While content is king for many businesses, there is still a large group that still simply don’t do content marketing. These are typically niche companies that see their content options as limited, with branded pieces that are little more than sales pitches making up the bulk of their content strategy. What these businesses don’t realise is that even niche brands can create quality content designed to build awareness and acquire customers.
Content marketing doesn’t work
Your product catalogue or services span a single or a few categories, or you simply operate in a niche industry with a small market size. Your paid ads and PPC campaigns work well for you, and a dip in the digital pool got you thinking about content marketing. After all, everyone has a blog these days. But when it came to creating the content there was really only one thing you could write about; your products. Your brand. Maybe even your industry.
If so, then it’s a good bet that the response has been less than awe-inspiring. If you have been raking in the clicks, then feel free to stop reading this post now.
Usually, at this stage businesses call it a valiant effort but decide content marketing just doesn’t work. Maybe it does for the industry giants or those fortunate enough to be able to write about fashion or food, but not for them.
All motivation extinguished, these companies tend to fall into one of two categories. Either they give up on their content efforts altogether, or they stick with the general consensus that content must do something and continue churning out brand and product pieces.
If your content is underperforming but you didn’t identify yourself with the description above, take a closer look. Niche businesses with years of experience and expertise can sometimes be blind to the interests of the general population and their potential audience. While industry leading expertise might make your corner of the world seem interesting to you, this isn’t necessarily the case for your audience.
Alternatively, maybe you haven’t even broached content marketing yet for this very reason. If there are only a few publishers that cover your industry niche or their readerships are small, there’s a good chance your branded content won’t be considered interesting or useful to the general population. This can certainly make it challenging to produce the type of content that gets shares and links, but not impossible.
Why content is important
Challenging or not, content marketing isn’t something that should be passed up lightly. Most companies have already tried their hand at content marketing and many more seem poised to jump in. Investment in existing strategies looks set to increase in the future, and for good reason too.
Ad blockers on the rise
Ad blockers are big news right now with people increasingly concerned about online security and the quality of their online experience. The ability to get rid of annoying pop-ups and protect against potentially malicious ads have made ad blockers a growing favourite for online users but are a serious threat to advertisers, including niche businesses, who rely on paid ads in their digital strategy. Last year usage increased by a massive 30%, with 615 million devices using ad blockers worldwide by the end of 2016.
The answer? Content marketing. Quality content will still be accessible on devices blocking ads and can provide the clicks, shares and links needed to stop ad blockers being the downfall of your acquisition strategy.
Content performs better
It isn’t a marketing favourite for no reason. Quality content performs better across a range of metrics compared many other marketing tools, from awareness to conversion. Becoming a true content leader with compelling and valuable campaigns can lead to 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders.
Content also inspires engagement and those all-important conversions. The median time people spend on content marketing articles is 37 seconds, and more time spent on site means higher levels of brand recognition and increased ongoing engagement. In fact, for B2B companies it generates three times as many leads as outbound marketing at 62% less cost. Unsurprisingly, companies that use content marketing have conversion rates six times higher than competitors who don’t.
Even boring brands can do content marketing
It's clear that with the right strategy, content marketing has the potential to drive significant business growth.
The good news is even niche businesses whose direct product, brand and industry related content isn’t an audience winner can develop a successful content marketing strategy. The answer is to look outside of your niche and find indirectly related topics. These are areas that are relevant to the larger industry or other closely related industries and will have a much larger audience. For example:
- A company that specialises in professional camping equipment publishes ‘survival’ guides covering families and amateur campers.
- A retailer selling luggage cases and travel bags publishes travel guides for specific countries.
- A business that just sells kitchens published informational pieces covering a range of kitchen activities such as recipes to cook or kitchen cleaning tips.
This is a relatively easy way of expanding your content to reach a new and larger audience, making it a perfect top of funnel tool for acquisition. Even if your business isn’t strictly niche, there are plenty of benefits to be gained from this technique that could help to strengthen almost any content strategy at every stage.
Improve content diversity
Building out your topics in this way will result in a much more diverse content range which can help to encourage even more fresh ideas and reinvigorate your strategy. Being able to post original content regularly is an important fundamental in any strategy. Not only will online users look for information that is up to date, but ‘freshness’ is an SEO ranking factor. Outdated content or a blog that hasn’t had a recent post simply won’t rank as well as those that are fresh.
A wider range of content can also open doors to some other initiatives that could help improve your awareness and acquisition. Creating exclusive content for your various channels, for example your social networks, email and blog, gives your audience a reason to engage with you across multiple touchpoints. It’s also the first step in being able to tailor content to suit the audience on each channel based on previous engagement, making for content that is optimised for success at every point.
Ozone Coffee publishes a range of content beyond just coffee information and recipes. From culture to hospitality, they use their content to convey their brand image with interesting articles that have cultivated a dedicated audience.
Find the emotional hook
Specialised knowledge and expertise may make for an informed piece of content, but they can often turn out seeming sales pitchy because they lack an emotional appeal. Creating content that your audience can relate to is essential to the success of your strategy as campaigns with an emotional hook are more likely to get higher performing media mentions and shares. This type of content can also lead to ideas for inspiring user-generated content, which is even more authentic and subsequently effective.
Focusing your content on a wider selection of topics gives you plenty of opportunities to seek out a unique emotional angle. This can be anything from heart-warming to humorous, as long as it resonates with your audience. Current issues and social concerns are also fine, but remember that these pieces need to reflect your brand at least ethically as well as being relatable.
Finding more indirectly related content can help brands get some distance from their products or services to avoid the trap of the sales pitch blog post, making for more media-friendly content. Plus, more topics means more potential publishers to share and link your campaigns.
Your strategy simply won’t be a success without the right outreach. Just publishing something won’t guarantee the clicks and shares you want, but tapping into an established and engaged audience can. As well as reaching out to key publishers and influencers from relevant industries for your content, consider other initiatives such as guest blogging. Remember that you’ll be posting directly onto their platform where their own reputation is even more at risk, so brand pieces and hard sells are a big no. Publishers will want to see examples of your previous work along with a blog proposal.
Neil Patel is just one example of someone who does guest blogging well. Aside from his own website and services he blogs for Quick Sprout and Kissmetrics, writing informative pieces that naturally link in his own work only when necessary. While not exactly niche, this is an example of the type of guest posts small businesses to should look to replicate.
Better insights, better content
You can’t make decisions about the future direction of any strategy without some insights to go off, otherwise, it’s just a shot in the dark. To get insights you need data, and for the data you need some sort of engagement. Expanding your content range will generate more content ideas, better content, increased engagement and finally improved insights. With better insights informing content decisions you end up with a positive feedback that continues to optimise your strategy.
These valuable insights can feedback to any of your content, from blog posts to social campaigns to email marketing. For example, looking at the interest and engagement from across different topics can help to create email list segments for more relevant, targeted content that is even more likely to convert.
How to find topics for your content
Some good old-fashioned research will help to identify some indirectly related but still relevant topic areas that could be a successful content focus. Brands can now access more data than ever thanks to industry insights, tracking capabilities and social channels, all of which can help to reveal areas to expand your content into.
The first place you should look is your own audience, and specifically buyer personas. Buyer personas are important to guiding decisions across your whole business, from UX to content. If you haven’t already created them, it’s a good idea to get these set up now.
You can then use your own data, surveys and social media to find out what other interests your audience has. Identifying where your niche intersects with these interests will reveal the topics that could prove relevant to your audience and successful for your strategy.
Take a look at what your competitors and other industry players are doing. There is often already an industry content leader who is setting the bar for compelling content. Benchmark against them and identify all the areas they cover and you don’t that might fit your own strategy. Then, take it a step further and look at the other possibly related topics that they haven't covered.
Facebook Audience Insights
If you have already worked with Facebook ads you’ll be familiar with this tool. Using the wealth of data collected from Facebook users, Facebook Audience Insights provides information on the other related interests of your target audience. You can use these to help inform your buyer personas and identify some other topical content areas for focus.
Finally, remember to keep an eye on the new and current trends for areas where your niche could be relevant as well, from trending TV shows to poignant social issues. Not only can this help inspire new content ideas when relevant, but they also offer an opportunity to take advantage of naturally high engagement levels.
Take a step away from brand content
Bosses and managers understandably want the time and effort they invest into their content strategies to translate into tangible benefits. Whether it’s simply clicks and shares to gauge awareness or real sales and revenue, content is expected to show results. Of course, using your blog and other channels to publish content promoting products and services seems the logical way to turn a click into a conversion, but this simply isn’t the case.
If you fail to give your customers the type and quality of content they want, you may quickly find your campaigns are just a drop in a very big and silent ocean. Fortunately, there are plenty of inspiring brands already making the most of content marketing as well as a wealth of consumer data to help inform your own strategy and look beyond branded content.
If you’re a niche or small business owner and struggling to turn content marketing into measurable results, call one of our team today. We cover the whole spectrum of digital disciplines from social media to SEO and have years of experience creating, launching and tracking a variety of content campaigns.