What happens when your target audiences span multiple industries? Do you go broad and create content that speaks to the masses, or opt for the specialized route by tailoring content to individual verticals? Marketers grapple with these questions all the time — and for good reason, given that the success of content marketing hinges on how well you engage the right audiences.
Figuring out whether to approach verticals separately or as a collective whole isn’t easy. There are budgets and bandwidth to consider, industry practices and audiences to wrap your head around, and sales cycles to understand. Make the wrong move, and you can break your budget, burn out your staff, and cause your sales team to throw in their towels. Choose wisely, and you can engage existing audiences and grow new ones. How can you determine whether a vertical content approach is right for you?
Start with sales
Working closely with your sales team is always important, but all the more so when you’re publishing content for multiple verticals — or trying to decide if you should take that path. Talk to your sales team, using these questions as a guide:
- What verticals or industries do you target?
- Who makes the buying decision in each vertical?
- What do your prospects want to know more about? What kinds of questions do they ask?
- Why are some reluctant to sign on, and others more willing?
- What kinds of content would support your sales efforts?
Know your customer base
Get a breakdown of the verticals or industries for your existing clients or customers, and rank them from highest number of clients associated with each vertical to lowest. Then do some research to see what more you can learn. Consider:
- Do the interests of these industries overlap in any way?
- What challenges do these industries face? Do they share any of the same pain points?
- Does it make sense to talk to these industries as a collective whole, or do they warrant separate conversations because they’re just so different?
- Do these groups seek information from the same sources, or do they primarily consult industry-specific publications?
Draw on what you learn to gauge your best course of action (whether industry-specific or not). If you use marketing automation, mine your data to see if you notice trends or room to engage an industry or group at a deeper level. For instance, maybe health care administrators visit your site regularly but rarely sign up for your services, or a slew of retailers downloaded your eBook or took part in your webinar. These scenarios (and many others) are often good reasons to create tailored content that can nudge these group along the sales cycle.
Understand what vertical publishing entails
To build credibility and gain traction within an industry, you have to publish relevant content consistently over a period of time. This doesn’t mean a blog post every other month and a case study once a year. That won’t get you anywhere.
When you’re tying to reach multiple verticals, planning your editorial calendar can get tricky. Realize, though, that you have some options. You can:
- Target multiple industries at once by creating content on a rotating but regular basis. For instance, you might publish content for the financial industry one week, focus on technology the next, and then health care that third week. Once you cycle through, start the rotation over — and keep it going so you can build a base of followers and sustain interest over time.
- Create vertical-specific content but add to the mix broader stories with cross-industry appeal. If you’re a cyber security company, you could publish stories for individual industries (g., What banks need to know about new cyber security regulations), along with content that speaks to multiple industries (e.g., Why cyber security calls for an interdisciplinary approach).
Consider your bandwidth
Creating content for various verticals takes not only time and effort but also industry-specific knowledge. If you’re a software development company, do you have someone on your team with expertise in, say, higher education or health care? Do you have an ace researcher who can learn the ropes quickly? Answer no, and you’ll be hard-pressed to regularly publish content that will do much more than take up space. Answer yes, and vertical-specific content is worth considering.
Keep in mind, too, that research matters as much as writing when it comes to high-quality content, so you’ll need a team player who not only understands the industry but can delve into and write about complex topics. And don’t forget distribution. Just because you develop good vertical-specific content doesn’t mean your target industries will find it. You’ll need someone who grasps things like drip email campaigns, social media, e-newsletters, trade publications, and other distribution channels — and who has the time to do it well.
Factor in budget
Of course, vertical publishing is only worth contemplating if your budget can support it. Costs add up quickly when you target more than a couple of industries, given the time and energy required to research and understand a broad range of fields. Without the necessary bandwidth in house, you’ll need to budget for outsourced support — and choose a partner who can manage a multi-layered editorial calendar and find researchers and writers in your industry verticals.
Vertical-specific publishing can be a great way to generate demand and extend your business into new markets. It’s also one of the best ways to avoid the rabbit hole so many marketers go down: publishing content that’s so generic it doesn’t speak to anyone.
Before you attempt to climb a vertical pathway, however, know the work involved in pulling it off. And if you’re looking for a team to support your efforts, read “Is Your Marketing Partner a Content Creator? How to Vet Them.”