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Five Steps to Successful Niche Marketing Over the Web

This article is from our guest blogger Malcolm Sheppard.

The web is bringing people together! It’s creating communities! That’s all true, but let’s flip that premise to boost our insight. The web also separates people. From search to target site, surfers can confine their browsing to very specific areas of interest. Unless you can get your foot in the door of a popular news aggregator you can’t rely on a broadcast marketing model to snag interest from an undifferentiated audience. You have to appeal to the niche. Here are five tips that work well for us at GILL Media.

Know Your Client’s Business: Do your research. Wring as much information out of your clients as possible. A niche audience knows their stuff, so if your copy looks less than authentic they’ll know right away. Generally speaking, our content development process starts with extensive research into the niche, followed by client approvals and adjustments. Sometimes a marketer’s “outsider” status is an asset because some clients are so engrossed in their fields they don’t realize how specialized they are, and don’t know how to properly define what they do. Use that to your advantage, but always get the facts right.

Design Niche Pages: You can read about that right in this blog. It’s a great article, so there’s not much to add except to note that a niche page is not necessarily the same as a landing page. Your target audience usually knows something about the business, so you’ve got to include novel, relevant content to bring in the leads. In all likelihood, these people have already seen the competition and are at the stage where they’re trying to weigh them against each other – and you.

Identify Vertical Entry Points: Marketing blogger Pete Caputa posits that verticalization is the only strategy left for marketers. That might be an overly strong statement, but it is true that search is getting more specialized and personal. While broad keyword searches will never die, services like Findlaw are pushing up in one direction, while Google’s Personalized Search will eventually serve as a custom funnels for browsers to “drop” through. The web will eventually hook personalized searches up with vertical portals so seamlessly that browsers may never have to look at anything they aren’t interested in again. Get your clients in the vertical browsing path. Genuine niche marketing portals (not link farms) do this in one direction, but for the other, getting in someone’s personal search path requires the same keyword research as before. Now, however, you have to take those long tail terms a bit more seriously.

Identify Communities: Use keyword searches and browsing to find the premiere communities for each niche. A warning, though: The more specialized the niche, the more likely your searches are going to be compromised by SEO “noise.” The most obvious sign of this is when a search with a small number of SERPS displays a lot of scraped and keyword stuffed pages. Look for active, spam-free web forums and hub blogs that feature many links from other sites and bloggers within the niche. You’ll find keyword inspirations and might be able to participate in these communities on behalf of the client, or point him or her there to get involved. Always adhere to community rules.

Get Prosumers on Board: Prosumers are powerful assets. They’re either respected community members or amateur producers within your client’s niche. In communities, their blog and form posts are frequent and filled with positive feedback. Encourage your clients to give them special access to products and services (early releases, freebies) and solicit their honest feedback. Prosumers generally want to like your client, but they don’t want to feel like marketing mouthpieces. Make sure you’ve written coherent copy they can mine for talking points, but don’t try to directly control their statements. Receptive prosumers can be powerful allies, especially since they post things that would be considered spam if you did it.

Don’t think of these five steps as pillars, but real “steps:” ways to drill down from refining a client’s web presence to managing the interactive elements of niche marketing. Done correctly, your plan should fill every level of the niche, from the first search steps to the most specific community discussions. Give it a shot.

About the Author: Malcolm Sheppard is a writer and researcher for GILL Media, an internet marketing firm with offices in Canada and the US. Check out the company’s blog at http://www.gill-media.com/InternetMarketingBlog.

June 26th, 2008 at 4:46 pm

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