Good news for those of you looking to using LinkedIn to generate more sales leads with your content. New data released from LinkedIn reaffirms the importance of using original, unique and free content you create to "buy" the time, attention and interest of prospects on LinkedIn.

Releasing their recent findings, LinkedIn found that only 12% of professionals are willing to pay for digital content in the next year, despite the trend for publishers to use subscription business models and content paywalls.

This valuable evidence is indicative of the power of content marketing, and is one more reason for you to step up your game in terms of offering valuable, free content that solves a key problem for your target audience. Not only is content the price of admission if you want to open up conversations with your ideal prospects online, but is they way professionals will continue expect to consume information relevant to their professional needs in the future.

"Whereas 87% say they don't pay for content today, only 76% say they definitely won't in the next year. The 13% who declare they don't know if they will pay or not could be waiting to see how the content landscape develops," noted LinkedIn. "The key factor shaping people's willingness to pay for digital content is the quality of content available for free."

So what does this mean for you? Here are a few key points to remember when it comes to your content marketing efforts on LinkedIn - or elsewhere online.

Content Marketing + LinkedIn = Find the Riches in the Niches

Creating content has become easier than ever. Whether it's through a blog post, podcast, or offering a free webinar, your content helps you prove your worth and earn trust from potential customers online.

Your blogs or other forms of content should always be created with a specific audience in mind. Make sure you give readers some actionable advice or tactics, ones they can immediately utilize to achieve their professional goals in their specific industry or niche.
This will immediately set you apart from a vast majority of competitors online - especially on LinkedIn, where it is easy to identify and engage with specific, targeted groups of other professionals.

Content + Context = Conversation

Remember, the free content you create and share online is the gateway to new business conversations, and creating a sales funnel around that free content is key.

LinkedIn makes it easy to both monitor and engage with your audience in real-time with each post you write, giving you the context to build business relationships on the platform that lead to sales.

Also, you can use the power of LinkedIn Search to find a customized list of your ideal prospects who are the target audience for your content.

They key on LinkedIn is to first establish a personalized relationship with your prospects, then pivot from the initial icebreakers into a one-on-one conversation where you offer something of value.

It's rare that anyone says "no thanks" to free tips or advice designed to help them specifically with their business needs - as long as those free tips are truly of value.

Remember, you must bring real and legitimate value to the other person before you can ask for anything in return!

Once you've offered some free content, you now have the relationship capital to ask your prospects to opt-in for even more information and insight.

And remember - whatever "ask" you make with your call to action should be in direct proportion to the amount of trust and value you've built up to this point.

Content = Currency

As long as there is high quality, professional content available for free, there will be an audience ready to consume it.

Because LinkedIn is such a highly visible, trusted social network for professionals, it continues to be the ideal space to build your professional reputation.

Creating and sharing content on LinkedIn allows you to demonstrate your authority and expertise, instead of just claiming it.

There simply isn't another platform where all the world's professionals are gathered in one place, let alone in "work" mode while interacting there. Take advantage of this!

Now is the time to get in on the ground floor and make a name for yourself in your niche over on LinkedIn.

As I always say, the "riches are in the niches" -- the more specific you can be in terms of what types of professionals you target on LinkedIn, the better traction your post will get.

So hone in on what you can offer your specific audience and become a big fish in a small pond.

And, once you do, you'll find an online audience eager to consume the high-quality, valuable and useful content that you create.

Editor's Note: Looking for Internet Marketing Services for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:

Editorial Disclosure: Inc. writes about products and services in this and other articles. These articles are editorially independent - that means editors and reporters research and write on these products free of any influence of any marketing or sales departments. In other words, no one is telling our reporters or editors what to write or to include any particular positive or negative information about these products or services in the article. The article's content is entirely at the discretion of the reporter and editor. You will notice, however, that sometimes we include links to these products and services in the articles. When readers click on these links, and buy these products or services, Inc may be compensated. This e-commerce based advertising model - like every other ad on our article pages - has no impact on our editorial coverage. Reporters and editors don't add those links, nor will they manage them. This advertising model, like others you see on Inc, supports the independent journalism you find on this site.