True believers say content marketing has enormous long-term benefit. Skeptics say it’s just the latest marketing fad. As a startup or small business, do you go all in or go another route?
If you’re not sure whether content marketing is for you, here’s the story of a startup that’s now 10 years into its content marketing campaign, a company that got into content marketing before anyone knew what to call it, a company that’s done very little online marketing other than content marketing since its inception.
Dennis Salazar’s experience demonstrates the enormous value of content marketing—and also serves as a solid, practical model for content marketing execution.
Salazar Packaging today
Salazar Packaging, founded in 2007, is now a prominent designer and supplier of sustainable packaging materials and containers. With customers in all 50 states, it operates out of a 3,500-square-foot facility in the Chicago area, employing eight people.
Owner Dennis Salazar reports that his websites generates over 400 inquiries per month, with a conversion rate of 10%. Over the years, most of his company’s revenue has come from these online inquiries.
He goes on to say that his strong online presence in organic search (fueled by 10 years of content marketing) has also enabled him to efficiently test market new products. The ability to cut losses and concentrate on winners has enabled Salazar Packaging to add digital box printing, branded packaging, and e-commerce subscription boxes to his product portfolio, generating dynamic growth.
2007: We’ll talk so much, people will have to listen
Like many startups, Salazar Packaging began with an idea, passion, and rolled-up sleeves. Dennis and his wife, Lenora, thought they could turn their concern for the environment into a successful sustainable packaging company.
But whereas most startups start at the bottom, this one started below the bottom:
- The U.S. economy was terrible, plummeting downhill toward the horrific stock market crash of 2008.
- Sustainable packaging was not widely embraced or even understood.
- Market intelligence about sustainable packaging suggested end users were unwilling to pay the necessary premium for eco-friendly merchandise.
- Dennis and Lenora’s expertise was strongest in materials that were not particularly sustainable.
Dennis and I had previously worked together in the packaging industry. In 2005, I started my own marketing business, focusing on SEO, social media, and business blogging—doing a lot of work, incidentally, with a startup company called Whoast, which became Straight North, the agency that eventually bought my business and for which I now work.
Initially, Dennis engaged me to help him formulate a marketing plan. Most packaging companies relied on a sales force, and many were (and continue to be) marketing-averse. But Dennis didn’t have funds for a sales force, and thus needed another way to establish credibility and drum up business.
We decided to aggressively ramp up his company blog and try to get published on websites with a packaging and/or environmental focus. Here’s why:
- Dennis had a ton of great ideas, and an ability and willingness to write. And, the market was getting thirsty for reliable, informed insights about sustainable packaging.
- He had an editor (me) with industry knowledge to add polish and SEO to his articles.
- Keyword research suggested a huge opportunity to achieve high rankings for high-volume, high-converting green packaging terms.
- Off-site articles would produce enormously high authority backlinks, building his domain authority far beyond what other firms in the green packaging space had achieved.
- Circa 2007, the packaging industry was (and still is, to some extent) highly secretive. Dennis was willing to talk about his business, whereas many other companies would not. I figured this would give him a couple years head start before the competition caught on to business blogging.
So, Dennis put everything he had into content marketing. He wrote and wrote and wrote great stuff. Before long he found himself with bylines (and backlinks) on major online publications, and his own blog was attracting impressive traffic. You couldn’t do a Google search on anything related to green packaging without running into Salazar Packaging. Dennis was getting inquiries from companies all over the United States, including ones from Fortune 100 companies. Speaking engagements, interviews, and a lot of mainstream media attention came his way as a result of his deep online (and print) footprint.