When you first start out in content marketing, it’s best to carve a specific niche for yourself. There are too many content marketers out there to be competitive with expertise in a general topic or a broad industry—for example, if you launch a site that specializes in “weight loss,” don’t expect to make a big impact. But if you launch a site that specializes in “weight loss for middle-aged men with busy schedules,” you’ll have far less competition and a far better chance at getting attention.
This kind of niche marketing is a way of isolating a portion of your target audience and isolating yourself from the competition, but as a brand driven toward growth, it’s unlikely you’ll want to stay limited to this niche forever. Instead, you want to expand to different topics, broader audiences, and new kinds of expertise. You can’t just evolve from a niche expertise to a general expertise, or you’ll run into that competition hurdle I alluded to in the first paragraph, so how can you manage content marketing growth once you’ve found success with a particular niche? In short, how can you invest in your content marketing program in a way that keeps it cost-efficient without overextending it to the point that you begin to lose money?
The secret is in segmentation. Rather than moving from an isolated audience to a different isolated audience or to the entire “general” audience all at once, you’ll be adopting new audiences to add to your old ones—new topics and new niches to layer in beside your original focus in a “segmented” strategy.
This strategy has been around for many years in the application of email blasts—email marketers often “segment” their lists based on demographics or previous customer behaviors—but for an inexplicable reason, it’s rarely used in the content marketing world.
If your goal is to evolve from fostering short-term growth to fostering long-term growth and keep your ROI positive in the process, segmentation is the way to do it. Here’s how.
Hopefully, you already have a target niche with a target demographic that is most valuable to you. For example, let’s say you’re a podiatrist and you’ve chosen an initial target audience of women between the ages of 35 and 50 who have recently sustained an injury or experience physical pain. This is a valuable audience because they have a vested interest in your topics (about foot injuries and sources of chronic pain), they’re potential customers, and they’re willing and able to read your blog. Now, you have a few choices for a second segment of your audience—do you choose males of the same age range, who might have the same interest and ability to read your blog but a lower likelihood of becoming customers? Or do you choose younger females, who might have a slightly lower interest but a much higher ability to find and read your blog? This is one of the most important choices you’ll make in the segmentation process.
It’s a bad idea to suddenly introduce a new stream of topics all at once, and it’s similarly a bad idea to disrupt your current process to favor or shoe in the new one (because you run the risk of alienating your original niche). Instead, you need to scale up your segmentation iteratively. Start with only one new demographic (and one new angle of topics), and keep your original stream untouched. Add in the new topics slowly at first, and only increase the pace when you feel you’ve sufficiently captured (or maintained) the interest of both segments. If launched successfully, then you can start thinking about layering in a third or a fourth segment.
Personal brands are your best friends for this process. If you currently have one or two authors writing the majority of your original segment, introduce a new author to cover the new segment exclusively. This will help your readers easily identify the thin, but solid line that divides the two realms of content, and will help preserve and build relationships with each segment on your blog. You should at least define the segments in terms of blog categories, but either way, being able to easily identify which authors contribute to which streams can go a long way in maximizing the efficiency of your segments.
Finally, make sure you adjust the tone, title tags, meta descriptions, pages, and layout of your entire site to match your integration of new segments in your target audience. Again, you’ll need to do this gradually to avoid disrupting anybody who’s already used to your site appealing to one specialized segment. Your other option is to set up a new site (or new landing page) and cater to each segment under the guise of a separate co-brand—but for most brands, that’s far more hassle than it’s worth.
With these strategies and approaches, you can forge a clear direction for the segmentation of your content marketing campaign. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be without its obstacles and challenges, but if you can scale your growth appropriately without alienating any of your demographics, this is by far the most efficient way to secure a long-term growth in readership.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.