For marketers, the ultimate sin is for your brand to go unnoticed. If no one knows you’re there, you’ve almost certainly failed at your job. As we enter 2016, the most important foundation of establishing a presence is to create and deliver content into the marketplace. The more compelling the content, the better your presence.

With content, you’re in the game.

Without content, you don’t exist.

In a world in which the audience is inundated with information, if you stop engaging in conversation with them, you disappear. Out of sight, out mind.

If you aren’t delivering compelling, audience-focused content into the world, the customer will never find you. If you don’t have that content, you’re ignoring the conversation you could be having with those prospective customers. If you don’t have that content, you can’t build trust and demonstrate your expertise to the audience.

Two-thirds of the buyer’s journey occurs on the customer’s own time. Today’s buyer’s journey is social, self-directed, trust-based and transparent.

The first thing a brand must do is acknowledge that the journey is self-directed by the buyer. The customer is in charge of this journey – she determines the pace, the path and what influences the twists and turns of the journey. If you’re not engaged in content marketing, you’re ignoring the customer’s path to your front door.

Here’s why.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

For starters, virtually all SEO today is about content. Yes, there’s still a technical aspect of SEO, but the ongoing maintenance of fueling organic search is predicated on content. The search engines want people to find exactly what they’re looking for; they want them to have a great experience, not get trapped into reading some incomprehensible, keyword-stuffed article that leaves them with their questions unanswered. Therefore, the search engine algorithms today are focused on delivering the best content to searchers, which means that the brand that creates compelling content that gives the audience what it’s searching for is going to win.

Brand building.

Content marketing is an opportunity to demonstrate and reinforce your brand personality. As with all marketing, the goal of content marketing is to establish a perception in the prospect’s mind. Unlike more traditional marketing approaches, which typically “talk at” the customer, content marketing seeks to “speak with” the customer. By providing helpful, informative, non-salesy content, you’re initiating and nurturing an ongoing conversation; you’re helping, not hyping. In addition to helping to promote your brand, this helps to establish your brand as one that cares about its customers.

Trust building.

It’s about thought leadership. When your internal Subject Matter Experts deliver smart content to the marketplace, they demonstrate their expertise. Without selling your product or service, they showcase their personal thinking and your organization’s approach.

When you do this, you help the prospect to have confidence in you and your organization. They begin to trust that you can do the job. Once that trust exists, you’ve broken down the barrier of skepticism, and making the sale becomes exponentially easier.

Acknowledging today’s sales funnel.

As mentioned above, the buyer is now in control of the pace at which they move through your sales funnel. You can sit back and hope they find you (without content, they won’t), or you can provide the stepping stones that move them along their journey. This means it isn’t just about generating awareness; it’s about developing middle-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel content as well. It’s about mapping out that buyer’s journey and creating content for each stage of the pathway.

Without content, nearly all of your other marketing efforts will go completely unnoticed. It’s time to start the conversation between your brand and your prospects.