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. It’s hard to make content that makes money.
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 have 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. You can use content marketing to promote your business—even if you don’t have a huge budget and aren’t a professional blogger.
Here are 7 content marketing examples that come from small businesses.
- Cressey Sports Performance
- Orbit Media Studios
- Imperfect Produce
- River Pools
- Platinum Skin Care
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.
This is one of the best way to write blogs people love—showcase rare expertise in a way that makes people feel like they “get it.”
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.
How can you do content marketing like Eric Cressey?
Eric Cressey is an outstanding content marketer, and his business is an incredible example of content marketing done right. What can you learn from his content marketing strategy?
There are two major takeaways:
- Build relationships
- Be a subject matter expert
Cressey is a legitimate subject matter expert. When it comes to strength and conditioning—especially for baseball players—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone with more experience and practical knowledge.
So what’s his approach to content marketing? Sharing that knowledge and diving into the technical stuff.
In fitness, as in most industries, most content is targeted to the masses. Most content doesn’t go all that far beneath the surface level.
As the brilliant content marketer Jimmy Daly argues, “actionable content is not a strategy.” There are so many “tips and tricks” out there that actual expertise is rare.
Cressey displays actual expertise. His blog posts are a combination of big picture thinking and specific exercises—but even when he shares tactics, he connects those tactics to the bigger picture.
Cressey’s audience isn’t your average fitness buff. It’s an audience of:
- Other strength and conditioning coaches
- Elite athletes
- Parents of promising youth athletes
These are people who want to know that they’re in the hands of a genuine expert.
By the way—because so few people share expert-level content, Cressey is able to rank for thousands of specific keywords.
The other secret to Cressey’s success? Relationships.
Cressey’s site regularly features guest posts, and his relationships in the industry give him distribution of the content he writes himself.
Partnering with other coaches like Mike Robertson, Tony Gentilcore, and Dean Somerset has given Cressey’s content marketing more authority and reach.
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.
How can you do content marketing like Orbit Media Studios?
You’re in luck! Orbit Media Studios writes content about…how to do content marketing!
If you want to do content marketing like Orbit Media, look no further than the Orbit Media blog. Unless you look to the book Content Chemistry, by Orbit co-founder Andy Crestodina.
Both sources of content marketing advice have tons of examples, step-by-step content distribution processes, and SEO advice.
But here’s the quick rundown of Orbit Media’s approach:
- Search scales best, so focus on search engine optimization
- Create the best page on the internet for your topic
- Build relationships to help promote your content
- Rank for the money phrase
Orbit Media is a web design agency—not a content marketing agency. There are only 1.5 marketers at Orbit, so the agency needs to be extremely efficient in its marketing.
Enter: search engine optimization.
Traffic from Google has a few advantages over other sources of traffic:
- It’s highly relevant to a target keyword
- There’s a lot of it to go around
- It lasts for a long time—and even grows
But it’s hard to rank in Google as a small website. So what does Orbit Media do?
Orbit starts by creating the best page on the internet for target key phrases related to content marketing, web design, and SEO. By creating long-form content to answer every question on a narrow topic, Orbit can increase the chances of a post ranking—and attracting links.
To get more links, Orbit works with influencers.
Orbit Media blog posts tend to feature influencer quotes. Because they’ve contributed quotes, and are content creators themselves, influencers are more likely to send backlinks to the Orbit Media website.
What about leads though? How does SEO get more business?
The increased number of links increases Orbit Media’s Domain Authority, or ability to rank in Google.
That means it can rank for “money phrases” like “Chicago web design.” These are the phrases potential customers search—and Orbit is right there at the top of search results.
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,