Content marketing is competitive, crowded, and cluttered.
Everyone is clawing for the same people’s attention, but there’s only so much to go around. In the end, the people who find their competition-free content niche will win out.
So, what is it? Check out the video, where I explain.
Competition-free content is about boiling the principle of differentiation into your content marketing strategy.
The principle springboards from a business concept I learned from a book called, Blue Ocean Strategy. In the book, authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne describe the two different oceans in business: a red ocean and a blue ocean.
The red ocean is bloody with competition.
In these waters, you’re competing with many companies for the same customers via the same methods. Everyone’s begging for attention in existing markets. Growth becomes slow, if not outright stagnant.
This is a brutal scenario for marketers, and one most of us work in today. It’s a sea of high competition, low differentiation.
Contrast that picture of the red ocean with a blue ocean. These are clear, competition-free waters. It’s a place where unique approaches stand out because no one else can compete.
In fact, finding the blue ocean renders competition irrelevant. The extreme upside is that you can capture new demand by doing your best work because you swim in your own waters.
Regular content marketing is just like swimming in the red ocean.
It’s filled with noise, thrashing, and fierce competition. Everyone’s begging for the same audience’s attention—and they’re doing the same things to get it. They’re simply trying to swim faster than the rest.
This is what gives us a market bloody with competition and yielding stagnant growth.
You will find your blue ocean through “competition-free content.” It’s the first step in the 10x Marketing Formula because, without it, even the best content faces diminishing returns.
Competition-free content is content that adds tremendous value to your customers and audience that only you can produce.
It’s content that stands out through topic, structure, or media type. And it renders competition irrelevant because this is uncontested space.
A Blue Ocean In Higher Education
This 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 Steps
Peirce 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 Competition
The 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 Content
After 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?
Answer questions like: How long is my competitor’s content? How many images doe they use? Do they use strong calls-to-action? What are the quality of their customer testimonials? Are there product sales attracting lots of attention nationally, regionally, and locally?
By asking questions like these, you can analyze the content landscape. In fact, you can even create a spreadsheet to keep track of these data points for a high-level view of what everyone else is creating.
Even this level of simple research will make finding your competition-free content niche far easier than simple guesswork.
Strategize Your Competition-Free Content
Now 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.
These stages are the quickest path to finding your competition-free content niche. Their power is the singular clarity they bring to both your strengths and the competition you face.
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