Adapting to Social Media in a Highly Niche Market

If you’ve studied marketing for any length of time, you’ve likely already come across the adage that all marketing must be held ruthlessly accountable for measurable results. As a firm believer in testing and tracking every little bit of marketing I do, I was initially confused about how to apply tracking methodologies to this whole “social media” craze, where success is, on the surface, measured largely by popularity: How many friends, followers, or connections you have with other people. I suddenly found myself in the strange position of being an “old school” Internet marketer in a sea of social media confusion

Then came along (shameless plug coming!) Laura Roeder’s original “Creating Fame” course. Creating Fame not only gave me an actual direction in which to point my social media efforts, but also clarified how to translate my “old Internet marketing” thought processes into the new social media universe. In reality, there was nothing I really needed to do differently, as the core concepts of creating valuable content to generate traffic back to my own web site was still the dominant concept. All that was really changing was where I put that content, and how I needed to format my content in order for people to be able to properly engage with it in a social media
context.

My particular market is a very small niche, and something that most people are uncomfortable discussing freely with strangers: IRS tax debt resolution. My first challenge for integrating social media into my existing marketing was to determine how best to present my content in a way that people would actually use it. This had to go beyond just using content for SEO and link building purposes — I needed to actively engage people somehow to enter a dialogue about something
they didn’t want to talk about.

Because of this challenge, I ultimately decided that direct connection sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn would not be a core component of my social media matrix, and until the past two months I did not actively pursue those three popular social media outlets. Instead, we chose to tap into existing communities where people went for information about particular problems, e.g., business management issues, personal finance assistance, etc.

As per Laura’s suggestions, I first cleaned up my web site, migrated from B2Evolution to WordPress, and made the web site much more user friendly, interactive, and personable. Whereas before I maintained distinctly separate business and personal lives on the Internet, I
began introducing a personal element to my business sites, and took a softer approach to my tax relief articles and discussions. Ultimately, after significant deliberation, I collapsed all my web sites into one central location. From one blog I was then able to offer business articles to each of several specific industries that represent a large fraction of my client base, offer tax advice, and also let prospective clients see a personal side of me that let’s them know I’m human and
have interests outside of just being a tax geek.

The use of online press releases quickly became a large part of my “social media” strategy. Placing press releases specifically regarding successful resolutions achieved for specific clients on places such as prlog.com and prnewsire.com became important for engaging individuals that were seeking assistance with their tax problems, and bringing them into the fold at our main company web site.

When conducting keyword research in support of the launch of the new Phoenix Financial Group web site, I discovered numerous under-served keyword phrases. I made use of info-centric web sites, such as Hubpages.com, EzineArticles.com, and Google Knol, to put up purely educational content in order to attract searchers.

One of the more successful examples of direct engagement with an online community that we have had is actually participation in Craigslist forums. The Craigslist community can be a fiery bunch, and really requires thick skin in order to engage that audience. However, by being an active participant in the tax, legal, and money forums on Craigslist, I was able to establish our firm as an expert provider of advice to this fairly picky audience. In fact, posting ads on Craigslist and participating in the forums has secured us actual, paying clients, including a $12,000 sale that is still one of our firm’s top ten highest value clients to date.

As our firm continues to grow, our objective is to entirely replace our current method of generating new clients with only inbound strategies. At present, about 90% of our revenue is generated via outbound telemarketing. By replacing this cold calling with more relationship-based forms of client generation, we see not only better relationships with the client from the beginning, but also what we consider a client that is more likely to purchase additional services from our firm as we roll them out, such as payroll services, business valuation, bankruptcy petition preparation, etc. By the end of the second quarter of 2011, I anticipate a full ¼ of our new clients will be generated via inbound, relationship-based marketing methods (aka,
social media!).

 

Need more actionable advice?
Get your FREE weekly marketing “to-do” list
straight to your inbox every Wednesday:
Jassen Bowman is an IRS licensed Enrolled Agent, specializing in resolving tax liability issues for small businesses. When not working on tax matters or marketing, Jassen can be found at his local ice rink, where he is an active figure skater and judge. For more information about tax resolution and turning around businesses, visit http://SixFigureResults.com.

Comments

  1. Great post Jassen. I did not realize you were using press releases as part of your marketing. I appreciate you sharing that. Is that more effective than the marketing on CraigsList for your business?

    Sincerely,

    James

    • James:

      Yes, press releases have actually become a big part of what I’m doing for the PFG web site in particular. As for comparing it to Craigslist, that’s an apples/oranges comparison. You know how finicky Craigslist marketing can be, and we use it for generating some “now” revenue, whereas PR is part of that long term strategy of having good content out there that people find and come back to you on. Also, Craigslist provides almost no SEO value, whereas PR does.

      -Jassen

  2. Great post, love the tips on using the free PR services and Craigslist!

  3. Jassen – what a great article. It’s nice to see someone illustrate progress from implementing best practices – especially in a small niche. Can I ask you roughly how much time implementation of all of the above roughly took (was it over the course of 6 months? A year?)?

    Thanks for sharing your experience – I’m rapidly becoming a big fan of Laura Roeder’s and this article definitely supports that. Congratulations on your progress too!

    • Shayna:

      I’ve been dabbling in social media proper now for about a year and a half, and more seriously for about the last 8 months, which has resulted in the progress I wrote about in this post.

      I’ve made some mistakes along the way (such as getting my first Twitter account suspended…whoops!) and it’s required a significant shift in my Internet marketing mindset.

      Stick with Laura, and do the Creating Fame course if you haven’t already, it’s worthwhile to do the exercises and everything if you really want to make progress with this, and do it all in step with the program — you’ll see results so much faster than I have! :)

      -Jassen

  4. very detailed article Jassen. Thanks for this. I got to know about creatingfame and I am already exploring the videos on the blog. Seems interesting.