By Heather Miller

A lot of buzz is swirling around the growth of “content marketing.” But what is it really? It depends on who you ask.

The most agreed-upon definition of content marketing is that it’s a way for a company to communicate with customers in a manner that does not come off as a “pitch.” It can be as simple as an informative blog post on a topic or an article with a compelling point-of-view—all without any mention of a product or service per se.

That being said, the content should certainly relate to your industry! And, as a small business, content marketing is really a great way to connect with your customers.

Think about it. Small-business owners are the quintessential experts and specialists.  Know the ins-and-outs of the restaurant business? Own a shop? Run an architecture or design firm? You have unrivaled insights and expertise to share. Small businesses can truly reap the benefits of content marketing—from building relationships with your customers to the simple fact that search engines love content and give an immense SEO boost.

Keep these ideas in mind as you embark or grow your content-marketing initiative:

Find the Time

According to a recent survey from the Content Marketing Institute, the biggest challenges for B2B small-business marketers are lack of time and producing enough content.

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, be sure to create an editorial calendar and map out your ideas and themes ahead of time. Think about the audience you want to reach and your relevancy. Let’s say you own a pastry shop trying to reach new customers. Maybe one month it’s a “cupcake” theme with supporting articles like “inside tips from a cupcake master,” “secret ingredients for the ultimate cupcake,” or an article that compiles links and your commentary on some of the most amazing (or humorous) cupcakes on the Internet.

Keep in mind that, like with your business, you can’t do everything.  Freelance writers are becoming much more accessible, and there are now entire businesses devoted to providing affordable writers primarily for content marketing. If you’re short on time or simply don’t like to write (hey, that’s ok!), let them help you craft the words.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Experts agree—there’s no room for “one and done” in content marketing. When planning your content, think of how you can reuse or recycle it even further. An eBook can be broken out into multiple blog posts. Tips in a blog post can be used for any number of individual tweets.

Content-marketing software provider Kapost sums it up nicely with the “content pillar” approach: “A content pillar can be an eBook, report, guide, long video, or any significant (meaning large and thorough) content asset. By creating one content pillar instead of many disconnected, one-off pieces, it’s easy to break that finished asset into blog posts, infographics, videos, emails, social media updates, and other formats to attract different customer segments and communities across channels.”

Content marketing is driving the future of digital marketing—and it’s one way small businesses can compete with even the large-scale marketing budgets of major competitors. Now anyone has the opportunity to reach millions of people if you create that one, compelling piece of content that goes viral. And even if it doesn’t you are still building immense marketing cache for your business. Time to get started.

Heather Miller is a digital storyteller for Autodesk’s Line//Shape//Space.