While the internet has changed marketing for businesses of every shape and size, perhaps one of the most transformed over the past couple of decades has been the niche business.
Pre-internet, niche businesses had to have products or services that would appeal to enough people to support the cost of advertising – which meant that many potential niche products never saw the light of day.
Today, the situation is different. Niche products still have to make enough money to support their advertising costs, like any other business, but those costs have gotten so much lower, and ad reach so much wider, that the niche product and service market has boomed.
Just think about some of the niche products or services you’ve come across in the past few years. Print-on-demand T-shirts. Super-exclusive (and expensive) matchmaking services. Every subscription box service out there, from Blue Apron (meals and recipes) to Birchbox (beauty products).
The reality now is that if you want to create a line of handmade journals targeting 28-35-year-old mothers of gifted kids in Laguna Beach, California, you can do it – and with the right digital marketing strategy, you can probably even become profitable.
If this sounds like you, or even if your niche is a little bit larger than our mom-journal example, here are 5 digital marketing strategies you need to be using.
Let your customers speak for you through user-generated content.
One of the advantages niche businesses have over mainstream ones is that their customers really love their products.
Think about it: if a product is harder to find and more expensive than other similar products, there’s no other reason for someone to buy it. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream costs double what other mainstream ice cream brands cost, but if you’re in the mood for Phish Food, nothing else is going to cut it.
One of the best ways you can leverage this loyalty online is by embracing user-generated content (UGC). At its most basic, UGC is any content, from tweets to blog posts to wikis, etc., that’s created by a brand’s followers. So if someone posts an Instagram picture of themselves dunking an Oreo with the hashtag #oreo, that’s UGC for the social media-savvy cookie brand.
To incorporate UGC into your digital marketing strategy, you can start by simply interacting with your fans on social media. Thank customers who post about your product with a personalized message, if you can, and by sharing their posts with your followers.
Optimize your use of hashtags – if your customers are already using a specific one in their posts about your brand, it could be best to start using that one too. Otherwise, start a custom hashtag and use it religiously in your posts.
Once you’ve mastered this, take your UGC game further with a UGC marketing campaign. Here’s an example of a simple one.
Jones Soda’s Jonesin’ for a Fiat Sweepstakes
Jones Soda is no stranger to the power of UGC – they’ve been using customer-submitted photographs as their soda bottle labels since the 1990s. They run UGC campaigns regularly, and through November of 2016, Jones Soda is running a sweepstake for a Fiat 500X Crossover. To enter, people just have to submit a photo of themselves with the hashtag #jonesinforafiat.
By partnering with Fiat to run this campaign, Jones gets to reach a whole new group of potential high-end soda drinkers as well as gain a host of new social media followers. And the fact that users are adding tons of photos of Jones Soda bottles to the Twitterverse certainly doesn’t hurt.
If you want to get more ambitious than a sweepstake, you could run a contest – ask customers to submit videos for an upcoming promotion, or create a design to be incorporated into a new product line.
Take advantage of retargeting.
Retargeting, or remarketing, is a highly effective digital marketing strategy that essentially lets you follow your customers around the internet. When a potential customer visits your site but then leaves without converting, you can ensure that they see ads for your business at strategic moments during their browsing.
This is a great way for niche businesses to spend limited advertising dollars because it focuses those dollars on people who have already shown interest in the product. Retargeting means you’re not starting from scratch with each customer, which will almost certainly result in a greater ROI.
Choose your platforms wisely.
Niche products and services necessarily have smaller audiences than mainstream products – that’s why they’re called a niche, after all.
When it comes to social media, that means that you want to take a little time deciding which platforms are the most relevant for your business.
Facebook, for example, is so heavily populated that your business’s voice may be drowned out by every other remotely similar business that has a Facebook presence. If this is the case, why waste your time cultivating a Facebook page that won’t bring you strong returns?
Etsy, for example, though not exactly a niche business, has a stellar Pinterest profile. That’s fitting, considering that the peer-to-peer marketplace is a highly visual website, filled with images of what people are selling.
Pinterest fits Etsy so well because the company can use the platform not just to show off items that are for sale on the website, but also to connect with pinners who share Etsy’s overall aesthetic: vintage, unique, handmade, and authentic.
Remember that it’s better to have a strong, engaging presence on a single platform than a lukewarm one on five platforms. Pick the one or ones that will help you connect with your specific audience, whether that’s YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram – you get the picture.
Connect with influencers.
Influencers, or popular bloggers, social media celebrities, and other people who have huge online followings, can be just as helpful for niche businesses as they can for mainstream ones. According to recent statistics from Mediakix, 80 percent of marketers have found influencer marketing to be effective. In addition, 70 percent of Millennials are using ad blockers, which means you have to reach them another way. Traditional, self-promotional advertising just isn’t as effective today as it used to be.
That’s part of why influencers may even be more helpful for niche businesses, which rely heavily on customer loyalty, than for mainstream businesses. Since marketing a niche business relies on personal recommendations and word-of-mouth, having an influencer speak on your behalf can carry a great deal of weight with your audience.
It may be more difficult to find influencers for your niche business, but the time and effort you put into finding the right one can be well worth it.
Let’s say you’re a craftsman who does carpentry for luxury homebuilders and homeowners. At first glance, you might not know where to look for influencers – construction professionals? Fellow carpenters?
While there very well may be construction and carpentry influencers that you want to reach out to, one industry that has plenty of influencers is architecture. Building relationships with architecture and design influencers can benefit you because these influencers share an audience with you: people who are passionate about beautiful, quality craftsmanship.
Become the go-to expert for your industry.
When you’re in a niche market, customers are going to expect you to know what’s going on in your industry – what’s new and exciting, what’s coming down the pipeline, what’s trendy, what’s not.
If you want your customers to trust you and stay fiercely loyal to your brand, then you need to become a go-to expert in your industry – and more than that, you need to show that you’re a go-to expert by sharing quality content that’s relevant to your customers.
Take EyeCare 20/20, an ophthalmology practice in New Jersey that specializes in LASIK and other surgical procedures as well as eye ailments, like dry eye. They’ve built up an intensely loyal patient base by not just taking excellent care of those patients, but through thought leadership, as well. EyeCare’s lead ophthalmologist, Dr. Cary Silverman, writes articles for ophthalmology publications as well as publishes frequent blog posts on issues that his patients face.
By contributing this kind of informative, quality content to the ophthalmology space, Dr. Silverman and his team at EyeCare 20/20 have earned the trust of both current and potential patients. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that this kind of content has a hugely positive effect on their Google search rankings.
Niche businesses have different marketing challenges from mainstream businesses, but they can still use the immense power of digital marketing to their advantage. For more tips on getting the most out of your digital marketing efforts, read our post “How to Dominate Your Industry Via Digital Marketing.”