You are probably wondering: "Why would I want to be in the online content business? Aren't newspapers, magazines, and just about every other 'content business' struggling these days?" Or maybe you are just thinking, "What the hell is content, and what does it have to do with my business?"

Fair enough. But business owners probably would have said the same type of thing about advertising in the yellow pages 50 years ago or getting listed in a catalog 100 years ago. And they would have been leaving money on the table just as you are today--because content marketing is the way businesses get noticed in the early 21st century.

Content is the currency of cachet when it comes to online marketing. It is a relationship building block. It is the way prospective customers take a measure of your knowledge. And although the media business has seen its share of upheaval, consumer demand for content has never been higher.

In fact, there's a lot to be learned from the successes and failures of those in the business of media. And you don't have to be a big media company to publish content. Start a website, a blog, or a YouTube account--even a social-media account--and you're there. It can take the form of anything--whether it's a list, a photo, an ebook, or a how-to video series. It could also be a list of helpful resources.

You should be in the content business. Here are three reasons why:

1. Competition is fierce.

Your customers have options. Lots of them. Not just down the street, but all over the Internet. And these days, even if they are planning to buy local, they are still researching their purchases online. These researchers aren't simply looking for a place to buy. They are trying to ensure that they are making a wise choice. Though some will turn to consumer rating sites, many will simply start with a search engine. Content will help you get found. And the right content will set you apart from the competition.

Few things in life are more difficult than moving, for example. And there are plenty of moving companies around. So how can a moving company stand out? It can post information online on its website including packing tips, links to helpful resources, and even tips on how to handle the stress of a move. With little or no in-your-face marketing, a smart moving company demonstrates that its people are moving experts who care whether people's dishes, not to mention their sanity, stay in one piece during the move.

If you are there with information that inspires and informs, you'll stand out from the competition.

2. Trust sells.

Good business is not about one-off transactions. It is about ongoing interactions. Certainly, the inherent quality and value of your products and services will lend themselves to long-term customer relationships. However, there are many purchases that require a longer sales funnel or consideration process (See No. 1.). Or given the number of options on the market, they do not lend themselves to seller fidelity.

Content provides a reason for customers to come back again and again, whether or not they are in the process of making a purchase decision. And the quality of that content builds trust in you, your site, brand, products, etc.

Consider this: A new mom is researching baby gear. Before she decides where to shop, she is researching anything and everything online. If you owned a baby-gear store, you could provide new-mother resources on your website, on topics such as healthy sleep habits, breastfeeding, and safety. This helps you develop a relationship with this woman. You've become a trusted resource, and she will be much more likely to be interested in doing business with you.

3. Sharing is caring.

Social media revolves around content. OK, the oh-no-not-social-media-again eye rolling just now was audible. But face it: You have to think about how social media fits into your marketing strategy. Although the Holy Grail is to have your customers do the marketing for you via social media, people are less likely to share information about what they've purchased than they are to share useful and inspiring information about what interests them. As the source of this content, you have the opportunity to go along for the social-media ride.

Let's say you have an auto-parts shop and want to increase your customers' social engagement. Give some thought to the sort of content your audience needs, such as instructional videos on common auto repairs or high-end aftermarket enhancements. If this content is useful, your customers are likely to share it with their networks, which helps them help you via social-media marketing.

So now you can see some of the ways in which offering some sort of content to your audience via your website and social-media channels can help your business.

From understanding your audience to whether you should create or curate, developing a content strategy may sound like a daunting process. But here's the good news: It is possible to create a content strategy that can work for any type of business, regardless of industry, offerings, or resources.