Top 11 Most Powerful Content Marketing Examples By Small Businesses

Content marketing isn’t a joke.

Powerful Content Marketing Examples

It has changed lives. Saved businesses from bankruptcy. Built million dollar companies.

Okay, so why are we talking about it?

Proof. 

Content marketing isn’t just for brands like Red Bull and Nike. Small business owners like you are using it every day to grow their sales. Here are some of the most powerful content marketing examples done by small businesses. 

Maybe you could be next?

(If you’re thinking, “Hold on Alexandra, what’s content marketing? How is it related to inbound marketing?” Check out these posts by KISSmetrics and the Content Marketing Institute – they’ll answer your q’s.)


1) $87 Million Paycheck

Father and son grew their electronics store, Magnolia, to the point where it was acquired by Best Buy for $87 million. 

Magnolia - Most Powerful Content Marketing Examples

Why? 

Content marketing.

The family opened Magnolia in 1954 as a photography store. Then they started selling electronics. They needed customers, but couldn’t afford traditional advertising.

A fellow named Roger Parker had an idea. With his help, they launched the “Buyer’s Guide Place,” a mini-magazine that educated shoppers on electronics: how to buy them, what to look for, what to splurge on and what to avoid. Like a blog, it highlighted their philosophy, their team and why they did what they did. 

After 4 decades of maintaining sales, within 18 months the Buyer’s Guide Place transformed their business

They expanded throughout Washington, Oregon and California.

Magnolia sold to Best Buy several years later for $87 million. 


2) From A Taxi Dispatcher To Being Bigger Than Estee Lauder

Lauren Luke went from being a taxi cab dispatcher in England to building a brand bigger than beauty giant Estee Lauder.

Lauren Luke - Powerful Content Marketing Examples By Small Businesses

Why? 

You get the idea.

In 2007 Lauren wanted to subsidize her day job, so she started selling make-up on eBay. 

It took a few months of saving up to get enough money together to buy my first selection of stock. I can remember how hard it was to part with my savings and I wondered if the risk was worth it. – Lauren Luke

To increase sales, Lauren created “how to” videos and posted them online

Those videos not only made her bigger than Estee Lauder on YouTube, they sparked the launch of her own make-up company, By Lauren Luke, which is distributed by one of the most luxurious names in the industry, Sephora

Lauren stopped dispatching cabs and became a successful business owner.

She never spent a penny on traditional marketing.


3) Grew 50% in 120 Days

Good Greens grew their sales to $50,000/month by reaching out to bloggers.

Good Greens -Most Powerful Content Marketing Examples

Good Greens was founded by Keith Pabley in 2011 when he was working with a physician to improve his practice. Keith discovered that the healthy bars the physician was recommending tasted awful, but they couldn’t find ones that didn’t.

So he created Good Greens Bars – gluten free, dairy free, natural super bars with 40 antioxidants and 3 probiotics.

Pabley didn’t have a large marketing budget. Instead, he build relationships with local bloggers to increase the number of reviews, mentions and search engine results for Good Greens.

3 of their flavours became the No. 1, 2, and 3 selling bars in Cleveland.

His sales jumped 50% in 4 months

Now Keith’s bars are in over 1,200 stores.


4) From Surviving The Recession To Becoming A “Top 10 Brand”

Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward survived the housing recession to become one of the Top 10 Brands in the UK by launching a magazine.

Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward - Most Powerful Content Marketing Examples

Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward is a real estate company. Not an easy thing to be in 2008 and 2009 when the market was crashing and their competitors were going belly up.

So they launched a high-end magazine, The Completely London, to establish themselves as an authority. The magazine showcased houses and educated people on the market, among other things. The high quality feel and content restored faith in their clients, and brought them new ones. 

It revitalized their company, turning them into an industry leader.

Last year The Completely London was named one of the top 10 brands in the UK.


5) 12,000 Customers In 2 Days

DollarShaveClub spent $4,500 on a video that got them 9.5 million views, 23,000 followers on Twitter and 76,000 Facebok fans. Oh, and 12,000 new customers in 2 days.


Founded in April 2011 by comedian Michael Dubin and businessman Mark Levine, DollarShaveClub sells quality no-name razors for less than the cost of brand razors, but with high-end customer service and packaging.

There are competing against Gillette and Schick

With no employees and a small budget, their video helped them attract 12,000 new customers in 2 days. Now they have a team of 20+ in California.

DollarShaveClub went on to raise $10.8 million in financing.


6) Built A Chicago Legend – Gets 93% of Sales Without A Storefront

Foiled Cupcakes never had a storefront, but they surpassed their revenue goals by 600% because they delivered amazing service on Twitter and blogged religiously.

Mari Luangrath started her cupcake online ordering business in 2009. 

But she had a problem. Her website didn’t work – for the first 6 weeks no one could order cupcakes.

Instead of taking the loss, she went to Twitter and started chatting. 

They grew from 0 customers to 2,200 targeted followers in less than 6 weeks, attracted national press and beat their sales targets by 600%!

Mari and Foiled Cupcakes became a Chicago legend.


7) Million $ Yoga Chain

CorePower became the largest yoga chain in the USA using word of mouth tactics.

CorePower - Powerful Content Marketing Examples

Trevor Tice started his health and fitness company, CorePower, in Denver in 2002.

Instead of using TV and print ads, Trevor used social networks to build awareness and establish relationships with his customers. He also offered his classes online.

It worked. 

By 2007 his sales were $6.5 million. By 2010, they were $23 million. By 2011, he had 55 locations and a plan to open 100 more by 2016.

CorePower is now the largest yoga chain in the USA.


8) Drop Out Creates Fastest Growing Ice Cream Brand

Jeni Britton Bauer went from making ice cream in her kitchen to creating one of the fastest growing ice cream brands.


Jeni
dropped out of art studies to follow her culinary dreams. 

She opened her store “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams” in Ohio. Sales were steady, but not enough to retire on.

Almost 9 years later she published a recipe book, “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home.” It became a New York Times best-seller, fueling her growth and making her one of the fastest growing ice cream brands.

Jeni now has 9 stores and her ice cream is in over 700 grocery locations.


9) 2 Million Customers In 3 Years

Mint.com was the first company to create infographics to attract customers on a mass scale – that resulted in 2 million customers within 3 years.

Mint.com - Powerful Content Marketing Examples

Aaron Patzer launched Mint.com in 2006 as a better way to manage your personal finances online. He was competing against established banks with huge pockets. 

By focusing on blog posts, slideshows, videos and infographics, Aaron grew Mint.com to 100,000 accounts in 2007, 600,000 in 2008 and almost 2 million in 2009, becoming the largest player in the personal financial aggregation market.

Three years after he launched, Mint.com sold to Intuit for $170 million.

Today they have over 10 million customers, track more than $80 billion in credit and debit transactions and nearly $1 trillion in loans and assets.


10) Avoided Closure + Succeeded Selling Luxury During The Recession 

River Pools and Spas avoided going out of business selling pools during the recession by cutting their traditional marketing budget and focusing on inbound marketing.

River Pools And Spas - Powerful Content Marketing Examples

Business owner Marcus Sheridan had a challenge - who buys pools in an economic crisis?

He realized he needed to become the thought leader for the “inground swimming pool industry,” so he started creating and distributing content.

His budget went from $150,000 on radio ads, the Yellow Pages and direct mail to $50,000 on inbound marketingWhile many of his competitors were suffering losses and going out of business, his website traffic increased 300-400% and his leads increased over 400%.

River Pools and Spas had their best year ever.


11) When A $50,000 TV Infomercial Fails…A $500 Online Video Wins

Orabrush had been around for 10 years, begging dentists and retailers to carry their products with limited success – they took off after they launched a $500 video.

Orabrush - Powerful Content Marketing Examples

Orabrush sells tongue cleaners.

Tongue cleaners are not sexy.

Orabrush invested in TV advertising and traditional marketing, but weren’t getting any traction.

They realized they could create humour around their brand, so they spent $500 on a “Bad Breath Test” video that promoted their tongue cleaner.

They posted it on YouTube. 

The Orabrush channel has had over 40 million views, and helped them attract 340,000+ Facebook fans and 5,000+ Twitter followers.

After 10 years, major drugstore chains finally carry Orabrush.


Conclusion

Content marketing isn’t a joke.  

And it isn’t new.

John Deere started content marketing in 1885 with The Furrow Magazine to educate farmers on new technology, and how they could be better business owners. 

Over 100 years later, The Furrow has 1.5 million copies in circulation in 40 counties and John Deere is still a market leader.

So, are you convinced that content marketing works? Have we missed your favourite small business content marketing example?


BONUS

More Content Marketing Examples + Studies

If you want to learn more about content marketing, here’s a collection of blog posts, ebooks and videos for you to read, watch and enjoy.

Heard on Twitter…

  • Alexandra Skey

    Are you having success with your content marketing strategies? Feel free to share what you’re doing :)

  • Collin Stewart

    Great post Alexandra. Mint and Dollar Shave Club are definitely inspirations for Content Marketers like myself. What are some of Spokal’s CM secrets (aside from blogging)?

    • Alexandra Skey

      Great q Collin!

      I don’t believe there are any true “content marketing secrets.” I think the best thing we do is share and create stuff that we love and we’re proud to show off. While not everything we do is worthy of a gold star, that’s our goal.

      For curation, we do use a few tools to help us find great articles. ContentDJ is one of them.

      For creation, we do a monthly plan on what we’re posting, sharing, etc… that fits with our strategy and makes sure we know what we’re going to share and create. Planning is key to content marketing success, as is alignment with your overall marketing goals and branding. A monthly schedule and plan helps us stay ahead of the game.

      What about you?

  • Cosi

    Great post! Love the examples. CM really is about getting creative, isn’t it?

    • Alexandra Skey

      Hey Cosi – it sure is!

      I love these examples because they showcase how fun CM can be.

      But you don’t need to be creative or have huge budgets to do it well, as long as you create something that adds value to your customer, and you’re proud to share it, your CM strategy will help you attract and convert better customers over time.

  • Gareth Marshall

    Alexandra.

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’m currently working for a digital marketing company that is looking into the concept of content marketing both for ourselves and for our clients.

    This article is just what I was looking for as I’ve begun to research strategies and ideas to relay to our MD and Marketing Manager! I particularly liked the Dollar Shave Club video, and the case study on the swimming pool firm was also really good, particularly with regards to relating content marketing and SEO! They should definitely not be considered as two seperate entities, should they?

    Found lots of ideas about big brands content marketing but this was the best I found about small business, so for that thank you so much!

    • http://www.getspokal.com/ Alexandra Skey

      Hi Garth,

      You’re most welcome!

      I’m glad this helped you with your content marketing research. There are a lot of examples by multinationals, and we wanted to highlight the “best of the best” by small business owners. That’s awesome it’s inspiring you to act. That’s our goal :)

      Haha yes, SEO and content marketing go hand in hand.

      Be bold and have fun!

      A

  • Chris Mack

    This really is one of the best posts I’ve seen on how effective content marketing/inbound marketing can be for small businesses. It’s the great equalizer. I hope to see more small businesses take advantage of it!

  • TheRealMidnite

    It’s certainly a breath of fresh air to find an article on CM that isn’t filled with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Many people don’t seem to realize that content marketing isn’t some fancy new IT-related gimmick; it’s probably as old as time itself, and far less sleazy than the “fairey tales for sales” approach to selling.

    • Chris Mack

      Ha! Thanks for the comment. It is indeed as time itself. That’s why we’re pushing strongly for small business here – it’s just another way (a far more effective way) for them to do what they already love to do – talk about their business and how they can help.