Marketing in a Tough Niche with Kristin Huntley @seekristintweet #VCBuzz

We are not always lucky to work in fun niches with active community or pretty low competition. I remember the time when SEO was such a niche!

But what should we do when we are in a very competitive industry. How to stand out? Let’s talk about that today!

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About Kristin

Kristin Huntley is creative communicator, strategist, designer, photographer and storyteller. She is director of content and marketing at DealerCue.

Connect to Kristin on Linkedin

Questions we discussed

Q1 Please tell us your career story! What are your professional milestones? How did you become content marketer?

My degree was in Communications Management, a combination of PR and Business with focus on design and copywriting.  This was before the days of Adobe CS, Social Media and Google Analytics.  Marketers have had to embrace a lot of growth in the past 20 years.  I worked at a local paper for a while after college, but for the majority of my career I was a freelancer serving small businesses.

Freelancing allowed me to make my young children a priority and keep my skills sharp. I am someone who loves learning new things, an early adopter, so as social media and digital design, etc. evolved, I made it a priority to get on board and learn all I could.

Initially I did a lot of work as a designer, photographer and copywriter, creating business identity, marketing materials, etc. and that evolved to web design. In college we were using printed Lorem Ipsum dummy text and image placeholders to mock up magazine layouts!  I realize I am dating myself here, but I think it is important to note how much our industry has changed.  The demand on marketers to be creative and also have a handle on the analytical and tech aspects of content marketing is a tall order. It requires constant curiosity to stay current.

Q2 How to brainstorm content in a tough niche? Are there any tips on finding topic ideas that would drive traffic and leads even in very competitive niches?

I like to go where people are discussing things to get ideas. It will vary by niche, but discussion forums, Facebook and LinkedIn Groups and even the comments section of relevant industry blogs and publications are great places to start.  The first step of any great content is listening.  Think like your customer and search as they would. Themes will emerge and if you listen long enough you will see where you might be able to add value.

Other more obvious sources are current events and news in your industry…if you can somehow creatively summarize or encapsulate that for your audience, and drill it down to actionable insights or add educational value by gathering resources for your industry, you’re on your way to some great content.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I am seeing less engagement with gated content and finding my audience wants a more interactive and personalized experience rather than more in depth content. Of course it really depends on your niche, but driving traffic is much easier to hack than generating leads in my current industry.  I am always looking for ideas, so please share your lead gen tips and tricks!  I’m currently working on an interactive calculator widget I am hoping will help generate leads.

I hope not. My love for social, etc. is its ability to level the playing field for everyone.  I love social because it levels the playing field for everyone. Creativity wins.

Q3 What are some digital marketing tactics that work in every niche, even most competitive or “boring” ones?

I have experience creating content for financial services brands, automotive SaaS, and various small businesses from a cleaning company to contractors. I am currently growth hacking with a start-up so resources are lean. I have to make the investment of my time count, so I don’t spend time creating original content unless I can re-purpose it at least 5-7 other ways.  For instance, if I’m going to invest the time to write an 800-1000 word blog, I have a plan for how I will leverage it a number of other ways for my audience.

It could be that I’ll create an infographic, a series of social posts with visuals, or a short video to serve as the movie trailer version, or I might gather research or conduct a survey to add value and create a downloadable slideshow, e-book or white paper.  I’ve also used short snippets to create emails with a promotional offer or a contest.  There are so many ways for us to engage our audiences, it can be overwhelming.  Don’t be afraid to recycle content when it has demonstrated value.  And if you have a team working with you, take the time to distribute the blog to them first and get feedback or ideas on how to extend it.  Challenge them to come up with different ways to leverage the content and work together on the best ones…all of those resources will capture a different segment of your audience and drive traffic.

I also really like to do a recurring post type or blog series for audience building. Choose a well-documented pain point of your audience and address is regularly from different angles, or take those bigger ideas and break them down into 3 or 4 posts in a series, and drive readers to a landing page with a lead form to download the series bundled together with graphics and additional recommended reading, etc. to add value for a white paper or e-book download.

The important thing is to keep in mind your audience is overwhelmed with content and they are looking for something to capture their interest.  Before you invest too much time, do your homework and have confidence you are meeting a need in your audience. (BuzzSumo is good for this, as well as SEM Rush) Take a look at your tweets and other shared content analytics to see what is already working.  And then again, sometimes you just need to put some content out there and see what your audience is responding to before you invest more time.

Q4 How to create brand content that stands out?

Your content will stand out when it is not overly focused on your brand or your product, but celebrates your customer in some way and casts them as the hero of the story. This is critical.  Every piece of content you produce should solve a problem or tell a story where your customer is winning. You indirectly take on the roll of the wise guide when you position your customer as the star.

I have created entire ads celebrating what our clients were doing that generated record engagement with my company’s brand. The team creating ads for IBM absolutely kills it in this regard.

See examples here and here.

These links demonstrate perfectly what I’m talking about. I recommend generosity as a strategy whenever possible.  I also think content that is funny and human always resonates with people and stays with them.

When you show up authentically your clients are part of a real community. Stickier than transactional engagement.

Q5 Please list your favorite marketing tools you use regularly!

I am a huge app nerd. HUGE.  I use so many, but there are a handful I could not live without.  For social media, Feedly and Buffer are tools I use daily. I have tried almost everything, but those two continue to be at the top of my list.

I use Pinterest to organize my brain.  I have boards for campaigns, concepts, colors, design ideas, writing ideas… everything.

I also love all of the Evernote tools for organizing text-heavy documents.

SEM Rush is my go-to for SEO, keyword and competitor research, website improvements and maintenance, etc.  They just keep making their tools better and more useful.

I love Animoto for creating video content and WordSwag or Open for quick social posts from my phone.

Kindle/Audible…because I read constantly and think that is probably the most important piece of advice I share with colleagues…read! There are also some really great podcasts out there to help you stay current, which is no small task.

Honestly, I could go on all day, but those are my tops.  If you have a need chances are I can recommend an app for you to try so hit me up with questions!  🙂

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