One of the advantages of working within a specific niche (which is a blog post unto itself), is that you start to see trends and patterns among websites and other marketing efforts in that niche.
What makes this particularly interesting is that you start to see things that are either working or aren’t working all that well, both from the perspective of a marketer and as someone who’s passionate about the niche (like my passion for the outdoors).
What I end up seeing, though, is a lot of the same old same old. It seems like a lot outdoors companies are following the same kind of general idea when it comes to their websites, content marketing and even things like logos (please, please PLEASE stop using that crossed arrows logo, all of you).
If you happen to be an outdoors company (doesn’t matter what kind) and you’re hoping to stand out from the rest, here’s a few tips to help you do that.
1. Better email marketing
This is a big one. I could probably write an entire post about just this subject alone (note to self: write an entire post about this).
I say this because email marketing is crucial. You might think that with all the different avenues we have to market with today that email might be a little closer to the bottom of the pile, but it’s not. Email is just as important as it’s always been.
Which is why I’m always at a loss when I see company after company send out emails that are little more than catalogues for their products. I mean, their products look great and the pictures that accompany them are usually fantastic, but the content is totally lacking . This is not to say they’re not effective. I still open these emails and have even purchased from them, but I often want just a little more.
Tell me a story. Talk to me about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Work your products into it that way.
Of all the emails I get, the only one I’ve seen doing it this way is Allen Gardner over at The Catch and the Hatch. Allen is almost always selling something with his emails, but he tells at least a bit of story, he highlights the benefits and, best of all, the content is good enough to get me clicking on his links.
As an added bonus, when your emails are more personal or story-based, you have a chance to really connect to people. People respond directly to emails like this all the time. Relationships are formed, friendships are made, money is spent.
2. Use that blog
I’m always, ALWAYS, surprised when I go on to a website for a company in the outdoors industry and they don’t have a blog.
I realize that, as a content marketer, I’m partial to things like blogs and always want to see one on your website. But if you’re an outdoors company (of any kind) and you’re not using your blog, I have to ask: Why not?
Every single person who goes into the outdoors comes out with a story to tell. It doesn’t matter if you found yourself, got lost, reignited an old passion or discovered a new one or have almost been eaten by a bear, you’ve got a story.
Not only that, but people who do outdoors stuff, love to read these stories. They want to know how to get lost, find themselves, get back into things they used to love and find new ones (they especially want to know how not to get eaten by bears).
You should be telling these stories.
Even if you don’t have time to tell them yourself, odds are you’ve got a plethora of reps and pro staff on Instagram who’d love a chance to tell their stories (or, y’know, you could hire an outdoors content expert to help with that, as well).
3. Social Media
This is one area I don’t need to provide any advice. Outdoors companies, by and large, have killer social media profiles, especially on Instagram.
All I can really say here is keep up the good work.
This is another area where I see companies in the outdoors industry excelling. And this is exciting.
Video is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of content out there across a number of industries. It’s an effective way to reach your audience and show off your expertise in a way that can be more engaging than almost any other form of content.
Companies like Amberjack, Fly Lords and Rio have been producing high-quality content that teaches more about the industry, inspires you to travel, makes you want to target a specific fish and, to be honest, you can lose hours on these websites just watching video after video after video.
It’s fantastic (especially since you want people to linger on your site for as long as possible)!
If video isn’t quite your thing, you should at least have a podcast.
Like video, podcasts are a great way to reach your audience. Unlike videos, it’s fairly easy to get started with a podcast (especially if you just put it out there without any editing at all).
The really nice thing about podcasts is that they are content you can consume passively, meaning you don’t have be sitting at your computer to enjoy it. You can listen while you’re out on a hike, hunting, fishing, scaling a mountain or even doing your favourite activity (like tying flies).
The number of ways your audience can consume a podcast make it an ideal way to stay top of mind, even while someone is washing the dishes.
The trick to podcasts, though, is to figure out exactly what your audience is after. Before starting, I recommend sending out a survey to your list and ask what they’re interested in. I say this for two reasons. The first is that people are picky and everybody expects something a little different from you. It took me years to find a fishing podcast that I could actually listen to (it’s the Remote. No pressure. podcast. It’s excellent. Check it out).
The second is that your audience is coming to you for a specific reason and you want to make sure you stay on-brand. You don’t want to spend time and energy to produce something that just isn’t right for your audience. It doesn’t help you at all. In fact, content that is off-base can result is less traffic to your site and less interest in you as a brand.
The best example of this I’ve seen recently comes from outside of the outdoors industry: The Copywriter Club. In a little over a year, Rob and Kira launched a top-quality podcast with well-known industry guests, they’ve launched not one, but two courses, a conference and a community of over 7,000 people!! Imagine that kind of success for your own business.
6. Offering a lot of content
One way to really stand out from the rest of the companies out there is to offer A LOT of high-quality content.
This is another place where I need to send a bit of love to The Catch and the Hatch. This site is loaded with content, both free and paid. And, it’s all great! You can learn about everything from etymology to tying and, should tying not be your thing, you can also order flies. This level of offering, especially from a smaller company, really helps you establish a relationship with your audience and, more importantly, it’s going to help them decide in your favour when the time to spend a little money goes.
The more content you offer your audience, the better. It’s even more effective when you offer different kinds of content. Ebooks, blog posts, infographics and email sequences are all great ways to show off your authority.
Offering different kinds of content also lets you appeal to the widest range of people. Not everyone wants email sequences or listens to podcasts, but the ones who do are going to appreciate that you’re offering the kind of content they like.
7. Take a stand
People love it when companies have the same principles as they do. It helps them feel like they’re giving their money to someone who’s going help make a difference in a way that is meaningful (even if it’s just to that person).
That’s why companies in the outdoors industry who stand for something have a better chance of developing customer loyalty among their fans.
“Creating inclusive value-centered marketing campaigns is one of the easiest ways for outdoor brands to stand out amongst all the others trying to peddle the “only gear you’ll ever need.” Consumers really care about the story behind their gear now. Comfort and durability aren’t USPs anymore. Brands need to think about more than just producing great gear, they need to think about their story and values and how that aligns with their consumer’s values. Brands like Patagonia have been on this for decades, and it works for them, because the bottom-line is that people are willing to pay a premium for gear that allows them to feel good about their consumption choices.” – Eman Zabi, mountain climbing copywriter extraordinaire
Few have done this better than Patagonia. Patagonia stands for exactly the things you’d expect an outdoor company to stand for: the importance of public land, access to public land, ensuring their products are produced in an ethical manner.
And, you know what, it’s working. By this point, even people outside of the outdoors have seen their response to the recent decision to remove land from public use.
RepYourWater is another company that is all over this. They donate a portion of each sale to supporting conservation efforts (they raised over $50,000 in 2017 alone). If you hunt or fish, this is something that is important to you. Knowing that you’ve just given your money to someone who’s, in turn, is going to help a cause that is dear to your heart works. I know I’ve ordered from them because this (that and they’ve got some really nice hats and I’m a sucker for a good hat). What’s even nicer is that they have a page dedicated to causes that need additional support, giving you yet another chance to show your dedication to the outdoors.
A word of warning here, though. If you do this, it has to be genuine. If you promote yourself as someone who is passionate and it turns out to be little more than lip service, you’re going to have a very hard time winning back those former fans.
Get out there and create
Even one of these tips can help you stand out in what is becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Take your time, though. Rushing in to content can backfire on you, especially if you don’t take the time to think of at least a bit of a strategy (or even know what you want to get out of your content marketing efforts).
If you’re not entirely sure what you want to do, or how to go about doing it yourself, let’s talk.