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How To Successfully Market Your Business In A Controversial Business Niche

How To Successfully Market Your Business In A Controversial Business Niche
Have you ever sat down and thought about how your business niche impacts your marketing strategy?

Countless marketers operating in niche markets face this very issue on a daily basis. Specialized and unique products tend to require a different sort of marketing strategy, and meticulous research is required.

The same goes for marketing agencies that work on multiple projects at the same time. Usually, they are working within versatile industries. Recently, the Search Engine Journal polled Twitter to find out how many vertical industries they serve. According to the results, 44% are serving various industries, 28% serve two to four vertical industries, and 28% serve just one vertical.

However, the problem arises when the agencies are working on different verticals. They tend to follow a uniform strategy for all of their clients. This demonstrates a lack of awareness when you consider that every niche requires a unique and specific strategy, particularly the controversial ones.

What are controversial business niches and how are they different from others?

A controversial business niche is one where consumers experience a clash of opinions and beliefs. Such niches don’t always have a 100% approval rating from the audience. Other than obviously extreme controversial niches, like porn or the gun industry, some other common examples include pharmaceutical companies, loan groups, political groups, bodybuilding communities and more.

Here’s a more specific example. I put the query ‘carbonated drinks’ into Google and here is what came up:

As you can see from the screenshot, four search results are informative links, two are promoting the benefits of carbonated drinks and one is showing an unbiased opinion. In contrast, three search results are against carbonated drinks.

Hence, if a business was selling carbonated drinks, they would find tough competition out there as evidenced by these seach engine results. Therefore you can see that carbonated drinks are a controversial niche.

Consequently, a question comes to mind: how is each controversial business niche different and why should they be treated separately? The fact is, when you are working in such a hot and debated multi-layered industry, then you have to cater to both sides of the proverbial coin: the pros and the cons.

The fundamentals of controversial niches

  • Audience targeting

A ‘niche’ defines a group or an audience being targeted. The group could consist of men and women of varying age groups, or it could be geographically distributed. Once you have determined your niche, you must group your targeted audience, after which the audience polarization process takes place.

  • Audience polarization

Audience polarization essentially refers to dividing the audience group. The division could be along the lines of pros and cons. Most marketers focus on the supportive group (pro group) and skip the anti-supportive group (con group), considering the latter to be a waste of time.

The importance of audience polarization is best explained using an example: let’s say two parties are nominated for a presidential election. Party A has a strong hold over the nation with more than 60% of the supportive ratio, wheras Party B has a 40% supportive ratio.

You can see that when factoring in audience polarization, in order to win the election, Party B has to run a campaign to attract the other group as well.

  • Strategy Planning

Once you effectively identify these two groups, you can then plan out your marketing strategies more effectively. The first group, who is already in favor of your product, is among the low-hanging fruit. You can use your usual marketing tactics to impress and convert them. However, to persuade the opposing group in favor of your product through your marketing is a bigger challenge.

Operating in a controversial niche using the Isolation Effect

Let me explain the impact of operating in a controversial niche using the Von Restorff Effect or Isolation Effect. With this approach, the isolated entities will always be recalled by the human brain.

If you cater to the opposed audience group using appropriate marketing strategies and channels, you will definitely stand out from your competitors. Due to the fact that you are putting in efforts to entertain both groups and also providing them with real value concerning quality products, you will be remembered and listed amongst the trendsetters.

Let’s put the two opposing audience groups into this effect.

Here, a vital question arises: how is the trust of the dissident consumer group gained? Let’s proceed to the challenges and core marketing strategies that need to be taken into account.

Getting traction with backlinks and controlling negative linking

Yes, negative linking inevitably happens in controversial business niches. Negative links are usually built by your competitors to decrease your search engine performance; other times they have been built by the dissident groups for reference.

Let’s say I have been working in a store that deals in waist trainers and have encountered this issue multiple times. Every week, I may have found two to three links coming from high authority websites which have a decent crawl ratio. This may cause minor fluctuations in keyword rankings in the SERPs.

As you can see in the above screenshot, the link was built on the website with a domain authority of 81, and the anchor text was also incorrectly placed. These types of links can be very harmful to your organic stability. It is important to track them on a weekly basis.

So what are the possible causes of negative linking? Well, as mentioned, it could be for citation or referencing purposes. While this may sound strange, it actually happens.

When your website is ranking on the first page of Google for a controversial product based keyword, then most of the opposite opinion believers want to link to your content just because of that.

I extracted this result when my client got a link from a high authority website, as shown in the screenshot above. At the time, my client was ranking in the second or third position with regards to the keyword ‘waist trainer’, and I could not find any other reason except the one I just explained.

An SQL injection could also be a tactic used by your competitors just to manipulate the search results of your website in a negative way. Hence, unknown pages are usually added to your website, which are totally irrelevant to your niche. Competitors can then spread those links on various irrelevant platforms to rank your brand for irrelevant keywords.

This technique is common across all niches, regardless of how controversial they are. For those who are unaware of this black-hat practice, let me quote an example here which is not from a controversial website, but just for the sake of knowledge.

Unfortunately, when you’re ranking well in the SERPs, then competitors will try to sabotage your efforts by building spam links, resulting in a reduction of rankings.

Other ways to control negative link-building attempts:

  • Stay updated with all sorts of attacks on your website using Google’s Webmaster tool. Log in to your Webmaster account and enable the email notification to receive alerts for all kinds of issues.
  • Monitor your backlinks using different tools. I usually use Ahrefs to perform this task. Keep an eye on the newly built backlinks. Using Ahrefs, you can filter them by selecting ‘New Backlinks’, and even filter by ‘date’ as shown in the screenshot below.
  • Then comes the ‘Link Disavow’ process. Compile all the toxic links from the tool you are using – it could either be Ahrefs, MonitorBacklinks.com or any other. Create a Disavow text file and submit it to Google Webmaster.

Empowering your content strategy

Once you have disavowed all of your toxic backlinks, it is time to plot out your content strategy. An effective content strategy is a common practice across all niche types, but when it comes to controversial ones, you have to put in double the effort.

That’s because you have to produce content for two opposing groups:  ‘Advocates’ and ‘Dissidents’.

  • Content for the Advocates

To sustain the trust of the Advocates, you need to keep producing content across various platforms. The benefit of marketing to this group is that the people in it are already in favor of your product or service. You just need to cater to them with quality content through media features, guest blogging, infographics and other media.

For the Advocates, the inbound marketing methodology works within the conventional flow:

The concept is to craft the right content for the right place and at the right time. As Advocates are actual listeners, when you provide them with value, they will respect your argument.

  • Content for the Dissidents

For the Dissidents, the flow slightly changes because, in the preliminary stages, a stranger is not willing to listen to you or is unaware of the benefits of the product/service you are selling. Hence, for controversial niches, I believe the inbound methodology cycle should look something like this:

Let’s proceed with the process to turn Dissidents into Conformists. Again, you can never persuade all of the Dissidents to agree with your argument. But a minor percentage of the group will definitely agree upon certain messages if the content provided is effective. The major focus in this process is to resolve the users’ issues regarding that particular product.

Creating content based on interrogative keywords

Interrogative keywords refer to those queries in which users are willing to confirm an argument.

Proceeding with keyword research, sort the interrogative keywords in your niche and put them into a spreadsheet. You can see some examples of interrogative keywords in the screenshot below:

Your next task is to produce content around these keywords, for both your website’s blog and other relevant platforms. Start building quality links and generate some social engagement around it. The results may surprise you!

Let’s take an example from the above keywords and see how the industry is actually working. I put the query ‘is it bad to eat spicy food while pregnant’ into Google and found some results that perfectly prove the case and share valuable pieces of advice.

The topics of the blog posts are well-crafted and the information has been placed onto solid platforms with a decent domain authority, which means they will rank well in SERPs.

Here are some other pro tips for creating powerful content for this scenario:

  • Identify the right content form. To market to the Dissidents, you need to identify where they are, because each niche has a different audience and a different platform for promotion. Research the right medium through which to address the concerns of the Dissidents.
  • Let your post headline say it all. As you can see in the above example of spicy food, post titles should be crafted superbly. When a user is searching Google, YouTube or another platform for answers, your post title should be capable of convincing them that you can answer their queries and pique their desire to read the full post.
  • Come up with some convincing stats. Authentic statistics and demographics can help you in winning any content battle in any niche. If you come up with factual data, there are also higher chances of making your content go viral. Authentic factual data is enough to beat any content argument.
  • Leverage the power of ego through video marketingWhen your audience falls into the category of Dissidents who require detailed explanation to clarify their arguments, then vlogs are a great marketing source. All you need to come up with is a story-based video concept which highlights the positives of your niche and debunk any negative misconceptions regarding it.
  • Add an emotional engagement factor for additional ego-bait. The ego-bait technique can be applied in any content form: videos, infographics, podcasts or anything else depending on the requirement of your niche. Just make sure it’s compelling.

Using influencers to support your case

Acorn Influence conducted a study of influencer marketing, print advertising and video marketing on Google trends and came up with the conclusion that influencer marketing has developed an edge over print marketing and is also giving tough competition to video marketing.

Have a look at the graph highlighting the top trends:

According to INC, 84% of marketers are planning to launch at least one influencer campaign within the next 12 months.

But how does influencer marketing relate to controversial niches, you ask? Well, you can safely assume that any given influencer is already using a product that some of their fans might dislike – but due to their influence, many of them may be persuaded to try or reconsider it.

Therefore influencer marketing is a highly cost-effective customer acquisition channel with the power to transform your audience’s thinking. According to Tomoson, businesses are earning $6.50 for each $1 spent on influencer marketing.

If you’re looking for real-world inspiration behind this technique, look no further than Kim Kardashian. She is a globally recognized celebrity who is renowned for her hourglass figure. When anyone asks the reason behind her figure, the answer she gives is ‘waist training products’ – a controversial niche.

You can see how a company has leveraged her reach to promote their product and create awareness amongst the Dissidents in the screenshot below:

Connecting your offline efforts with your online presence

Experiential marketing is all about getting into the shoes of someone who is already in favor of a product or service. According to the experiential marketing rule, Dissidents have to get into the shoes of Advocates just for the sake of awareness.

Try launching an offline event as part of your marketing strategy and invite an Advocate on the proviso that they have to bring a Dissident from within their circle. Why? Because it’s much more likely that Dissidents will attend the event on the recommendation of a friend and acquaintance than simply attending alone.

Make sure that your experiential stunt is based on the key factors below. This will actually lead Dissidents towards your brand.

Experiential marketing done right can be a highly effective community building, niche awareness and content repurposing tactic.

Next, try connecting your offline event with the online world. There are many ways through which you can promote your event online and social media will play a vital role in doing so.

Did you know that 81% of audiences watched more live videos in 2016 as compared to 2015? Broadcast your event or experiential stunt using live streaming apps to let people know about your awareness campaign.

Periscope is a great and unique way to broadcast your event to mobile users. The good thing about Periscope is that it will automatically share your post on your Twitter account as well. Additionally, viewers can invite their circles to view your content as well.

Other than Periscope, there are multiple other live streaming platforms in which you can promote your event-based content. Just don’t forget that Facebook and Twitter are the top-ranking social media platforms therefore deserve a lot of your attention.

Wrapping up

When you’re working in a hotly debated industry, your marketing moves matter a lot more because you are trying to appeal to two different crowds. Whatever you do, your content will either impress or disappoint people, so make sure your strategies are versatile and dynamic.

Always build awareness with your audience before trying to convert them over to your controversial niche, and tailor your strategies for different social media platforms. In short, your brand awareness model should be based on new prospects’ introduction, traffic, and increasing favorability.

Image Source: Turn

Ultimately, focus more on building awareness instead of just publishing links on different websites, regardless of their relevance. Once you succeed with building awareness, other decision-making phases will become much more convenient, effective and efficient.

Guest Author: Abbas Rajani is an inbound and SEO strategist at Pac and Copy Plus, a Florida based digital marketing agency. He assists B2B and B2C businesses with ROI growth and effective online presence, and works for a custom logo design company called PNC Logos. Follow him @abbas_rajani for more online marketing-related updates.

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