For years L.L. Bean was the epitome of outdoor essentials. From clothing to equipment to learning how to be an outdoorsman, everyone who went hiking knew the L.L. Bean brand. But what happens when your business is based on mail-order catalogs and everyone goes digital? You either change your ways or go out of business. While L.L. Bean struggled with sales in the first decade of the 21st century, it seems they’ve integrated the digital world and content marketing strategy with their core values, earning them a 3% net revenue increase in 2014, according to their Newsroom results.
When Leon Leonwood Bean founded the company in 1912, his Golden Rule the foundation of his business: “Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings and they will always come back for more.” Even though that was more than 100 years ago, the statement embodies what many consumers look for in a company – they want to be treated like human beings and get a good product. In addition to the Golden Rule, L.L. Bean has had a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of its products since its inception.
While the focus on doing the right thing, caring about nature, and family first will give you warm fuzzies, it doesn’t guarantee sales. And let’s face it – if you don’t have that in a business, the warm fuzzies go away quickly. But when you combine a brand that makes quality products with great content marketing and publicity, you get success. Most notably, their handmade boots have a wait list of 100,000 people.
So how do they do it? Catalogs are no longer the prime method of sales. Their website is reasonably functional and easy to use, but not spectacular. Their blog is inconsistent with anywhere from one to five blog posts per month. Where are they getting noticed? The content they publicize on social media.
With seven active platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube and Foursquare – L.L. has more than 5 million followers. But they didn’t get those followers by only telling people how great their products are; they showed them in meaningful ways in which their target audience can relate and spoke the language of the community. Here are just a few examples across all their platforms of why their content marketing is successful.
Success Reason #1: They share a passion with their audience – The Outdoors
Success Reason #2: They humanize their products and company
Success Reason #3: They know their target audience beyond the outdoors – nutrition, fitness, causes, etc.
Success Reason #4: They interact with customers who post about their products
Success Reason #5: They post sentimental, timely, sharable pictures that resonate with people
These are not images that directly sell the product, but with the amount of content they are generating, L.L. Bean is also generating traffic to their website, their product pages and their shopping cart. With content marketing they are establishing a conversation to engage customers who share interests. It’s that conversation that has put them back on Fortune’s Best Companies list and is leading to another year of increased revenue.