You hear so many new buzzwords that you don't even know which ones you have to care about anymore. So I'll give you the quick version: content marketing helps potential customers find your business.
Now, you may think, "But I advertise. I network." But that's not customers finding you. That's you finding customers. Which takes more effort on your part than when customer find your website and contact you.
Besides, these days consumers have grown up with advertising. So they tend not to believe it when they actually pay attention to it. We skip the commercials on when we watch TV shows on DVRs, so now we have product placement during the shows. (Anybody else remember cringing through the episode when Daddy Duggar joined Weight Watchers?) Think of content marketing like that, only more subtle, like when all the characters on a show use Apple laptops.
So how can content marketing work for you?
Let's say you sell gourmet pancake mixes. So think of the problems you solve for your customers. What sorts of things might people be searching for when you'd want them to stumble across your site and realize that you sell exactly what they need? So with gourmet pancake mixes, that could be gifts for foodies, hostess gifts, what to serve at brunch, what to buy that impossible-to-shop-for relative, and so on. Then you write blog posts on those topics. When people Google "gifts for foodies" your blog post will be among the search results. And that will lead them straight to your website.
But don't write a blog post called Gifts for Foodies that only lists your products. People will notice that right away and move on to the next search result. And worse, Google will notice and it will hurt your search ranking. List several items, including your gourmet pancake mixes. But give other suggestions too so that customers won't be instantly repulsed by the hard sell.
And if you keep giving your customers valuable, useful information (say, brunch cocktail recipes, suggested add-ins for your pancake mix-ins), they'll spend more time on your site during their first visit, and they'll keep coming back.
Some people have the time and resources to do this in-house. And others are beyond thrilled to farm this out to a freelance writer (like me). And hey, I'd lose my mind if I had to write about pancakes for 35 hours a week. Even the little silver dollar ones.
Still have questions about content marketing? Ask 'em in the comments.