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Digital Marketing Tactics for Niche Businesses – Ana Raynes
The Agents of Change

Digital Marketing Tactics for Niche Businesses – Ana Raynes

When it comes to creating the content on your website that will probably rank well and drive leads, it’s got to be a combination of doing a little bit of keyword research, but also paying attention to the past conversations you’ve had with clients and prospects on your website and in person. This is even more vital with niche marketing.

Ana Raynes, digital marketing expert at Simplified Impact, knows you need to think outside the box to get attention in niche marketing. It’s a very particular kind of marketing because your audiences tend to be much smaller, the traffic that you drive to your site is going to be much smaller, but your sales are bigger. You’re really flipping the way you think of SEO on its side, when it comes to niche marketing.

Rich: My guest today is an entrepreneur, digital marketing expert and CEO and founder of Simplified Impact, a growth marketing agency for B2B companies. She was a co-founder of the internet fashion startup, Smart is Cool, where she was responsible for social media and information technology. While working at Smart is Cool, she was featured in Glamour Magazine and had multiple appearances on Fox Strategy Room.

Following her position with Smart is Cool, she pursued a career that focused on digital marketing. She worked for agencies in New York and Boston areas, where she has led digital marketing campaigns for clients such as HSN, Wendy Williams, football legend Carl Banks, iHip for Snookie, East Bay, Aer Lingus, SkyMall, and more.

Before the launch of her own business, she was Vice President of content marketing at the New York City based agency, Didit, a marketing agency for enterprise e-commerce clients as a thought leader in her field. She’s been invited to speak at conferences such as PPC Hero, New York Small Business Expo, NYXPO, Philanthropy Day Core and Vistige. And today we’re going to be diving into the niches with Ana Raynes. Ana, thank you so much for joining us today.

Ana: Hi. Thank you for having me. It’s good to be here, thank you.

Rich: So it was great kind of reading through the bio, but how did you get started in B2B marketing? What was the draw there?

Ana: So actually it happened at Didit organically. I was working first, they were primarily an ecommerce agency, being around since 1996. And they moved into B2B through content marketing and content becoming such a big thing. They started to expand in Long Island where they had an office. There’s a lot of industrial companies like Parker is there, Boeing, you know, lots of really great big industrial companies. So I started to work with them and develop and build their B2B digital footprint. And through that organic, I just really loved it. It became a passion to work with these companies that really hadn’t invested or looked at digital as an option for marketing. So yeah, that’s how that happened.

Rich: That’s great. And I’ve definitely seen myself a lot of businesses that are successful, but they’ve done nothing in digital marketing and all of a sudden you open that door for them and it’s just, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.

Now when you and I chatted before, we talked about the idea of niche businesses. And I hear from a lot of companies that digital marketing won’t work for them because they’re in a niche business or industry. I’m sure you hear similar things. What do you say to these people?

Ana: You know, I do hear that a lot and I tell them that, I mean I can show them case studies after studies because I have been doing this for a long time. Pretty much any industry you can think of that has done digital marketing to some point and how successful it’s been and how it’s, you know, 10x, 20x their business. Especially, you know, right now where conferences after – when we all get back to business, whatever that may look like – conferences as we see them, especially in these big B2B businesses are not going to be the same. They’re not going to be the same for a very long time and that budget has to be reallocated. And I think it’s a really good thing to think about really great time to think about this is so timely because that was their lifeline was, you know, these conferences where a team of salespeople, sometimes 50, sometimes less are going out and making these direct, personal contacts and that’s how they’re creating and building their business. But that’s going to change dramatically.

So I had always had that conversation though with them. I would say, you know, these conferences that you attend, these conferences that you do depend on, they’re having less and less attendees, they’re changing, the people coming into the industry are younger. They don’t want to be traveling that much, they have young families. So that was my previous pitch. But now it’s really a time to that if you’re in a niche industry, you have to rethink the way you’re going to be selling. It’s like absolutely mandatory.

Rich: So if you are in a niche industry, and that can mean different things to different people obviously. But what are some of the things that you are recommending to your clients that they rethink or some changes that they should expect?

Ana: So you know, really important is to start having a conversation. A lot of these, so let me define the type of companies that I work with so that it just creates a better picture. I work with a lot of industrial, aerospace, medical and cybersecurity. So those are my focuses. So these are very particular that have their own kind of sub-industries and nichier industry. So it’s not like the whole medical or pharmaceutical, even though I have some pharmaceutical clients, it depends. Like it gets a little bit nichier than that. We niche down. And they have these databases that are, let’s say like 30, 40, 50,000 people that they’ve worked with or have come through their doors in some way, shape or form. And they’ve never used those emails ever. They’ve never emailed them. Once in a while they sent one of those weird HTML emails that’s like an attachment sort of thing. So some of them, and some of them have, but most of them haven’t. You know, they, they work that way.

Their email is through the CRM and the people who are handling that email are the salespeople. There’s no marketing integration. And when we integrate with, and when we start working with the salespeople, really become sales and marketing. I mean, the response is huge and what we can do and what we can show them about just really speaking to their client, creating different conversations rather than just always selling them and creating an affinity for their brand and creating a brand. Sometimes they don’t even think of themselves as a brand. They’re like, “Oh well I’m just a generic XYZ.” And I’m like, no, everybody has a brand and you have to speak to your clients all the time and emphasize and enhance that conversation in order to keep them, in order to not have that churn rate. And it really does work.

Rich: And it feels like, you know, maybe I should have asked this question upfront. How do we define niches? Because they’re very narrow niches and there wider niches. When I’m thinking about it, it’s a company that can only sell its products and services to a narrow slice of either other companies or people. Is that an accurate description of how you think about niches, or do you have your own definition?

Ana: No, absolutely. So let’s say for the pharmaceutical company that I work with, they only deal with any pharmacy product that has to do with nose and ears. So I mean that’s super nichey. You’re not selling every single product. You’re selling products that are to ENTs and you know, different doctors. It’s not every single doctor.

When I talk about medical, I have a client that sells medical equipment but they only sell certain medical equipment to ER hospitals. So it’s very particular. I mean your audiences tends to be much smaller. The traffic that you drive to your site is going to be much, much smaller, but your sales are bigger. Those numbers are bigger.

So it really flips the way we think about SEO on its side, right? We’re not looking at big numbers, we’re looking at the cumulative of smaller numbers. You know, maybe a certain keyword has a search volume of like 10 to 20. That’s okay because that client, if they get even half of that, it’s a win. They’re going to be able to convert them because someone looking for that product is already interested, is in that industry, it’s not a lot of competition. The pool’s a lot smaller. So you’re very right when you say that about niches.

Rich: So you literally took the next question out of my hands, but I think it’s great and I just want to reinforce this. So I was going to ask you, like, I know that when you’re in a niche business, when you start doing some research, you see that the search volumes are so low. I was going to ask if we should ignore Google because of that. But if I’m hearing you, what that means is just that we should be really narrowly focusing on some of these long term search terms because there’s also less competition and I’m guessing in niche industries because there’s less product, you’re also able to charge a significantly higher amount. Correct?

Ana: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, it really is, it’s not even about less product. It tends to be a more complicated product. And that’s always the conversation that I have with a niche industry. They’re like, this is too complicated for me to explain it online. This is too complicated, I need my salespeople to pitch it. I’m like, let’s give it a try.

And if you can build a site that has a well thought out CRO where you’re thinking about, okay, what is the customer experience and what as a sales person – and I work with the salespeople – we do personal deep dives, we go in and then we really listen to how are you pitching this product. And we create those landing pages and we create that. We create videos and all kinds of different downloadable catalogs, everything that sales person does. And the other thing is that we’re supporting salespeople, we’re not trying to get rid of anybody’s job, we’re just trying to support it and create other avenues of revenue.

Rich: Absolutely. And the bottom line is, if you’re focusing on maybe some more top of the funnel stuff to warm those leads, all you’re doing is saving the salespeople a lot of frustration by they don’t have to repeat the same things over and over again, because you already have an educated prospect base.

Ana: Absolutely. And that’s usually what the CEOs of these companies love, is that the number one complaint they’d get from the salespeople is that they don’t have enough leads. And what’s been happening, especially with one particular client that I can think of, he’s like, “They can’t say that to me anymore.” So he actually has refined and reduced and ramped up his sales team. So some of the weakest links have fallen off because there’s not that excuse because we are literally driving really great qualified leads. And I can show them the data points, I can show them, look at the different pages they visited, they downloaded this catalog and they’re on the chat bot. They’re asking these questions like, I mean, these are well qualified leads. So then they can’t say, “Well, you know, I have to do cold calling and this person didn’t get back to me.” I mean, we’re delivering them to them. And it’s a much easier process than the old school way of selling, which is the cold calling and what have you.

Rich: So if you’re doing your keyword research and you’re only seeing search volumes of 10 or 20 per month, how do you know which are the right search terms? Is there a different approach that you take to keyword research then a typical business would take when it comes to these niche businesses? Is there a little bit of leap of faith or you just spending more time with the sales team asking them what kind of questions they field on a daily basis?

Ana: So it’s actually, I would say it’s all of the above. It’s definitely a leap of faith and testing. It’s definitely spending time with the sales people that’s really important. I mean they’ve been on the front lines for years. You can’t ignore their knowledge. It’s definitely leveraging chat bots and live chat. That’s huge. I think that’s where we get most of our content from. You would be surprised how much people do engage in live chat. I would highly rate, like if you do nothing else for a niche industry, just plug in a live chat app. It helps tremendously because now you have your customers just asking you questions. They come in, they ask, they leave. You either help them or don’t, but now you understand, like, why are they here? How is my campaign working? Is this the right landing page? Because you know if we’re doing Google ads and we’re driving into a page and they’re still confused, what are they confused about? I feel it’s the best tool that we have. And then we take that and then we measure it. We parallel look at it compared to what our search terms are. But I would say all of the above are very important when dealing with a niche.

Rich: Normally when we talk about chat bots on this podcast, its Facebook chat bots. And I’m guessing because of your niche B2B client base, that we’re not talking about Facebook at this point. We’re talking about website chat bots, correct?

Ana: Yeah, website. Website. Yeah. Sorry.

Rich: Actually, that’s totally fine. No, that’s great. And then the other thing I’m asked, I’d be curious about is are they still setting up automated responses like a chat bot or are these you have chat boxes with real human beings answering those questions?

Ana: Most of the time we set up a real human, so one of the salespeople will be assigned or a junior marketing person. Sometimes depending on budget, we’ll assign someone on my team because we get to know after we’ve gotten to know the client for a while. I do recommend in the beginning that it’s not a chat bot or maybe a combination of both. Yes, we can do workflows. Yes, we can have triggers depending on what they’re asking, but there’s so much that is loss in not having that direct connection. Because these systems tend to be a little bit more complicated. A lot of questions get asked when there’s that face to face conversation.

And those questions can be filtered in through the live chat. And we take that and create content. So if we’re just answering from a bot perspective, if they’re like, “Oh, I have a question on pricing or this model”, and they’ll actually, the thing with B2B niche industries is when someone comes to ask a question, they’ll be like, “Oh, I have a question on model number 325”. And then it’s like, I could direct them there, but then what’s your question and what are you looking for and why is this different?

And you know, there’s just a real opportunity to engage with your customers and to really understand their pain points and help to build out your site and is where your long-term keywords are going to come from. That’s where you’re going to be able to really create that content that drives a sale. I mean, any sales page that we have has pretty much for any client pretty much come from a live chat interaction.

Rich: So what I’m hearing is when it comes to creating the content on your website that will probably rank well and drive leads, it’s got to be a combination of doing a little bit of keyword research, but also paying attention to the past conversations you’ve had with clients and prospects on your website and in person.

Ana: Exactly. Exactly.

Rich: So I meant to ask you, what are your favorite, or do you have one or two chat bot recommendations that you’re using with your clients right now?

Ana: I really like Tawk.to. If you Google it, talk.to is a really good one. It’s easy to install. I think they have a WordPress plugin. It’s just wonderful. It really tracks all the conversations. You can bounce conversations from one person to another. So if I’m not available, the next person’s available.

And then we do use HubSpot a lot. So I like the HubSpot one, but I mean, honestly, there’s so many out there. I don’t, I haven’t used that many to really say, oh, this one’s better. As long as you can really log on, you can track. It has a push notification. I think that’s the most important thing is to have a push notification because most of the time people are working or they’re near their cell phones and if you miss that chat, it’s really unfortunate for your customers coming in and not getting the customer service they’re expecting. So that’s what I really look for.

Rich: Cool. obviously if we’re talking B2B, we have to at least talk about LinkedIn. What tips or strategies do you have for LinkedIn when it comes to niche businesses? Are there best practices for setting your profile or your business page? And is there a different way that you might approach prospecting?

Ana: So LinkedIn is, it’s funny, I think LinkedIn is really great for prospecting but differently, right? We don’t really tend to do LinkedIn ads, so we do a lot of posting definitely to the LinkedIn business page and then the LinkedIn, obviously, personal page. We make sure we’re consistently showing up so that we are having that mind share with our customers.

And then the other thing is that I’ve had some of my clients starting to go live and really create live webinars or ”live-inars” for their customer base and that’s been working very well. And what we do is they’ll go live, they’ll give like a little insight into what they’re going to be talking about or what they’re going to be connecting with, and then take that audience into a Zoom where it’s more one to one and they can have direct conversations. And that has really helped with closing some business.

Rich: Interesting. And on business pages themselves, which I always feel like LinkedIn has dropped the ball on business pages, they just are not as robust as they should be. How important are they for a niche business? Should we be working to get people to follow our pages?

Ana: I mean, ideally that’s what you want, but people don’t. They really want to follow people. They follow the ratio of a business, someone following a business to following like either the salespeople, you know, the VP of marketing, the CMOs and things like that is, it’s just we try, we really do. And that is the biggest pain point for a lot of these businesses because in most cases I deal with the CEOs or the VPs of marketing and they’re like, “Oh, well everybody wants to follow my salespeople. How do I get them to just follow our page?” And people want to connect with people. They do sometimes, but, and we have really great content and we really try, but they want to follow on social. You know, that’s what social is. And I think it’s that way with brands, too. That’s why brands have personalities and it just is what it is.

Rich: I agree. And I would say for anybody who is worried that, well with my salespeople, I rotate through a lot of salespeople, they come and they go. As a business leader or owner, you should also be building up your own following on LinkedIn because you’re not going anywhere. So how about hashtags on LinkedIn? Any strategies for niche businesses using LinkedIn hashtags?

Ana: We definitely, well, one of the things we always include obviously is whatever brand we’re working with and we do some research on hashtags. Sometimes we’ll just look at, you know, how is our competition doing things like that. And we’ll go into some of the hashtag websites and even some of the Instagram hashtags because those are much better, much more refined, you can find better hashtags to use. And we see a lot of translation between like what people are using on Instagram and Facebook to LinkedIn because they tend to be using the same platforms just for different purposes. So we’ll do most of our hashtag research through those platforms or whatever’s available for research for Instagram, Facebook, and we’ll translate it into LinkedIn. I feel like LinkedIn doesn’t really have a really great avenue for understanding what are the best hashtags and who’s using them. And we feel that that works. Whenever we translate it from Instagram, Facebook, over to LinkedIn, we definitely see a pickup.

Rich: How do you feel about email for these niche businesses? Because I’m sure a lot of people are concerned because their subscriber base is never going to be that big. So is it really worth it?

Ana: Email is so important. I would say it’s one of the best performers for our B2B industry. It really is. People, they just, that’s how they communicate. You know, if you’re in business, most of business communication is still happening inside of your email. Now is that changing? Are some more forward businesses moving more to like a Slack or what have you? Yes, but most of these niche businesses are just catching up on most of their transactions. If they’re not happening in person, at trade shows, they’re happening inside of email. Email is vital.

And I would recommend to invest in a really great CRM. You know, we were really tracking the analytics, like how people are opening emails, who’s opening emails, what times are they opening? You know, like understanding your email is very vital if you’re in a B2B niche industry.

Rich: So it sounds like you might drive people more to using something like a HubSpot or Salesforce as opposed to kind of like a Constant Contact or a MailChimp just for that CRM integration, or am I misunderstanding that?

Ana: Oh, no, you are right. Yeah. We dive deep, deep, deep into email and then sales, too. So one of the things that we do is we’re very involved in the sales process. We’re very involved in closing the loop. Meaning we work with the salespeople, we have access to all of their CRMs.

So let’s say I do use HubSpot and we use other CRMs as well. So in some cases we’ll use one CRM for email for the marketing team, and another CRM for the sales team. We make sure we have access to that sales team. What are the sales conversations? We can access their emails, we can access their follow-up calls, we can access when something is closed, when something is lost and we join that data and all those data points and we look at it every month and we’re looking, okay, this started here in marketing and then went here and this was the funnel. This is what the salespeople did with it. This is how they close it. This is where maybe you know, where are the gaps, what was missing. And this is including what the salespeople did.

We’re looking at all of their emails, recorded their conversations, and recorded their follow-ups to really see the whole picture. Because it’s important because one to two sales a month is what some of these niche businesses are looking for because you know, there are at a higher price and depends that some of them, you know, need bigger volumes. But what I’m saying is like that sale and just the handoff to us, which is how we previously used to do it. You know, you hand it off and you let the salespeople handle it. We don’t do that. We really get involved in the whole thing and literally close the loop for our clients.

Rich: That’s awesome. Ana, this has been very helpful in terms of just thinking about how to market niche B2B businesses. If people want to learn a little bit more about you, check out some of your stuff, where can we send them?

Ana: Simplifiedimpact.com would be the best place. That’s where everything is. We’re actually updating our site and making a lot of changes coming out with some software. So we’re doing a lot of fun things and that would be the best place. And then they can find links to all of our socials, et cetera. So simplifiedimpact.com

Rich: Awesome. And we’ll have those links in the show notes. Ana, thank you so much for coming by today. This has been great.

Ana: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Show Notes:

Ana Raynes brings her innovative approach to marketing at her agency, Simplified Impact. Head on over to see more of what they do to help businesses succeed in the digital marketing game. 

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing