Face it. Your customers are not going to get an annual subscription to a specialty magazine when they are looking for one piece of information. If you are a winery, for example, putting an ad in Wine Spectator won’t get you very far with anyone except wine afficionados. And though there can be value in that, a small print ad is easy to overlook and even easier to forget. Getting editorial placement is far better, but then your business is subject to the taste of reporters and editors (literally, in this case). There is no way to ensure that even a perfectly pitched concept will get placement.

But it’s possible to break through with a small budget. Or even no budget, if you’re willing to work a little and have some writing ability.

Here are three companies having unlikely success with content marketing:

Turnstone Furniture takes a wider view of the office environment in with its content marketing. It’s not a direct sales pitch. Recent posts include 5 Things to Clean in Your Office to Alleviate Stress, Inside the Offices of Meetup, and Being Busy vs. Being Productive. These are all peripherally about the world of the office and have little to do with selling furniture. However, they’re demonstrating that they understand office culture and therefore the best way to build a design a workspace. Pretty brilliant. Turnstone credits solid vision and good tools for the success of its content strategy. The company was nominated for the 2012 Small Business Influencer Awards, so they must be doing something right.

Garagiste is one of the more unlikely $30 million companies you’ll find. As detailed recently in the New York Times, Jon Riggerman is the visionary – and offbeat – founder of Garagiste. He built the company completely through email. Really… the whole thing is based on email. It still is. Rimmerman sends daily emails to his very exclusive list, which you have to be invited to join. As the Times reported, the emails often begin with flowery sentences such as “Dear Friends, somewhere along the path to wine-related enlightenment …” Yes, Riggerman’s a little out there. But he’s memorable, and – because the audiences really does love the wines he recommends – he’s credible. Memorable and credible is just about an unbeatable combination.

River Pools and Spas began life offline, but quickly learned that online efforts trumped traditional advertising on a number of fronts. The first issue was cost. While TV and radio ads increased in price, a well executed content marketing campaign was a fraction of the cost, and the expense remained steady, not driven by external market pressures. Today, River Pools has the most well known blog in the industry, and owner Marcus Sheridan is a content marketing rock star. The result is that River Pools has become an international go-to source of information (really – they have visitors from 10 countries). Sheridan told the Content Marketing Institute that turning to content marketing in the depths of the recession in 2009 saved his business.

A furniture store, a small winery, and a swimming pool company. You might not think inbound marketing would work for them, but it’s done more than just work. It’s the foundation on which they’ve built their business.