Any advice or opinions it contains may be super outdated, so believe at your own risk
After largely working in the same niche for five years,1 adjusting to new stuff has been interesting.
In fact, I didn’t really think it was going to be that different. After all, developers are developers, right? B2B (business to business) is B2B, right? The web industry is the web industry, right?
The first area this became apparent was search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engine wise, I’ve gone from working in an incredibly competitive niche (where a single click on a Google ad is worth upwards of £50 a time), to a niche that hasn’t been developed yet. There are no competitors. There are practically no keywords. The service isn’t for end users, but for developers who can then create absolutely anything2 with it.
This has messed with my head quite a lot.
The sensible voice in my head is saying, ‘You need to make the on-page stuff shit hot, create some great content, look at how other niches promote this kind of service, develop a full-on branding and outreach strategy, develop various marketing channels, and go from there. Because this will always be the kind of service people will look for when they need it and (hopefully) recognise the name of, above anything else’.
The rest of my head is saying, ‘Wait, what just happened?’
I have to think about the same things, and use the same tools, but actually do something very different with them. I feel like I’ve been blindfolded and turned 225 degrees, then told to do the same thing.
I’ve worked on many kinds of websites, and there’s very little I’m not familiar with. Ecommerce? Sure. Complex ecommerce? Absolutely. Forums, blogs, affiliate sites, galleries, news sites, local businesses, charities? Fine. But something that’s never been done before, in a new and highly technical niche? I’ll give it a go, but I’m coming to it new.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why such a simple shift has confused my brain so much. Part of it is habit. Part of it is because most marketing works on the basis that you’re trying to out do the competition. Cut through the noise. Grab attention. Be the best.
When there’s no competition, it pretty much pulls the rug out from under your feet. Before you can even start, you need to go back to the very basics, and then build the entire market. I’ve been explaining my job and industry for years.3 This is a whole new level of explaining, because even my technical friends – which, let’s face it, is most of them – need an explanation of what it is and what it does.
In many ways, I’m in a good position. I’m very much an ‘ideas and creative’ marketer, and competitors never interested me very much. I probably didn’t pay enough attention to them (other than through numbers and data generally), which was fine because there were a few people in the team obsessed with them4 and would sling comment-worthy things of competitors my way. In fact, the only time I ever paid proper attention to the end-user versions of what competitors were producing were when they’d copied something I’d done. And there were a lot of things that got copied. Which is flattering and exciting until you realise that they made a worse version. Even though you did all the hard work in the first place and completely opened up the playing field to take the concept and project and produce something better, they made something worse. Facepalm.
So actually, I’m not as much out of my comfort zone as people who rely on competitors for their ideas. Your own stuff is always the most important starting point anyway; it’s best to benchmark data against yourself, your company, and your past campaigns/progress than other people/companies. Having said that, it would be nice to have a few more websites to go ‘Oooh, how have X done that,’ as a starting point to see how you can make X even better. But that’s what split testing is for. That’s what feedback is for. That’s what general best practice and putting yourself in the viewer’s shoes is for. And some things are pretty generic anyway, like the best way to present case studies and so on.
So it’s all good and there’s a ton of stuff to do, and I love how laid back everything is, and more importantly how I can just get on with stuff, but at the same time it is requiring mental adjustments. A niche that doesn’t yet exist and a company offering a single service with unlimited potential, a service that a lot of the target market doesn’t even know they need yet, and full, sole responsibility? It’s a daunting challenge for many, and one that a lot of people would baulk at.
Which is why I’ve thrown myself into it without looking back.