Creating Content in a Niche Market
Move your niche with three basic content development rules.
I was asked by a colleague to name the most efficient rules I use for content creation for a niche market. All sorts of answers were buzzing around in my head. It was hard to define one set of rules. I have my techniques, but I never analyzed how niche content could be drawn and organized into a codified process. This article is my attempt to come to that definition.
I started with the basics of journalism; the 5W+H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How; and worked my way from there. After YEARS of trying (this post has been revised six times since the original post in 2009), I think I've finally come up with some decent answers for niche content creation, what I'm now calling "the 3 scopes": Scope of Market, Scope of Conversation, and Scope of Specialization.
Scope of Market
This is about as basic as it gets without being trivial. If you don't know your scope of market, then you're in serious trouble. Of course, keep in mind that the focus here is on content development for marketing communications and public relations.
Who is your audience? - That's pretty self-explanatory, isn't it? Particularly in a niche market. But this goes far beyond demographics - you'd better know a lot about their personality, opinions, and past experiences.
What do you want to tell them? - It's up to you what you want to tell your audience, but remember that the choices are practically limitless. The direct approach is to write about features, benefits, and concepts about products or services. The indirect approach would be to write about ideas that relate back to features and benefits.
What do you want them to do? - Vote, friend, follow, buy - whatever it is, do not forget to ask for it, via social media and your regular communication with your audience (be they clients, customers, constituents). Some may think of this as the "CTA" - the 'call to action.'
Scope of Conversation
Along my path to content strategy, I find that I want to tighten the scope of conversation as tight as possible. I'll look for any clue about where my audience is going. For instance, if I'm writing for a car mechanic - I may start by casting my net as broad as possible to catch as many people in my target audience. I may want to give away tips on how people can tune their cars, an easy hack for silencing a noisy power steering system, tips on troubleshooting simple electrical problems, and so on. The resulting "conversation" may then traverse all sorts of related topics, and ultimately back to you as the expert.
Then, as I learn about the audience, I may decide to move toward more aggressive issues. Let's say that my mechanic works on electric cars as well as gas-powered one. I'd start looking at the pros and cons of various models of electric car - the cost of maintenance, electricity, reliability. I may then tighten subsequent articles to focus more narrowly on comparisons of hybrid cars vs. all-electric; or types of batteries and development of new battery models. Whether I increase the likelihood that members of the audience will purchase a hybrid or all-electric vehicle is neither here nor there. The point is, I've injected my client into an ongoing evaluation of information. If the post is informative enough, they may interact with my client for answers to questions, and ultimately end up as a new customer once they've made their choice.
When I think of "scope" I also think of "ROI." Okay, not "return on investment" - although that's important too. I'm talking about the gold standard of content development: Relevant. Optimized. Impactful.
Relevance - not only define your target but get into their head and know their trends.
Optimized - Refine the content and Define the conversations that will trigger interaction, engagement, and conversions.
Impactful - dial into audience attitude and aptitude for HOT topics that they care about
I keep this ROI in my rearview mirror as I drive my content. But I'm also cautious about letting audience drive the conversation. I stay close enough to the conversation to learn just the right "pick up line" to attract the interest of my target audience: e.g., topical triggers that delight die-hard fans. The ultimate goal (of course) is generating interaction and engagement through inquiry; through and by the audience's quest for information. If all the pieces come together (and I'm paying attention), I can design the "scope of conversation" that will help me achieve all of my content marketing goals.
When I create content, I think about the reactions I want from the target audience. And there could be a range of responses that I want. For that, I may develop a silo strategy that includes a catalog of content.
Scope of Specialization
Niche markets are all about specialization. Therefore, the more experienced your audience, the more specialized your content (and authoritative). You may find yourself setting aside age groupings and buying habits and turn to other "hooks" to engage your audience. Keep in mind that many niche markets respond well to user-generated content that doesn't compromise sound and authoritative reporting. Consider also that not long ago, marketers created ad-utainment or ed-utainment content - wrapping creative marketing narratives around entertainment framework. But why do these tactics work? I think it can be boiled down to three things:
Structure and consistency - the more 'niched' your audience, the more control you need to deploy. For instance, stick to your topic. It may be tempting to blog an op/ed about what seems like a relevant issue, but make darned sure that your opinions loop back to the most important topic: your product/service.
Trend and moods - rather than try to force patterns of your own, follow the mood of your audience and adapt to shifts quickly. If you gain enough authority, you'll move trends in your direction. If you know the topic well, you can anticipate changes in attitude and opinion. Bonus points when you can be nuanced and subtle about it.
Wonder and wit - so I can harp about "talking about what your audience talks about," but it's more than that. If you want to master the topic, you need to tap into the experimental side of the conversation. Humor may come into it, but I'd look for the imaginative applications of your product/service. Spend a little time going over audience commentary and observations.
Content creation in a niche market isn't all that difficult. For that matter, is the task of creating content for a niche market isn't really any different than creating content for any other market. In my analysis, as far as a content creation is concerned, all markets are niche markets (or should be treated as such). And, as with most of marketing, common sense rules over all. As for style, there's always room for interpretation by the individual. If you're new to this, then let me pass along an early lesson I picked up a long time ago: "Write as though you were trying to explain something to your mother." The next bit of insight comes from Mark Twain: "Write what you know."