A few weeks, I got called out on Inbound.org for writing about six companies doing content marketing well and only listing marketing companies. According to the site’s visitors, marketing to marketers is easy – the examples I shared wouldn’t necessarily translate to those working in other industries.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty confident that solid content marketing principles apply to everyone – in every field. So I did some digging and started investing companies in boring industries and found that there are tons of great examples out there of businesses that are crushing it online.
I’ve shared a few of them below, along with 10 tips you can take from their successes to apply to your own marketing campaigns.
Tip #1 – Become an Expert
Every industry has experts. Marketers are all familiar with guys like Seth Godin and Rand Fishkin – but just because they work as marketers doesn’t mean that examples don’t exist in other fields.
Take Autodesk, for instance. The company has been working hard to establish itself as an authority in the sustainable design field – an industry most people aren’t even aware exists. Largely, it’s done so through the publication of guest blogs to other sites, creating a web of mentions that get the company’s name out there without coming across as overly self-promotional.
Here’s a quick peek at how well the strategy is working for them, based on the number of Google results mentioning the company director’s name:
But besides being a great tactic for any business looking to increase its profile, you might even have an advantage using an expert-building strategy as a boring business. According to marketer Neil Patel:
“It’s not hard to leverage content marketing for topics like health, dating or politics. But it is much harder to do for topics like finance, dental or insurance. For this reason, you don’t see too many people in those spaces using content marketing as a core part of their strategy.”
Simply put, boring industries have bigger opportunities. Start building your expertise today by investing in your personal brand and leveraging any existing influencers that may already be present in your field.
Tip #2 – Educate Your Customers
Education is a powerful tool, and it’s one that’ll work for just about anyone.
To see this tip in action, let’s start by taking a look at a “fun” company – DailyBurn. The online fitness provider runs a “Life” blog where it covers topics ranging from food and healthy eating to exercise tips for visitors who want to get in shape.
But what’s interesting here is that, despite having these clear core competencies identified and represented in their work, one of blog’s most shared posts isn’t about fitness – it’s about nuts, and the role they play in increasing longevity.
What we can learn from DailyBurn’s example is the importance of educating visitors on whatever topics appeal to them most – even if those topics aren’t 100% relevant to the company’s main mission.
Now, let’s look at how this works in the case of a boring industry. When I Work is an employee scheduling company serving small business owners – not a hot topic by any stretch of the imagination. But while post after post on scheduling practices would be boring, the site covers topics like hiring employees, dealing with stress, small business marketing, managing and leadership – all of which are topics small business owners need help with. That makes the content interesting and educational, even if it isn’t directly related to the company’s scheduling software.
Taking things one step further, When I Work also runs a blog catering to the end users of the program – the high school kids, college students and other hourly workers whose employers use the app. The company’s WorkPulse blog helps further reinforce this mission of education by posting on such topics as interviewing, money management and customer service.
How can you implement this technique on your own website? Easy – stop thinking about what you want to write about and start creating content that your readers actually want to read.
Tip #3 – Help Your Customers
In my opinion, there’s nothing more boring than the finance industry. Hey, I’ve admitted it before – I’m just not naturally a numbers guy.
But even still, there’s a way to do good content marketing for companies in this field. BankRate is one of the best examples out there, in my mind. Even though the company doesn’t have sexy topics it can post on, it’s created a series of mortgage calculators, auto loan calculators and even tax forms that all serve the primary purpose of helping their customers.
These tools have generated a ton of press for the company since their initial launch – so much so that BankRate has become synonymous with online loan calculators for many people. It’s not a flashy approach, but it’s simple, it helps people, and it works.
Obviously, you don’t have to build an extensive system of tools like BankRate. All you need to do is start with the question: “How does my content help my audience?” If you can’t come up with a convincing answer, hit the drawing board again until you’ve got an idea that will really serve your readers.
Tip #4 – Take a Different Angle
Now, let’s move on to another industry that isn’t exactly known for keeping readers up all night with its flashy content: real estate.
Let me tell you how a lot of different real estate bloggers have approached this subject in the past… They start out writing on the things that interest them, which leads to articles like, “7 Steps to Qualifying for an FHA Mortgage” or “New Federal Restrictions Set to Impact Fannie Mae.”
I’m so tired of seeing dry, templated real estate content like this that it was pretty exciting to find one company doing things right. Movoto covers some standard real estate topics, but they also write off-the-wall, Buzzfeed-style posts that are actually engaging to readers (take a look at titles like “25 Insane Things in Florida That You Never Knew Existed” or “26 Experiences Everyone from Oregon Wishes They Could Live Without”).
Their articles are quirky and funny – and they’re so engaging I wound up using the site myself. My wife and I are moving to Austin in a few weeks, and we kept coming across the site in the Google results as we were looking for our next house. A few hours spent digging through the site’s archives, and we now know more about the city, which areas we should live in, what the people of Austin are like and what kind of food we should look forward to.
If you ask me, that’s some pretty effective content marketing – no matter how boring the industry may be.
Tip #5 – Write for the Enthusiast
Thinking about some of the boring industries out there, it’s hard to imagine that you might find hard-core enthusiasts in all of them, but believe me – there’s something for everyone. No matter how weird or arcane the subject might be, there’s an enthusiast out there who goes to bed at night and wakes up the next morning thinking about the topic.
Let’s go to the most morbid subject at all, just so that I can prove to you that content marketing works in virtually every industry. That’s right – we’re going to the death care profession.
Caitlin Doughty is an LA-based mortician who’s famous for her “Ask a Mortician” video series and the owner behind the forthcoming Undertaking L.A. funeral service. If you’re thinking that this industry can’t benefit from content marketing, think again – Doughty’s Youtube channel has more than 47,000 subscribers and her most popular video has more than 209,000 views.
It doesn’t get much weirder than that, but as the views her channel has racked up prove, there are enthusiasts for even the most morbid of topics.
To use this technique on your own content campaigns, you’ve got to spend time with the enthusiasts in your field. It may take some digging – and you may need to go off the beaten social media path to find them in places like chat rooms, private groups or old-school message boards.
Once you’re in, just listen. Use everything you hear to inform your content strategy efforts so that you can tap into the excitement these enthusiasts already have.
Tip #6 – Create and Share Great Videos
On the topic of video success, an article on content marketing success in boring industries wouldn’t be complete without a mention of “Will it Blend?”
The company behind the campaign – Blendtec – is a blender manufacturer. Can you even imagine being the marketer tasked with making blenders interesting to the masses? I’m glad it’s not a campaign I had to run, but I’m even happier that the people who did came up with the hilarious concept of running everyday objects through the company’s blenders to test their strength and durability.
Here’s the company’s most recent video – blending an Apple Watch (to the tears of everybody out there who’s still stuck on the waitlist):
The campaign, which was initially launched back in 2006, was so successful that it was responsible for a 700% increase in total blender sales between the years 2006-2008.
With numbers like that, you can’t tell me that content marketing doesn’t work for seemingly-boring industries!
Tip #7 – Leverage Consumer Reports Data
But what’s fascinating about the company’s OkTrends blog isn’t just its occasionally-NSFW article titles – it’s the way the website uses its members data to provide interesting insights for current and future users.
For example, take a look at some of the charts in the first linked article – such as the one demonstrating how women felt about their blind date experiences, as a function of the date’s looks in relation to the women’s perceptions about her appearance.
That’s really interesting stuff, and OkCupid’s revelation that they were mining users’ data in this way earned them a ton of press. While privacy considerations were raised, the experiment overall was well-received as an example of the way big data can produce meaningful improvements in people’s lives.
LawnStarter, a marketplace that provides on-demand lawn care for consumers, has embraced content marketing in the boring industry that is lawn care. One example of a way to market to lawn care businesses is this survey about minimum wage in the lawn care industry, as that is something that lawn care business owners are very concerned about.
So how can you use data in your content marketing campaigns? Figure out what people in your boring industry care about, and then figure out how to find data that’ll support their understanding of these issues. Gathering data may be as simple as sending out a customer survey or using an online survey provider like SurveyMonkey. No matter what approach you take, even simple data that’s uniquely yours will help set your company apart.
Tip #8 – Tell Stories
In the world of content marketing, 2014 was dubbed “The Year of the Story,” for one simple reason. Data has shown that the average adult’s attention span is shrinking, and compelling stories represent one possible way to break through internal filters and capture a prospect’s focus.
One company that’s used this technique well is Turbotax (ugh, I know – another financial company). Take a look at a recent ad the company created:
Nowhere in this ad did Turbotax say, “Come try us out – our tax software is the best.” They didn’t have to. Instead, they turned the conversation about taxes into the story of a young couple in love. Sure, their marriage would eventually have tax implications – which Turbotax offers a solution for – but the real message of the ad is propelled more by its story than its content.
You don’t need to run big advertising shoots to take advantage of this effect for yourself. Think about the fundamentals of a good story – there’s the underdog hero, the villain, the damsel in distress and the seemingly-insurmountable obstacle. Could any of these popular tropes apply to your company’s story?
Don’t be too obvious about it, but do try to find ways to weave storytelling principles into the content you create. Doing so significantly increases the odds that your brand will be able to break into your prospect’s consciousness in the few seconds it takes to make a good impression.
Tip #9 – Watch the News
Want a quick way to guarantee that the content you create will appeal to people in your boring industry? Find a news issue that people care about and build content around it.
One company that’s succeeded with this approach is ShoreTel Sky, a cloud-based phone provider. Again, there’s pretty much nothing exciting about the phone industry, and yet, ShoreTel was able to drive a 42% higher conversion rate from visitors who viewed news-related content than those who only viewed commercial content throughout 2012.
Amber Newman, the company’s Senior Marketing Communications Manager, had this to say about her team’s success with this approach:
“News was an opportunity to engage buyers looking for information that makes a decision to use cloud-based phone systems feel less risky.”
Best of all, this approach is incredibly easy to implement. ShoreTel – and many other companies that have used this approach effectively – simply created an “Industry News” section on its website, which led to a collection of news-based articles that were kept separate from the company’s main blog.
You can do the same by providing up-to-date, newsworthy content to the enthusiasts in your boring industry.
Tip #10 – Showcase Your Personality
So far, we’ve covered how content marketing can be used successfully to market everything from funeral service to sex. It only seems natural, then, that we’re going to end this post with a little bit of bathroom humor…
Specifically, we’re looking at Charmin’s “Sit or Squat” app, which helps users find clean public restrooms while out-and-about. There’s literally nothing interesting or sexy about toilet paper, and yet, Charmin was able to drive content marketing success by showcasing its corporate personality with this cheeky program.
(Get it…? Cheeky?)
Now, if you want to implement this tip for your own company, you don’t need to go to the hassle and expense of building your own app, and you don’t need to cover such an edgy topic to get noticed.
Instead, what you need to do is to find ways to showcase your brand’s quirky, unique personality – even if it seems as if you’re in an industry where such branding would be discouraged. Try to make your next few content pieces a little edgier than usual, and see if you aren’t rewarded with additional social shares and greater brand loyalty.
Have another great example of content marketing for boring industries? This list certainly isn’t comprehensive, so share your suggestions by leaving a comment below!