How Free Content Cultivates Sales

Food and farm entrepreneurs are in the business of making money, yet ironically, one of the best ways to do that is to give stuff away for free. We’re not talking about product samples here, although they can be valuable marketing tools too. Rather, brand-generated content that educates, entertains, inspires or otherwise engages consumers—and that they don’t have to pay for—can pay off in dividends for a food business long-term.

Because consumers have such an intimate connection with food, they’re hungry for information about it. They care where food comes from, how it’s produced, what nutritional properties it has, how they can incorporate it into their diet and even how they can make it themselves. Therefore, they eat up recipes, how-to videos, blog posts, travelogues and anything else that enhances their interest or enriches their knowledge base.

When food brands create and share these assets, it does a lot more than just make consumers happy. It helps the business in numerous ways, including by growing brand awareness, developing a rapt and recurring audience, and establishing the company as a thought leader or subject-matter expert. Consistent content generation also improves SEO and boosts the brand’s ranking in Google searches, ultimately breeding more exposure.

Free content also has a direct impact on sales. Market research shows consumers are 131% more likely to buy from a brand immediately after they consume educational content from that company. The effect sticks with shoppers too. One whole week after engaging with content, they are still 48% more apt to buy from that brand.

But beyond purchasing power, research also shows that educational content increases trust in brands—and that trust actually grows stronger over time. So, even if a shopper doesn’t buy immediately or even a week after consuming brand-issued materials, the brand’s credibility will likely keep them coming back for more content, eventually prompting them to purchase.

All these awesome benefits aside, one of the most powerful perks of free content is its ability to cultivate community—something most people are starving for in the coronavirus era. When they feel like they’ve connected with likeminded folks and developed a relationship that runs much deeper than transactional, they’ll stick with a food brand for the long haul.

Breadtopia, which built its entire e-commerce business upon offering free content, has experienced this first-hand. The company’s main goal from day one was to provide free baking education and create a community of baking enthusiasts, which it funded through online sales of sourdough starters, grains and hand-milled flours. In fact, as Breadtopia’s Galen Saturley shared in the latest Edible-Alpha® podcast, sometimes those passionate community members/customers would drive cross-country to tiny Fairfield, Iowa, just to see home base!

Sure enough, as the Breadtopia community grew, so did sales, and the company kept scaling up. When COVID-19 hit, sales spiked some 400%—and now the company has enough funds to transform its facility into a destination spot. This success story all started with developing engaging content and giving it away for free.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a 400% sales increase for Breadtopia, but the company laid a whole lotta groundwork over 14 years to reap these rewards. Started as an online education hub for baking enthusiasts, Breadtopia grew its e-commerce business steadily, requiring larger and larger facilities and building an engaged community along the way. Catch Tera’s conversation with the founders’ son Galen Saturely to learn how this company expanded and evolved over the years to get to its current sweet spot.

Listen to the Latest Episode | Watch the Interview On YouTube!

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