For many brands, a blog is an essential component of their overall marketing mix. It's a tool that enables them to engage with customers on a conversational level between purchases, reach new audiences with compelling stories and service-driven info, establish the company as an industry trendsetter, and--ultimately--generate leads and drive sales.

That said, creating a blog that stays true to your brand values while attracting a loyal audience can be a tricky balance. We've talked about how to kill perfectly good content, and what mistakes to avoid. But when it comes to killing it with blog content, there are lessons to be learned from the best--and we're not just talking about companies who have  millions to spend on content marketing.

While they differ in services, scale, and style, the five brands included here have set new standards for developing meaningful relationships with customers through highly relevant content. Check out how these companies are using their blogs to achieve their business goals--and build a loyal customer base for life.

1. The Etsy Blog

As an aggregate of thousands of individual vendors all over the world, Etsy (one of Inc's Company of the Year candidates in 2015) had a unique challenge to overcome in creating its blog: incorporating diverse categories such as jewelry, crafts, home goods, vintage, children's toys, and more while staying true to its own distinct brand identity. The Etsy Blog  meets the challenge by posting articles within the core brand tenets of design and DIY, along with "Featured Shop" posts about vendors from all categories. 

The Takeaway: Even if your brand offers a lot in the way of products and services, keep your blog categories simple and the interface easy to navigate.

2. Life is Suite by Kimpton Hotels

Boutique hotel collection Kimpton offers "luxury without attitude" at its properties, and carries that credo over into its sleekly designed Life is Suite blog, which relaunched last year. Kimpton speaks to their target audience of savvy travelers in a voice that is approachable, conversational, and down to earth. Though it has a "Kimpton Buzz" category specifically dedicated to brand news, it primarily integrates its brand into thoughtful city guides, travel tips, lifestyle stories, and food trend pieces, which further drive sales.

The Takeaway: Define-and use--your brand voice. Kimpton strives to deliver a unique perspective on each destination, with advice that could only come from a local insider.

3. Manual by The Idle Man

Sometimes a key component to an addictive blog is design, which is central to online menswear retailer The Idle Man. With its blog, Manual, the brand includes compelling street style photos with its editorial content, which makes the blog visually engaging and sets it apart from its sales counterpart. Posts are easily shoppable with retail links peppered throughout. According to Hardeep Matharoo, SEO Officer at The Idle Man, the blog has generated sales, built brand awareness, and increased engagement on Facebook and Instagram.

The Takeaway: Presentation is everything. Invest in beautiful, but cost-effective imagery, which can be repurposed across a variety of content channels.

4. The Officevibe Blog

Looking for inspiration for your B2B brand? Check out employee engagement platform Officevibe, which reaches its clients and beyond with an eye-catching and consumer-focused blog. The blog balances niche market and broad content by posting topics meant to engage professionals beyond Officevibe's core B2B base (think "Why EQ is the New IQ" and "How to Get Better at Receiving Feedback").

To maximize sales leads, Officevibe provides an e-mail subscription option prominently in each post. "Our blog allowed us to build a great authority in HR and thus increase our sales," says Sophie Choukah, a marketing specialist at Officevibe, who adds, "It is also crucial in showing the voice and tone of our brand. It gives 'life' to our brand."

The Takeaway: Don't forget to include calls-to-action. Make it easy for your customers to take the next step in getting to know your brand.

5. Furthermore by Equinox

Upscale fitness leader Equinox had the ultimate example of  editorial content marketing on its blog--formerly called "Q." Each fitness-focused piece read like a magazine article, due, in part, to an editorial team of magazine veterans, including editor in chief Liz Miersch, formerly of Self.

It was a natural next step--and a testament to how organically Equinox infused its brand into content--when Equinox transformed Q into Furthermore, a self-sustaining online magazine featuring multi-media fitness, lifestyle, fashion, technology, and travel content. 

The Takeaway:  Get journalists to create your content--they're editorial experts who understand how to build long-term relationships with readers through storytelling.