A Blue Ocean In Higher EducationThis is where you create stuff that stands out while being impactful and meaningful. Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming book that describes what it looks like in the wild:
When the American Civil War ended on May 9, 1865, the country entered the era of Reconstruction. Much of the U. S. was in shambles; including the economy. However, a major shift was taking place: movement from a primarily agricultural economy to an industrialized one. Peirce College capitalized on this shift. The college was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to help returning soldiers transition into the emerging industrial economy. They needed education and training that was both practical and affordable. And that’s what Peirce delivered, enrolling 550 students in its first year. Over the coming decades, however, Peirce shifted its focus from veterans to the traditional 18-year-old student. By the late 1980s, Peirce College was treading water in a sea of similar schools. They were simply another college offering the same things to the same people as everyone else. Then came Arthur J. Lendo in 1991, Peirce’s new president. Lendo led the school back to its focus on a group of potential students with few alternatives. Rather than claw for the attention of traditional students, the college pivoted to a focus on adult learners, military personnel, and prospective foreign students. To reach this audience, they began offering bachelor degree programs in three venues: on campus, on-site in different cities, and online. No longer was their non-traditional audience limited to associate’s degrees from community colleges. Now they had the chance of earning a four-year degree. In the first year, they beat online enrollment forecasts by 300 percent. And over time, overall enrollment nearly tripled. Notably, the average age of a Peirce student rose from about 21 to mid-30s.
How To Find Your Competition-Free Content Niche In Three StepsPeirce College’s story is an excellent illustration for how marketers can position themselves today. So, how can you find your competition-free content niche? To find your competition-free content niche, start with this three-part framework: look, research, and strategize. It’s the simple trifecta anyone can do, regardless of budget or time constraints.
Look At The CompetitionThe first step is to observe your competitors by surveying the landscape and dissecting what kind of content they’re creating. Are they running ads like crazy on TV, radio, billboards, and other traditional channels? Are they working digital angles like Facebook ads, giveaway contests, video, or email marketing? Do they have engaged audiences on blogs or social channels like Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter? This step is about taking a critical look at the market and diagnosing strategies and tactics like a scientist. You should ask: what content resonates most, and least, with your ideal customers? This is where you can start to find the cracks and avenues into creating competition-free content.
Research Their ContentAfter tracking your competitive landscape, it’s time to head to Google for some simple research beyond channels and into content. You’ll search for terms related to your products and look at the top ten search results. You’re looking for two main things:
- What is consistent about their content?
- What most prominently stands out?
Strategize Your Competition-Free ContentNow that you have researched the content and methods your competition is using, you can create her competition-free content strategy. (AKA: The fun part.) However, competition-free content isn’t simply creating content that’s different—it’s about creating content that’s different and that your team can execute well. The path to finding that niche is asking and answering these questions.
- What’s in it for our customers? This question, about the others, should be your primary guide. Ultimately, the tactics you use won’t matter to your customers. They don’t care if they find valuable content from you or from somewhere else. They care about the message and how it directly benefits them.This is often called a “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) statement. You need a compelling answer to this question that you can communicate clearly.Additionally, notice I said “customers” and not simply “audience.” It’s vital to keep your paying and most profitable customers in mind. Your competition-free content niche is not simply meant to build a following. Its sole purpose is to drive growth and yield positive financial results. To attract more of your brand’s ideal customers, you must focus on creating and communicating value specifically tailored to them.
- What is our team really good at? Understanding what your team can do better than anyone else is important at this stage. You’re looking for something that’s both different and that you can execute well.
- What are our competitors doing that’s similar? Next, what patterns is the industry falling into that are like your team’s strengths? These are opportunities to disrupt them and stand out. They’re also guardrails to avoid red-ocean competition.
- Are there people in your customer base or audience your content underserves? Next, there may be customer and audience segments key to growth you aren’t serving well. You’re dissecting two segments: who is already a customer, and who is following your brand online. If there are critical customers or prospects your content is neglecting, this is a huge opportunity to course correct.
- What has your team created already that you’re proud of? Finally, are there things you’re proud of because they’ve worked well and you can uniquely create at an elite level? These are things you know your team can consistently execute well.
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What Is Competition-Free Content?Click To Tweet