Businesses across the board are beginning to see the value of content marketing as an approach worth investing in.

But the truth is, being successful in content marketing requires more than realizing its potential — it calls for an intelligent and strategic approach in order to be successful.

If your brand isn't currently doing content marketing, how do you start? Here are three main steps to consider.

Phase 1: Plan

Sporadically tweeting and writing tangentially-related blog posts once in a while isn't setting yourself up for success. In order to prepare for content marketing activities, you need a clear strategy that takes into account the most important priority: what your target audience finds relevant.

To do a little sleuthing, look to what competitors in your industry are doing as a benchmark. How often to they post in their blogs? What seems to be the industry standard for social media engagement? You don't necessarily have to follow exactly what competitors are doing, but it helps to understand what your customers are seeing from brands that they could choose over you. 

You can use this information to get ideas for topics to write about, content length, format — whether it be infographics, blog posts, slideshows, lists — to increase the likelihood that your target audience will choose to engage with what you produce.

Set clear objectives, such as "Increase webinar sign ups by 30% for Q4" to guide your planning and inform your decisions as you fine-tune your process.

Phase 2: Promote

It takes a lot more than hitting "publish" to rise above the noise and catch a user's attention nowadays. You need to give your content the best chance of success by thinking carefully about promotion.

Look at the different social media platforms available and see what makes sense for your company. It might not be worth your time to establish a presence on each platform. For example, photo-driven sites like Pinterest make a lot of sense for certain industries, such as food and apparel — but are less useful for marketers in software or financial services.

Think about how often to post, which influencers to reach out to, which social media channels are most appropriate. Also, remember to tailor your message for each social media channel. Your audience is in a different mindset when they interact with Facebook versus LinkedIn. You'll want to adjust your message to make sure that the voice is consistent with your brand, but still appropriate for the channel in terms of length, tone, style, etc. 

The key is to think strategically about putting effort into social activities and channels that your audiences prefer.

Phase 3: Measure

After creating and publishing content, it's important to remember this last step of measuring. Unfortunately, this is the part where many brands fail to close the loop.

When you're releasing content, you should keep an eye on the content's performance. Did a certain type of article generate a lot of clicks? Have your Twitter followers increased after sharing more content? Did anyone fill out the poll on your Facebook page?

Don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate results. Content marketing takes time to do well and to ramp up on. If people didn't interact with your poll, don't give up on polls entirely. See if you can ask a different question, focus on a different segment of your customers, or post in the afternoon versus the evening. There are a lot of variables to tweak, so use your judgment and iterate along the way to figure out what works for your brand. And remember to measure what you find so that you can continually improve your methodology.