketing.

What is content marketing?

Let’s start with my definition of marketing, which I describe as the process by which a firm profitably translates customer needs into revenue. So, what is content marketing? I believe it is the creation and application of all marketing content formats across relevant touch points where your brand “touches” customers. Armed with a good understanding of the media consumption habits of your audience, a marketer’s goal is to use content marketing to help meet the informational needs of your audience while achieving the revenue goals of your company.

What is content strategy?

Wikipedia defines content strategy as “the planning, development and management of informational content—written or in other media.” The marketer’s strategy is to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time and in the right place. Effective content strategy includes brainstorming, planning, creation and publishing of remarkable content. It’s how your brand can go from Point A (where you are today) to Point B (where you want to be). It includes the actions you take to reach your brand’s goals.

How do you build an effective content strategy?

First, consider your value proposition. This is where the true strength of your brand can yield valuable insights for the creation of key messages to deliver your value proposition and engage your audience. Do you provide a great customer experience? Excellent service? High quality? Superior value? What is the reason to choose your brand versus competition?

It’s about engagement—not just publishing

Ask yourself, what makes us interesting? What’s our story? Create a brand story that your audiences can adopt into their own. It is important to infuse your content strategy with big ideas. Consider some brands that encourage user engagement through storytelling: Zappos, Nordstrom, Starbucks. Or, consider the power of Apple: “Hello, I’m a Mac.”

“The goal with corporate-brand storytelling is to transition the consumer from awareness to trial to advocacy. You want people to use your brand to describe their lives: a “Windows User,” a “Mac Guy,” a “Honda Driver” and so on. The same concept applies to your brand. The goal of marketing is to get people to think of your brand the next time they seek solutions.

Tips on creating a winning content development philosophy

It is important to be sensitive to marketplace changes and the needs of your audience. Great content bridges the gap between your customers’ needs (read: pain points) and your brand as the solution.

  • Focus on using customer-centric “voice of the customer” language.
  • Write for your audience using the 80/20 rule (80 percent of content is of value to the reader and 20 percent is about your brand/products).
  • Create and publish content that contains real value. Goal: you want readers to come away smarter from having visited your website, blog, business Facebook page, etc.
  • Start conversations that engage your audience to increase content sharing.
  • Create remarkable content that reinforces and extends your brand online and offline.
What elements do you see as essential to your content strategy? Are you engaging your audience as effectively as you could? How and where are you engaging your customers in conversation?

This post was originally published on AT&T’s Networking Exchange Blog.

Read more: Time to Move on From Content Marketing and Social Media