Most people will advise you to “find your niche”—to find success by tailoring your content and delivering more value to your target audience. This is good advice if you’re just starting out.
However, you may not need a niche. The problem with “finding your niche” is you will eventually limit yourself and what your brand is capable of doing.
Take a look at what Netflix has accomplished since its inception in 1997. Originally, Netflix’s business model was based on DVD sales and rental by mail. By 2007, they shifted their business towards streaming media while still renting out DVDs and Blu-rays.
This shift into the streaming business presented Netflix with both a problem and opportunity. The problem was that Netflix did not own any of the content they licensed on their streaming service.
Netflix took the opportunity to expand their content beyond their niche and started producing their own TV shows and movies. In 2012, Netflix entered the content-production business and went from 24.4 million subscribers to over 130 million subscribers worldwide.
Imagine if Netflix had stayed in their niche of DVD rentals and streaming other brand’s shows. We wouldn’t have amazing content such as House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Stranger Things, and countless others.
How does this apply to your brand? It’s pretty hard to do what Netflix has done over the past two decades, but on a smaller scale, there are lessons here for brands of any size.
Netflix wanted to do something bigger. They had a vision and acted upon it. They also used highly targeted, proprietary data to figure out whether they had a good shot at succeeding or not.
Don’t just shoot blindly into the dark and hope that having a wider reach will garner you a wider clientele. In order to gain a foothold beyond your niche, it’s important to ask yourself a few important questions.
Who Is This Content For?
The most important question to ask yourself is, “Who am I creating this content for?” Are you speaking to potential clients about the importance of your services? Is it for your fellow industry peers? Are you creating it to entertain or educate your current clients? By understanding who you are making the content for, you’ll gain a better idea of whether you need to drill down to a niche or widen your appeal.
Is Your Content Relevant?
Never discount the importance of “relevance” in your content. “Relevance” may seem like a simple concept, but this murky term is often lost on many content creators out there.
Relevance is the difference between standing out from the crowd or fading into the content abyss. Jason DeMers at Forbes defines “relevance” using three specific terms: appropriateness, value, and uniqueness.
Does your content apply to your audience? A movie like Transformers is probably not going to appeal to the indie movie crowd the way an Oscar-bait movie would.
Transformers is considered a crowd-pleaser movie that appeals to the largest demographic possible. Indie movies tend to appeal to a smaller, more artistically-inclined audience.
Neither approach is bad! When you create your content, simply remember to consider if it’s appropriate for your audience.
The content viewer needs to come away with some type of valuable insight or information they can apply in their own lives. Obviously, part of the value you provide is the product or service you’re trying to sell, but you also have an opportunity to give the content viewer more than that. Quality content should come first, and monetization second. Always.
This is the hardest criterion to bring about, but the one that can really make your content stand out. Just as an animal evolves past its niche and finds a new bounty of resources, you can find unique approaches to common problems that really make your content stand out. One way to bring a unique aspect to your content is by taking more time to produce less content.
The Problems With Staying Within a Niche
At this point, you might be saying, “Hey, being ambitious like Netflix and trying to branch out to relevant content markets is all well and good, but working in my niche is what I’m comfortable with.” It’s true: Niching is an excellent way to start out when producing content.
You can build a small but dedicated audience that enjoys the specific content you produce in the beginning. However, eventually the idea well dries up and content fatigue sets in.
There are only so many good ideas when you niche yourself down. You’re bound to repeat yourself or suffer a dip in quality. Both you and the content viewer may get bored, and boredom is a powerful engagement killer.
Look to Netflix for guidance. They understand how to approach marketing their content, and they also understand they cannot pigeonhole their content to a specific demographic.
Even competitors, like AT&T’s newly purchased HBO, are taking Netflix’s shotgun approach to content creation. It’s hard to argue with Netflix’s approach since the company has put Hollywood on the financial ropes.
One of the biggest problems with staying within a niche is that you become replaceable. If you are making the same content within a niche over and over, then the information can become stale and easily replaced.
Instead, focus on what you can bring to the table. Consider creating content from your perspective or even the client’s perspective. By tailoring your content around unique experiences, you can make your content irreplaceable.
The Truth Is Always Down the Middle
When determining whether you should niche down or branch out your content, remember: A niche works well in the beginning, but building your viewership requires that you expand beyond that niche. The best way to expand? Tell your story to the world.
The rule of thumb for creating new types of content is the 80-20 rule. 80 percent of your content should fall somewhere near your niche, whereas 20 percent of your efforts should go toward other topics that introduce your content to a new niche.
Branch out by doing some topic research first, think about how you can make your content memorable for your audience, and create great content. One way to make your content stand out is to show how your niche topic is related to a seemingly disparate subject. In fact, this “here’s why you’re wrong” approach is pretty in vogue nowadays!
Work on subjects that interest and inspire you. Don’t be fearful about having everything figured out. Embrace failure!