How to Create Boring-Industry Content that Gets Shared
Posted by ronell-smith
If you think creating content for boring industries is tough, try creating content for an expensive product that’ll be sold in a so-called boring industry. Such was the problem faced by Mike Jackson, head of sales for a large Denver-based company that was debuting a line of new high-end products for the fishing industry in 2009.
After years of pestering the executives of his traditional, non-flashy company to create a line of products that could be sold to anglers looking to buy premium items, he finally had his wish: a product so expensive only a small percentage of anglers could afford them.
What looked like being boxed into a corner was actually part of the plan.
When asked how he could ever put his neck on the line for a product he’d find tough to sell and even tougher to market, he revealed his brilliant plan.
“I don’t need to sell one million of [these products] a year,” he said. “All I need to do is sell a few hundred thousand, which won’t be hard. And as far as marketing, that’s easy: I’m ignoring the folks who’ll buy the items. I’m targeting professional anglers, the folks the buyers are influenced by. If the pros, the influencers, talk about and use the products, people will buy them.”
Such was my first introduction to how it’s often wise to ignore who’ll buy the product in favor of marketing to those who’ll help you market and sell the product.
These influencers are a sweet spot in product marketing and they are largely ignored by many brands
Looking at content for boring industries all wrong
A few months back, I received a message in Google Plus that really piqued my interest: “What’s the best way to create content for my boring business? Just kidding. No one will read it, nor share information from a painter anyway.”
I went from being dismayed to disheartened. Dismayed because the business owner hadn’t yet found a way to connect with his prospects through meaningful content. Disheartened because he seemed to have given up trying.
You can successfully create content for boring industries. Doing so requires nothing out of the ordinary from what you’d normally do to create content for any industry. That’s the good news.
The bad news: Creating successful content for boring industries requires you think beyond content and SEO, focusing heavily on content strategy and outreach.
Successfully creating content for boring industries—or any industry, for that matter—comes down to who’ll share it and who’ll link to it, not who’ll read it, a point nicely summed up in this tweet:
I just don’t understand the mindset of ‘build content –> build links to it’. Identify link opps FIRST, then create content to service them.
— Jon Cooper (@PointBlankSEO) April 7, 2015
So when businesses struggle with creating content for their respective industries, the culprits are typically easy to find:
- They lack clarity on who they are creating content for (e.g., content strategy, personas)
- There are no specific goals (e.g., traffic, links, conversions, etc.) assigned regarding the content, so measuring its effectiveness is impossible
- They’re stuck in neutral thinking viral content is the only option, while ignoring the value of content amplification (e.g., PR/outreach)
Alone, these three elements are bad; taken together, though, they spell doom for your brand.
If you lack clarity on who you’re creating content for, the best you can hope for is that sometimes you’ll create and share information members of your audience find useful, but you likely won’t be able to reach or engage them with the needed frequency to make content marketing successful.
Goals, or lack thereof, are the real bugaboo of content creation. The problem is even worse for boring industries, where the pressure is on to deliver a content vehicle that meets the threshold of interest to simply gain attention, much less, earn engagement.
For all the hype about viral content, it’s dismaying that so few marketers aren’t being honest on the topic: it’s typically hard to create, impossible to predict and typically has very, very little connection to conversions for most businesses.
What I’ve found is that businesses, regardless of category, struggle to create worthwhile content, leading me to believe there is no boring industry content, only content that’s boring.
“Whenever we label content as ‘boring,’ we’re really admitting we have no idea how to approach marketing something,” says Builtvisible’s Richard Baxter.
Now that we know what the impediments are to producing content for any industry, including boring industries, it’s time to tackle the solution.
Develop a link earning mindset
There are lots of article on the web regarding how to create content for boring industries, some of which have appeared on this very blog.
But, to my mind, the one issue they all suffer from is they all focus on what content should be created, not (a) what content is worthy of promotion, (b) how to identify those who could help with promotion, and (c) how to earn links from boring industry content. (Remember, much of the content that’s read is never shared; much of what’s shared is never read in its entirety; and some of the most linked-to content is neither heavily shared nor heavily read.)
This is why content creators in boring industries should scrap their notions of having the most-read and most-shared content, shifting their focus to creating content that can earn links in addition to generating traffic and social signals to the site.
After all, links and conversions are the main priorities for most businesses sharing content online, including so-called local businesses.
(Image courtesy of the 2014 Moz Local Search Ranking Factors Survey)
If you’re ready to create link-earning, traffic-generating content for your boring-industry business follow the tips from the fictitious example of RZ’s Auto Repair, a Dallas, Texas, automobile shop.
With the Dallas-Forth Worth market being large and competitive, RZ’s has narrowed their speciality to storm repair, mainly hail damage, which is huge in the area. Even with the narrowed focus, however, they still have stiff competition from the major players in the vertical, including MAACO.
What the brand does have in its favor, however, is a solid website and a strong freelance copywriter to help produce content.
Remember, those three problems we mentioned above—lack of goals, lack of clarity and lack of focus on amplification—we’ll now put them to good use to drive our main objectives of traffic, links and conversions.
Setting the right goals
For RZ, this is easy: He needs sales, business (e.g., qualified leads and conversions), but he knows he must be patient since using paid media is not in the cards.
Therefore, he sits down with his partner, and they come up with what seems like the top five workable, important goals:
- Increased traffic on the website – He’s noticed that when traffic increases, so does his business.
- More phone calls – If they get a customer on the phone, the chances of closing the sale are around 75%.
- One blog per week on the site – The more often he blogs, the more web traffic, visits and phone calls increase.
- Links from some of the businesses in the area – He’s no dummy. He knows the importance of links, which are that much better when they come from a large company that could send him business.
- Develop relationships with small and midsize non-competing businesses in the area for cross promotions, events and the like.
Know the audience
Too many businesses create cute blogs that might generate traffic but do nothing for sales. RZ isn’t falling for this trap. He’s all about identifying the audience who’s likely to do business with him.
Luckily, his secretary is a meticulous record keeper, allowing him to build a reasonable profile of his target persona based on past clients.
- 21-35 years old
- Drives a truck that’s less than fours years old
- Has an income of $ 45,000-$ 59,000
- Employed by a corporation with greater than 500 employees
- Active on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter
- Consumes most of their information online
- Typically referred by a friend or a co-worker
This information will prove invaluable as he goes about creating content. Most important, these nuggets create a clearer picture of how he should go about looking for people and/or businesses to amplify his content.
PR and outreach: Your amplification engines
Armed with his goals and the knowledge of his audience, RZ can now focus on outreach for amplification, thinking along the lines of…
- Who/what influences his core audience?
- What could he offer them by way of content to earn their help?
- What content would they find valuable enough to share and link to?
- What challenges do they face that he could help them with?
- How could his brand set itself apart from any other business looking for help from these potential outreach partners?
Putting it all together
Being the savvy businessperson he is, RZ pulls his small staff together and they put their thinking caps on.
Late spring through early fall is prime hail storm season in Dallas. The season accounts for 80 percent of his yearly business. (The other 20% is fender benders.) Also, they realize, many of the storms happen in the late afternoon/early evening, when people are on their way home from work and are stuck in traffic, or when they duck into the grocery store or hit the gym after work.
What’s more, says one of the staffers, often a huge group of clients will come at once, owing to having been parked in the same lot when a storm hits.
That’s when RZ bolts out of his chair with the idea that could put his business on the map: Let’s create content for businesses getting a high volume of after-work traffic—sit-down restaurants, gyms, grocery stores, etc.
The businesses would be offering something of value to their customers, who’ll learn about precautions to take in the event of a hail storm, and RZ would have willing amplifiers for his content.
Content is only as boring as your outlook
First—and this is a fatal mistake too many content creators make—RZ visits the handful of local businesses he’d like to partner with. The key here, however, is he smartly makes them aware that he’s done his homework and is eager to help their patrons while making them aware of his service.
This is an integral part of outreach: there must be a clear benefit to the would-be benefactor.
After RZ learns that several of the businesses are amenable to sharing his business’s helpful information, he takes the next step and asks what form the content should take. For now, all he can get them to promote is a glossy one-sheeter, “How To Protect Your Vehicle Against Extensive Hail Damage,” that the biggest gym in the area will promote via a small display at the check-in in return for a 10% coupon for customers.
Three of the five others he talked to also agreed to promote the one-sheeter, though each said they’d be willing to promote other content investments provided they added value for their customers.
The untold truth about creating content for boring industries
When business owners reach out to me about putting together a content strategy for their boring brand, I make two things clear from the start:
- There are no boring brands. Those two words are a cop out. No matter what industry you serve, there are hoards of people who use the products or services who are quite smitten.
- What they see as boring, I see as an opportunity.
In almost every case, they want to discuss some of another big content piece that’s sure to draw eyes, engagement, and that maybe even leads to a few links. Sure, I say, if you have tons of money to spend.
(Amazing piece of interactive content created by BuiltVisible)
Assuming you don’t have money to burn, and you want a plan you can replicate easily over time, try what I call the 1-2-1 approach for monthly blog content:
1: A strong piece of local content (goal: organic reach, topical relevance, local SEO)
2: Two pieces of evergreen content (goal: traffic)
1: A link-worthy asset (goal: links)
This plan is not very hard at all to pull off, provided you have your ear to the street in the local market; have done your keyword research, identifying several long-tail keywords you have the ability to rank for; and you’re willing to continue with outreach.
What it does is allow the brand to create content with enough frequency to attain significance with the search engines, while also developing the habit of sharing, promoting and amplifying content as well. For example, all of the posts would be shared on Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook. (Don’t sleep on paid promotion via Facebook.)
Also, for the link-worthy asset, there would be outreach in advance of its creation, then amplification, and continued promotion from the company and those who’ve agreed to support the content.
Create a winning trifecta: Outreach, promotion and amplification
To RZ’s credit, he didn’t dawdle, getting right to work creating worthwhile content via the 1-2-1 method:
1: “The Worst Places in Dallas to be When a Hail Storm Hits”
2: “Can Hail Damage Cause Structural Damage to Your Car?” and “Should You Buy a Car Damaged by Hail?”
1: “Big as Hail!” contest
This contest idea came from the owner of a large local gym. RZ’s will give $ 500 to the local homeowner who sends in the largest piece of hail, as judged by Facebook fans, during the season. In return, the gym will promote the contest at its multiple locations, link to the content promotion page on RZ’s website, and share images of its fans holding large pieces of hail via social media.
What does the gym get in return: A catchy slogan (e.g., it’s similar to “big as hell,” popular gym parlance) to market around during the hail season.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved, especially RZ.
He gets a link, but most important he realizes how to create content to nail each one of his goals. You can do the same. All it takes is a change in mindset. Away from content creation. Toward outreach, promote and amplify.
While the story of RZ’s entirely fictional, it is based on techniques I’ve used with other small and midsize businesses. The keys, I’ve found, are to get away from thinking about your industry/brand as being boring, even if it is, and marshal the resources to find the audience who’ll benefit from from your content and, most important, identify the influencers who’ll promote and amplify it.
What are your thoughts?
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