Content Marketing Examples: Content Strategies of Small Businesses
What does successful content marketing look like?
If you run a small business, you’ve probably thought about content marketing at some point. How could you not? It seems like everyone everywhere is talking about it.
Seth Godin even declared that “content marketing is the only marketing left.”
And yet—it can be hard to do content marketing as a small business.
You might look up content marketing examples and come across Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign. Or you might hear about how LEGO is amazing at doing content marketing through user-generated content.
Those examples are cool—and clearly effective—but you don’t have millions of customers eager to share their latest creations. You don’t have Coca-Cola’s massive brand awareness.
So how can you use content marketing for your small business?
The good news is that it can be done. The better news is that this blog post is going to show you examples of how. The best news is that each of those content marketing examples comes from a small business—not a media giant.
Let’s start by covering how content marketing strategies are different for big and small companies. Then, we’ll go through 7 effective content marketing examples from small businesses.
How is content marketing different for small businesses?
Having done content strategy for both 1-person businesses and huge business units in Fortune 500 companies, I can tell you—they’re different.
But a lot common content marketing advice treats them the same. In fact, a lot of it stays pretty top level, without really digging into what works (and why it works).
A disclaimer before I start this section—there’s variation in content strategy for small businesses too. Content marketing changes based on your industry and business model. Even when the fundamentals stay the same, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
That said, here’s a quick rundown of how small business content marketing is different from enterprise content marketing.
- More emphasis on individual content pieces. A business that has a million website visitors a month isn’t going to double its traffic through a single piece of content—but a small business can. A small business can often afford to make great content and distribute it through limited channels, because it doesn’t take much extra traffic to boost revenue significantly.
- Less emphasis on marginal increases. When you bring in a million website visitors a month and convert at 1%, driving your conversion rate to 1.5% means 5000 extra sales. A small business needs to care about conversion rate, but often cares more about total number of conversions—as the process of fulfilling orders takes a lot of work.
- A small business has limited budget. A small business sometimes has to use content because it can’t afford to do other kinds of marketing. Content costs time, but it usually doesn’t cost much money—making it a great small business tactic.
- Small businesses have an advantage—personality. Big brands need to work hard to build their brand personality. But a small business can often has personality built-in—because it’s run by just a few people! Personality helps people connect with you as a business, and is really useful for small businesses.
Are there other differences? Of course. The various content tactics and strategies change based on available resources and industry. There will always be things that large businesses can do because of their resources.
More and more, I expect to see large brands acquire smaller companies for access to their audience. Marketer Neil Patel has already detailed his strategy of buying domain names to get their traffic. He isn’t the first to use this strategy, and he won’t be the last.
Another strategy that big brands use—but smaller companies probably can’t—is sponsoring content pieces from creators that already have loyal followings.
To promote the upcoming season of The Voice, NBC sponsored over a dozen YouTube musicians to cover Kelly Clarkson’s song Medicine. When I was doing the research to write this post, I tried to count the total number of videos they sponsored—I gave up at 16.
Just from those 16 videos, I counted 1.5 million views—from people who are interested in watching covers of popular songs (the entire premise of The Voice).
A small business may not be able to buy sponsored videos or entire other businesses, but there are still effective content marketing strategies you can use.
Here are 7 content marketing examples that come from small businesses.
1. Cressey Sports Performance
Eric Cressey is one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the world. At his elite fitness centers in Massachusetts and Florida, he helps athletes get stronger, move better, and play better.
He also has an impressive—and growing—list of success stories. Cressey’s most prominent clients are baseball pitchers (his specialty), including Mets ace Noah Syndergaard, Nationals pitcher Tim Collins, and 2-time Cy Young Award Winner Corey Kluber.
So he’s pretty good.
Of course his status as an expert in the field of baseball strength and conditioning comes from his actual expertise.
He also can deadlift like, a lot.
He and I are roughly the same height and weight. He deadlifts something around 660, and I deadlift—well, it doesn’t really matter, does it?
Anyway, a lot of his status and a strength and conditioning expert—and his more general reputation as a coach—comes as a result of his fantastic blogging.
Cressey’s blog has expert advice and information that’s hard to find without trawling through academic journals. And it’s explained in a way that anyone can understand.
From reading recommendations to exercise recommendations—not to mention body-part breakdowns and videos featuring professional athletes—Cressey’s content marketing skills have undoubtedly increased his profile as a thought leader.
2. Orbit Media Studios
Orbit Media Studios is a web design agency based right here in Chicago. But through content, it extends its reach much farther.
Orbit Media primarily serves organizations that are based in Chicago. Much of their business comes in through Google searches—so you can imagine how important it is for them to rank for important keywords like “Chicago Web Design.”
How can a small company with 1.5 marketers rank on such competitive terms? Content marketing.
By creating compelling content and building relationships with content marketing influencers, Orbit Media is able to attract a lot of links back to their website.
This, in turn, raises the overall profile of their site—and allows them to rank for the competitive terms that actively bring in business.
3. Imperfect Produce
Imperfect Produce is a company that fights food waste by selling the produce that’s too “ugly” to be sold in supermarkets.
By sourcing “ugly” produce directly from farms, Imperfect Produce is able to deliver to customers for 30-50% less than grocery store prices.
It’s a pretty sweet deal (the kiwis I got last week were delicious)—but how can such a small company raise awareness and get customers?
The answer is that Imperfect Produce absolutely crushes their content marketing and social media game. That content, combined with the fact that the concept of the service is excellent, spurs traffic, word of mouth,and referrals.
On their blog, Imperfect Produce provides helpful content that teaches people how to cook with many of the vegetables they offer. Blog posts include topics like “How to Fall in Love with Bok Choy” and “4 Seasonal Squashes and What to Do With Them.”
They also include articles like “Composting 101,” correctly guessing that people interested in reducing food waste are also into things like composting.
But the real star is Imperfect Produce’s fantastic presence on Instagram.
There are tons of funny, personality-filled posts. Together, all of these things have combined to help Imperfect Produce take off.
4. River Pools
River Pools is one of the classic content marketing examples.
Struck hard by the recession in 2008, River Pools was in trouble. People just weren’t that interested in installing inground fiberglass pools.
The whole pool industry was having trouble. And then Marcus Sheridan, the owner, decided to try blogging.
He started simple. River Pools had lots of experience installing fiberglass pools, so he focused his content around that expertise. What questions did potential customers need answered before buying a pool?
With the influx of traffic and a list of satisfied readers, River Pools more than survived the recession—it thrived.
If you had told me I would one day purchase a book called “Becoming a Supple Leopard,” I would have called you a crazy person.
And yet, because of physical therapist Kelly Starrett’s investment in content marketing, I eventually did buy that book (and enjoyed it). I even bought his third book, Deskbound, and regularly consume the content on his site MobilityWOD.com.
Kelly Starrett started out by opening up a CrossFit gym in 2005. After becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Starrett began to teach mobility seminars—and in 2010, he began posting daily mobility videos to spread his advice even farther.
The result? Starrett still has San Francisco CrossFit, but he and his wife Juliet also run a thriving online brand and membership site. Despite its unusual name, Becoming a Supple Leopard became a bestseller.
By posting informative, expert videos on how to cure common aches and pains—in his fast-talking, intriguing personal style (which keeps them interesting)—Starrett was able to build a large audience and boost the profile of his business.
What I love about this example is that it shows how content is a long-term strategy. Starrett started posting daily videos in 2010—and though he saw a bump in profile quickly, his business didn’t really explode until 2013.
Valuable content published in a consistent format over a long period of time is a winning strategy for small businesses.
Strolleria is the content marketing example that proves you can use content to promote just about anything. Brick and mortar store that sells baby strollers? No problem.
With a physical location in Scottsdale, Arizona and an online store that helps spread its reach, Strolleria epitomizes small business content marketing.
It also proves that—unlike the massive budget content marketing examples you may have seen—content doesn’t need to be fancy to be effective.
If you’re a new parent trying to choose a stroller, wouldn’t you appreciate a stroller buying guide?
Better yet, wouldn’t it be great if there were a quiz that could match you with the best stroller for your needs?
What if you’ve heard good things about both the Bugaboo Fox and Bugaboo Cameleon, and need to compare them?
Strolleria’s blog solves all of those problems. For people who need to choose a stroller or car seat, Strolleria provides fantastic information—and who do you think those readers are going to turn to when it’s time to make a purchase?
7. Platinum Skin Care
Platinum Skin Care is an ActiveCampaign user, so we’ve talked about them before. In fact, we put together an entire case study on how they’re able to get a 50% email open rate and 17% paid conversion rate with their lead magnets.
So why do I bring them up here? Because they have a really interesting approach to content that’s a bit different from the others on this list.
But the real shining star of Platinum Skin Care is their email content.
When you visit the Platinum Skin Care website you can take a quiz that helps you find the right products for you skin type and specific needs.
Based on your results, you get customized product recommendations—this is already fantastic segmentation, and would work great on its own.
But then Platinum Skin Care takes things a step further, by sending a series of emails based on your quiz results.
Notice that only one of those emails is pushing for a sale. The others just provide helpful tips about how to manage acne—a major pain point that Platinum Skin Care products help solve.
The content of these emails is simple. Each email is just 300 to 1000 words about a specific question related to skin care.
But for someone looking for answers, this nurture sequence is really valuable content—and for Platinum Skin Care, it drives conversions and creates customers.
Conclusion: What do you notice about these examples?
When you look at starting a content marketing program for your business, it’s easy to get intimidated. It’s easy to see the multi-thousand word articles, beautiful infographics, and massive campaigns and decide “that’s not something I can do.”
But what do you notice about these examples?
They’re all simple. There’s nothing about this content that you couldn’t do.
Kelly Starrett started out by posting a video every day. Early videos were just him talking at a camera and demonstrating some exercises. Today’s videos are still that, but with slightly higher production quality.
Eric Cressey also uses a video on deadlifting technique as a lead magnet—the same video he’s been using since 2011.
River Pools built up a blog with tons of content, but they did it just by answering the questions that people were already asking them.
They didn’t need to put a massive investment behind content—content marketing might even have saved time in the long run, because people with questions could just be linked to existing articles.
Platinum Skin Care did the same. They added a layer to their content through segmented emails, but fundamentally they are still focused on answering questions.
Each of these businesses is a fantastic example of content marketing, but none of them did anything that you can’t do for your business.
Answer your audience’s questions. Do it consistently over time. Build a following for your company’s content, and you’ll see your company’s customer base grow.