Here’s why content marketing is worth the effort.

Digital advertising is highly scalable. If you want more leads, you just increase your spend to get more impressions, clicks, or conversions, or target another audience. But most brands don’t have an infinitely scalable budget. And a lot of organizations struggle to turn their leads into customers.

That’s where content marketing comes in. At some point, someone in your marketing department has probably talked about using content to grow an audience. But if your organization has had a lot of success with advertising, it has probably been easy to dismiss content marketing in the past. Why invest time and energy in something new, when advertising is so convenient, and produces serious results?

Because content marketing can actually make your advertising more effective. And if you do it right, you’ll wind up with another valuable way to generate new leads.

Here’s how content marketing helps you acquire more leads and get more from the ones you have.

1. Create more leads

Right after you do someone a favor, that’s a great time to make a simple ask. If your blog posts, videos, and other content is designed for a “top of the funnel” audience (meaning they have little or no familiarity with your brand), it’s probably not appropriate to ask for the sale. But you could ask this audience to sign up for an email list—especially if your list provides more free helpful stuff through a drip campaign, or if they get something valuable by signing up (such as a white paper).

Content marketing usually lives on your website or on marketing channels like YouTube, but it’s designed to tap into a new pool of people you haven’t reached yet, whether that’s through social shares or search engine optimization (SEO). Most likely, the people who already follow your brand will be the first to see your content, but the goal is that they’ll like it enough to share it with other like-minded people.

Most people don’t share ads, unless they’re unusually entertaining or informative. That’s why your content needs to actually provide something valuable. Your content needs to deliver on the promise established in your headline—people can see right through lackluster content, and then know when your ad is masquerading as a blog post.

If you genuinely create helpful content and connect it to your marketing funnel, you’re going to generate more leads.

2. Nurture the leads you have

Once someone gives you their contact information, what do you do with it? Maybe they specifically signed up to hear about promotions, sales, and other offers. But that’s usually not the case. Unfortunately, many organizations assume that once they have someone’s contact information, it’s time to close the sale. This leads to short term gains, but you wind up alienating a massive chunk of your audience that just wasn’t ready for the pitch.

This is where content marketing provides a valuable opportunity to nurture your leads. With consistent messaging and a steady stream of helpful content, your audience gradually warms up to your brand and becomes ready for “the pitch.”

Suppose your neighbor doesn’t have a lawnmower, so you offer to let them borrow yours. Later, you see them trying to carry something heavy, so you lend a hand. The more times you help out your neighbor, the easier it is to ask them for a favor. And the more inclined they’ll be to do something for you.

Nurturing your audience with content marketing works the same way.

The more you’ve given your audience, the more comfortable they are when you eventually ask them for something. Here’s the kicker though: by the time your audience is warmed up, your “ask” should actually feel like a “give.” You’ve developed a reputation for helping them solve their problems, and now, presumably, you’re offering a product or service that helps them solve related problems.

And if they decide to ignore you forever because you asked for a big commitment too soon, you can always win them back with more content.

3. Revive dead leads

Not every lead makes it through your sales funnel. Some organizations handle inactive leads by regularly culling their contact lists (a good practice by the way). Others use a relentless string of reminder emails (which quickly yield diminishing returns). But when people stop picking up the phone or opening their emails, that’s also a good time to try re-engaging them with content marketing.

Instead of reminding them about the offer you previously made (which they obviously ignored), you could remind them that their relationship with you can still be beneficial. Instead of taking the rejection as a sign that your leads are dead, you could take it as a sign that they weren’t ready, and just need more time in the hopper.

Some of these people won’t ever purchase from you. But if you can maintain a valuable relationship with them for long enough, some of them will—and even the ones who don’t may help you gain sales by introducing new leads to you.

Grow your audience with content

It’s not always easy to quantify the value of content marketing. And it won’t always produce an immediate return on investment. But content marketing is about the long game, and it benefits every stage of your funnel. It empowers you to re-engage inactive sections of your audience, and ultimately glean more sales from the other marketing efforts you’re already doing.