If you run a business that sells software or products through e-commerce, you probably already know that driving organic search traffic is essential to growing your business.

But if you get most of your business through referrals, you may have overlooked the importance of content marketing. But it’s time to give it another thought.

Marketing needs for service-based businesses

Marketing needs for smaller, service-based businesses that can only take on a limited number of clients aren’t the same as those of businesses that want to sell thousands of products.

Being on the first page of Google search results may not be a high priority to you. You get most of your business through referrals from existing clients and contacts, and don’t have the time to spend dealing with unqualified leads that might come from online marketing.

Our own company, Eucalypt Media, is a prime example. We’re a small content marketing agency. We don’t buy PPC ads, we don’t sponsor events or attend trade shows, and we rarely send cold emails—content marketing is our sole strategy for raising awareness of our business.

We want to remain small enough to continually provide customized, quality service to our clients. That means we’ll take a measured approach to growing our client base: 10 to 20 ongoing, retainer-based clients is all we need to build the business we want while maintaining the quality our clients expect from us.

Though we receive some inquiries via our web contact form, the majority of our own client work originates from referrals from existing clients and contacts. So why should we—or a realtor, or a small law firm—develop an ongoing content marketing strategy?

It helps new referrals understand your business

Even if the prospects who find your website through Google aren’t usually the ones you’re looking for, what do you have to offer those who seek you out based on a friend’s recommendation? Don’t just assume that they’ll buy your services because someone they know suggested it—while it’s great to have a warm welcome, many prospects seek out multiple recommendations before making a choice. Sharing your knowledge and expertise through your business blog will help you win over new prospects, and give them a good understanding of how you’ll work together from the start.

It builds your credibility and reputation in your industry

By frequently writing about pressing issues in your industry, and building relationships with others in your field by linking to their blog posts or sharing their articles on social media, you can boost your profile within your industry on a national scale. That will elevate your reputation to that of an industry leader—allowing you to be choosier about which prospects to work with, and, often, to command higher rates on your new engagements.

It gives you the ability to begin a relationship with prospects who aren’t ready to buy immediately

By developing a content marketing strategy that integrates regular blog content, a “lead-generating” white paper or ebook, and an email marketing list, you can capture the contact information of people who are interested in your content but not prepared to work with you immediately. By regularly emailing them informative, useful, industry-related content, you’ll be top of mind at the point that they are ready to choose a service provider—and you’ll have already built a valuable, trustworthy relationship with them through your content marketing efforts.

So, even if you have a small client base—and you’d like to keep it that way—content marketing can be an important strategy for long-term, sustainable growth.