For a long time, marketing has been seen as a cost. A campaign runs, money is spent, hopefully gets results – and is then gone. There’s a benefit to the business, but it’s short-lived. Then you rinse and repeat.

That’s because traditional marketing is scratching your itch: the need to make a sale.

Great website content scratches your customers’ itches.

Let’s take a typical example. A website selling photography equipment, like most others, will have a basic need to tell visitors about the business. Customers want this information, so it should be provided. They also need information about your products, so they can make an informed buying decision. But neither of these is the highest need on their agenda. People might buy a camera once every several years. If your content is just sales-based then it’s relevant to them for a fraction of time.

But their need is not to buy a camera: it’s to take photographs. Unlike basic sales information, content which helps them take better pictures is relevant to them almost all of the time.

They might search online to buy a camera every few years, but they could be searching for photographic tuition every few days. Providing this enables you to build a relationship before they want to buy – putting you in prime position when they do. Tuition is just one idea – impartial product reviews, case studies and sample images from different cameras are all valid examples. Even products which are not your own could be reviewed – such as photographic holidays.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that the content should be good enough to buy – even when it's available free.

Your content represents your company – shoddy production values and poor content creates the perception of a shoddy brand. Great content will build a great brand.

Great content will drive relevant traffic and save you money on search optimisation. Better still, those benefits are – unlike search optimisation – sustainable. Great content matures online and is always working for you, even years down the line.

This makes it a radically different proposition to traditional marketing campaigns. It’s actually adding value to your company – measurable value, via assets which can go on the balance sheet – rather than performing a one-off task (however essential).

Great content that has a value to your customers also has a real value to you.