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Finding a New Niche - 12/7/2010 -

Do these three things (and avoid these two mistakes) when tailoring content to a new demographic.


By Jeffrey Lee

A little over a year ago, my association’s (the National Apartment Association) communications staff decided to launch a new column called Finance Insider in our magazine, units. The purpose of the department was to appeal to a new demographic of readers: apartment investors and financial professionals involved in the multifamily real estate industry.

The membership of our organization skews toward the operational side—apartment management firms and small, independent owners—but we knew much of our magazine’s content would appeal to investors seeking to gain a more well-rounded expertise about the apartment industry. Following are some of the "dos” and "don’ts” for tailoring content to a new demographic.

DO: Identify a demographic within your membership that you’re not reaching or that doesn’t have a place to get the targeted information they need. Learning about these demographics can come from a variety of sources. Our staff realized we were getting an increasing number of calls or requests for information from financial professionals and investors, a group we hadn’t previously targeted, and found that they were interested in learning more about how apartments are operated. Decide whether it’s worth it to pursue this new audience: How will it help you achieve the goals of your association or publication? We’d heard from some financial firms that they didn’t want to advertise in our magazine because we didn’t cover their market. Including finance and investment content helped us make inroads with those potential advertisers, as well as new readers.

DON’T: Chase after an audience that already has well-established information sources. Trying to poach readers from another magazine or website will likely be challenging if you’re still trying to keep your own core audience. In our case, we already had an established competitor specializing in a specific niche of finance (affordable housing), so we steer away from spending too much time on that subject. Unless you feel the other source is inadequate or that you can beat them, try to develop a new audience of your own.

DO: Find out the type of information that appeals to that audience. Whenever we fielded a call from a financial professional or investor (or even used one as a source), we made an effort to engage them to find out what types of information they’d like to see in the magazine or that they couldn’t easily find elsewhere. Readership surveys can help, too. Be sure to ask what type of content your readers want to see more of in the magazine or on the web.


DON’T: Wait for the new demographic to come to you. Send a recent issue of your magazine to a list of potential subscribers within the new demographic you’re targeting. After attending a conference chock-full of apartment investors, we crafted a letter identifying the features of our magazine that would appeal to their audience and sent it along with our most recent issue and a subscription form to the attendees of the conference. Even if you only gain a few subscriptions, you might just build some word-of-mouth buzz.

DO: Track the results of your efforts. On the subscription form we sent to our new audience, we reduced the subscription price by just a few dollars so we could see that everyone who is paying us $72 instead of $75 for a subscription came from our outreach efforts. Be sure to follow up with members of your new demographic in any conversation to find out if your new content is striking a chord.

Jeffrey Lee is manager of communications, National Apartment Association and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyLeeUnits.


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