Learning Hub | Content Marketing

Content Marketing for Small Businesses: Three Great Examples

June 17, 2016 | Jon Teodoro

Size doesn’t matter. It’s true – just ask anyone in the content marketing field. This new-ish form of marketing that is currently sweeping the industry as a business owner’s most crucial tool is equally beneficial for large and small businesses alike.

Content marketing is different from other selling tools because it is readily available to anyone and instead of relying almost exclusively on money (think advertising), it relies mostly on ingenuity.

So, what is content marketing?

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” – Content Marketing Institute

Consistent content, it would seem, is the leg on which this whole idea stands. So, in order to understand what content marketing is, we need to understand what constitutes content. Ya follow me?

This is where the ingenuity comes into play. Content can be derived from a multitude of sources. It can be words in a blog. It can be pictures. It can be a podcast. It can be social media accounts, newsletters and magazines, and even dance marathons.

Have I lost you yet?

No worries – I came prepared for such a scenario. I have found three great examples from various industries and business size to help us comb through the extensive, ever-developing world of content marketing.

Here we go.

Would Anyone Care for a Slice of Pie?

There is a little street-corner pie shop in the ultra-hip, up-and-coming West Village neighborhood of Detroit. The name of this shop is Sister Pie, and if you’ve never heard of it then you most likely don’t live in metro Detroit.

Sister Pie is a small, local business to be sure, but it has grown tremendously since owner Lisa Ludwinski was shoving as many pies as she could fit into the double-stacked oven in her parents’ kitchen a short four years ago.

From selling to family and friends to owning a successful bakery, Ludwinski has navigated the ups and downs of building a small dream into a profitable business. And content marketing helped her along the way.

A past food vlogger, Ludwinski knows the importance of social media, and she makes sure that the Sister Pie Instagram game is strong with progress shots of the morning bakes, pie-of-the-day announcements and dance break videos (which are my personal favorite – they are hilarious).

A couple of years ago, Ludwinski utilized her Instagram prowess and her dance moves to raise money for her storefront through a 10-day Indiegogo campaign. Every person that donated received a ticket to a 24-hour party where Ludwinski promised to dance the entire time if Sister Pie met its fundraising goal. Well, it did and she did.

Sister Pie now has 22.3 thousand followers on Instagram, runs out of pie daily and requires call-aheads for holiday orders.

Though there was a lot of behind-the-scenes elbow grease that went into this success story, it was her social media sense of humor and personal connection with customers that allowed Ludwinski to turn Sister Pie into an established Detroit institution.

Non-profit Doesn’t Mean No Profit.

Non-profit organizations don’t follow a traditional business model because their profits are based more on raising awareness and funds.

Local non-profit Greening of Detroit shows that content marketing is just as valuable a tool to orgs as it is to multi-million dollar businesses.

Greening of Detroit’s mission is to help “Detroit grow and flourish for a greener tomorrow,” but they don’t simply rely on volunteers to find out about them and sign up. The organization has a strong presence on social media where they post articles about green practices and environmental legislation from around the globe to draw in their audience.

They also launched their Detroit Conservation Corps Adult Workforce Development Training program, which focuses on bringing down the unemployment rate in impoverished neighborhoods by providing valuable job training and certification in the green industry through an eight-week paid program.

It is unusual for a non-profit to provide payment for any involvement, but Greening of Detroit realizes the bigger picture of their mission is to create a stable and healthy city, and their diverse programs have drawn a multitude of volunteers to their events, bringing the communities together.

Content marketing often works in this cyclical way of giving and getting.

Jones Soda: A Success Story

Have you ever heard of Jones Soda? You know, the glass bottles of cane sugar-sweetened goodness adorned with personalized labels of kids running through sprinklers, first date kisses, nature portraits and the occasional selfies.

If you are familiar, then you have experienced content marketing firsthand.

Jones Soda Co. was created in Vancouver, BC in 1995 by Peter van Stolk and photographer Victor John Penner. Their idea was to package their bottled beverages with random photos taken by Penner.

It wasn’t too long after their product hit the market that customers started sending in their own photos, and Stolk and Penner realized the potential these personalized photos could have on their profit margin.

They relied on a simple psychological principle – people would love the idea of seeing their face or their prized photograph on a label distributed across the country. It’s the advertising equivalent of a compliment, and it’s free. The anticipation that their photo could get picked would have customers making a beeline for the beverage aisle over and over again. And they’d only be interested in one soda.

Using random customer photos for their labels, Jones Soda Co. has created a mass audience following and they now sell their product all over the U.S. and in Ireland and the UK as well.

Why Does it Work?

Content marketing isn’t something that is super easy to describe in full detail because it is so many things all at once. The old adage “You know it when you see it” doesn’t exactly work for content marketing because when it is done well, it doesn’t seem like what it is – a sales tool.

That’s the genius behind this type of marketing. Anyone can utilize it for their business, there are many platforms through which it can be done for little to no money and it connects businesses in a personal way with their audiences.

People are tired of being sold. We are constantly bombarded with billboards, commercials and cold calls. This constant product-driven society can feel robotic and cold.

Content marketing is the solution. It provides new and fresh ways for you to attract your clients without giving them a direct sales pitch.

It presents problems and solutions. It is fact-based and though the end goal is to sell your product, it is not product-centered. Content marketing focuses on the big picture – the whole.

Instead of trying to sell a tractor for X dollars in an ad, content marketing would try to target farmers by sending out newsletters about the different types of crops, the maintenance they need and why this specific tractor would ease the farmers workload so (s)he could sit down a little earlier to dinner.

It works because it takes the mindlessness out of consumerism, and as you can see from the examples above, there is no business too small to benefit from it.

Have you seen any good examples of content marketing from small businesses near you? If so, please share.