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My Dad Held the Keys to an Untapped Niche Market

This guest post is by Ainslie Hunter of CoursesThatMatter.com.

When entrepreneurs start online they usually blog about what they know. For me, that was study skills. It is not the sexiest thing to talk about, and actually a hard niche market to crack, but it my first website and has led to some paid blogging jobs in education.

But I was making no money and very few students are interested in commenting on such a site.

So I had a beer with a ProBlogger!

Have you ever seen a tweet from Darren that says “Come over to Ustream and let’s have a chat”? Well I did and one comment really captured my attention. I’m paraphrasing, but Darren was asked whether he thought he could start a successful blog in any niche market. He thought it was an interesting experiment and believed it could be done.

Enter: My Dad!

My dad owned supermarkets. And now he owns cutting horses. Cutting is an amazing horse competition that originated in the US. Here is a short video that explains cutting better than I can (there is no blood involved, just a horse and a rider trying to keep a cow away from a heard).

Dad had spent the last nine months listening to me banging on about blogging and social media, connecting through stories, and making money online.

So one day we sat down and he showed me some very popular websites for people involved in the sport of cutting. And I was shocked! They were truly ugly flash sites, plastered with awful advertisements and outdated content.

But they were all making money.

The Site is Born

Cutting Horse Link is the newest cutting horse website online, created by yours truly and her dad. Dad writes the posts, and I edit them. Dad turns up to cutting horse shows on the weekends and hands out our flyers. I hustle online, interact through horse forums, and connect via Facebook.

And together we have created a successful online business. Yes, business! In four months we already have a loyal following of members who are approaching us and asking for us to promote them. We have major advertisers and are paying our first writer.

We’re making money quicker than we expected.

How Good Bloggers Stand out in the Crowd

I believe good bloggers can be successful in any niche market. Here’s why.

Our sites will stand out in the crowd

Blog-based sites look different from others. And that is good. It was obvious as soon as a cutting horse fan clicked on our site that we had something different. Cutting Horse Link focused on personal stories, while the other sites put the Sales Barn right out in front.

We know stories are more important than sales

Our site also speaks differently than our competitors’ do. We are more personal in our stories. We link to other people (including our competitors). I post photos of professional horse riders playing tennis in their spurs. I have a section called “Gooseneck Gossip” and we shoot videos of ourselves and post audio interviews from key industry personalities.

We understand wait time

Bloggers know that community takes time to develop. Within this niche market the most common question I have been asked is “What is in it for me?” Because I wasn’t selling anything, the community didn’t trust the site. But that was okay. I knew that if I kept to our writing schedule that people would come to the site. Surprisingly, they came very quickly.

We know connections are the key

Straight up, dad and I knew we couldn’t do it all by ourselves. So we developed connections with various groups in cutting—youth, parents, trainers, riders, photographers, and even other websites. We took the time to promote them and then asked if they would do the same. This is really important if you are considered an outsider in the niche market. Connections matter. We were able to convince a pro trainer and one of the largest horse breeders to be interviewed by us, which led to more traffic—and more trust.

We nail the technical stuff

From the beginning, I had an editorial schedule for the blog. I made sure I had a newsletter from Day 1. And I took the time to make sure that the posts and titles were SEO-friendly. I am surprised at how much traffic we get just from search engines. If I didn’t know SEO strategies, we would certainly be struggling.

Don’t forget the first rule of blogging

If you are going to attempt to write a blog in a niche market you are unfamiliar with, you mustn’t forget the most important rule: content is king! So you need a partner, someone who knows the audience. There is absolutely no way I could do this site without my father. He knows our audience, and knows what stories will interest them. He can pick the trends before they happen and he knows the correct language to use.

My role in the partnership is more as editor or online strategist. I do the technical stuff and model strategies from other successful online businesses.

And together we are having so much fun. Dad now walks around quoting Crush It, and is a big hit on Facebook. Sure, he doesn’t know how to use WordPress and I can’t get him to consider tweeting yet. But he writes great stories and understands that online connections are just the same as those we make in real life.

So next time you are at a family dinner don’t hide in front of the TV or spend the whole time tweeting on your iPhone. Sit and listen to your aunt as she describes her new patchwork quilt or ask your grandfather about his model train collection. You might just find an untapped online business gold mine!

Ainslie Hunter is a busy blogger of Study Skills and Cutting Horses. You will also find her transforming ecourses and writing about why teaching matters Find her on Twitter @ainsliehunter

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Comments

  1. Mike Lopez says:

    Good point re partnering with someone who knows the audience.

    Reminds me of what my friend, Stu McLaren, told me once. Business partners are all pieces of the same puzzle. No one piece can build the entire puzzle and each piece must do its part. That way, the puzzle is completed and the business functions properly.

    • Gregory C. says:

      Once again “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” rings true again, this time in the niche blogging realm.

      Although in blogging since you are able to do well on your own knowledge, it’s not always the case, but this post points out a great example of finding some success even when you don’t know the topic at hand, by finding someone who does have a passion for it.

      Of course you have to know how to present it well and bring it all together, which this blogger definitely did.

    • Glad you liked it. Great point about the puzzle pieces. It is so true. Sometimes we disagree but I think dad and I are working well together.

      Ainslie

  2. Sarah Arrow says:

    What a lovely situation to be in! I can’t imagine doing something like this with my dad. It’s fascinating as to how quickly it turned into a business – well done.

  3. It just goes to show you not 1 person can “do-it-all”. It is much better to have a team around you!

    • It is definately a team approach. Mum finds ouf the Gooseneck Gossip and my husband helps us out when the site crashes. Even my daughter plays a part – they love watching her videos as she learns to ride.

      Ainslie

  4. Congratulations on the speedy success!

    I love the way you have mixed online and offline promotions. While this wouldn’t work in all niches, I feel that bloggers tend to focus solely on the online world when building their blog. The way you’re merging online and offline marketing and networking is a mix that more of us need to look into.

  5. Nice idea to have business with dad. Really lovely thought.

  6. Well written blog! Lots of heart :)

  7. Nicely done. Looks like you nailed it on all fronts. That’s what I call a well prepared and well executed plan.

    Nice job on the title of this post too. Dads are are an absolute winner when it comes to drawing your readers in. You got me thinking of my Dad now, which makes me smile. This certainly wouldn’t have worked with him. He had trouble with the telephone, never mind the Internet! (But we are talking a different generation).

    • Denise,

      I have a thing for odd titles here at Problogger. My other post was called How a $50 packet of Tim Tams could get you a blogger job.

      Dad’s are great aren’t they!

      Ainslie

  8. Always nice to hear case studies about businesses that have taken off really fast. Well done!

  9. Great story! What I think is key is that you and your dad each have skills the other doesn’t have. Very clear boundaries reinforced by the fact that you simply can’t do the others work means you each bring essential skills to the table and have a great respect for each others skills. You work together in good partnership. Like a horse and rider ;-)

    • Alison, very true and definately stops the arguments as we know we can’t do what the other can do.

      Horse and rider – very funny. I would probably be the horse – cannot ride at all and cutting horses are too fast for me.

  10. Encouraging story. You hit the nail on the head when you said that “Bloggers know that community takes time to develop.” Too many companies and people think that because things are posted instantly on the Internet that the results are instant. It takes time to build relationships in person and online.

  11. Partnering with people who know the audience and are knowledgable in that market is exactly what I’m doing with my upcoming business.

    Great story!

  12. What an awesome story that is. I wish that I could get my mother involved in all sorts of online affairs, but she is still stuck on the password reveal for Facebook. LOL
    Seriously though, our grandparents are a great resource for stories as well. I am trying my hardest to get the information on the old traditional foods from the old counrty so I can incorporate them into my blog. Translating has been fun, for sure!

  13. You hit on a great point. Listening is maybe the greatest untapped marketing skill of them all — untapped not because it’s unobtainable, but because nobody does it anymore. We’re a world of talkers. It’s only through listening to others that we can perceive what people want to hear or to talk about. When you tell someone that there’s a whole world of free information out there for their use, they assume you mean Google. But thousands of years before we first Googled for information, we had another easy, entertaining technique for obtaining it — we talked to each other!

  14. Ethan Grey says:

    Get so inspired by your story and suggestions. Truthfulness and authenticity in blogging is always the best way.

  15. irene ross says:

    Understanding your subject and doing what you really love can do magic!

  16. Karen Marrow says:

    Wow,

    This is a great story you share here. Yes, find someone who knows the market and you can turn virtually anything into a business.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    Karen

  17. Jef Menguin says:

    This is the best advice I got this morning about blogging.

    Thank you Ainslie.

  18. corey says:

    Great article. I totally agree with you about the importance of finding a niche, especially where you weren’t expecting too. It just shows that we need to open up to what’s around us, because that next blog idea, could be right in front of our faces.

  19. Petrov says:

    The law of blogging! I like it :)

  20. Ali Luke says:

    Great piece, Ainslie — and a really heartwarming one, too — you’re obviously really close to your dad, and I think there’s something special about family members working together.

    It’s fantastic to see a case study of a niche that’s not a typical “techy” or blog-related one, too.

    Hope you do get your dad onto Twitter!

  21. Dave Starr says:

    Darn good story, Ainslie. There’s two great points in there that a great many bloggers may pass over as they laboriously seek the “niche that fits”.

    The first is that blogging often becomes way to tangled in the thicket of technical trivia. Find and then tweak the ‘perfect’ theme .. get the latest plug-ins, gather up the most social network links, even links that have no real relevance to the subject and very few potential readers/clients. Blogging is about ‘passions’ and most importantly ‘people’, and not nearly so much about the intricacy of SEO.

    Second, you hit home when you mentioned mom and dad and grandma or grandpa. The vast majority of bloggers, especially many fledgling bloggers are young. But the market of potential readers is older in general, and getting older every day. In the US, for example, over 100,000 people per month reach age 65 and enter the ranks of Medicare/Social security, These folks, by and large are:
    1. Readers. they weren’t brought up on videos and iPads
    2. Patient .. they didn’t reach this age by being terminally impatient
    3. Passionate about hobbies and interests …they aren’t mind-dead every night from 12 hours at a high stress job.
    4. And despite the general impression of “old age pensioners” being poor, they frequently have more discretionary income than they did in their 40′s and 50′s while raising a family, sending kids to university, etc.

    Bottom line … expand your target market age range, it’s certainly worked well for me.

  22. I often wonder what I’m doing wrong in my blogging. Connections are taking so long to build up. I realise now that having connections first can be a very important key to success.
    What an enjoyable post. I wish you and your dad much success.

  23. Congrats on your success, Ainslie! Sounds like an excellent site in an underserved niche – not surprised you are finding success. It is amazing what we can discover if we’re just willing to listen, either to our current audience and their concerns or to our family as we chat. Great tips …

    Best to you,
    Scott

  24. Ryan says:

    Awesome story…sounds like something I would read in a book or newspaper feature story. Hm, you may have a media opportunity here. I don’t know many people who say that they blog with their dad, and it is really neat to see how the pieces of your new online business puzzle came together. I wish you a successful 2011.

  25. Dear Ainslie,

    Good tips for starting a niche blog. It must have been really fun to do this with your dad. Getting loyal reader is the important factor then money will come.

    Cheers,
    Cheekeong

    You Are Not Who You Think You Are

  26. Hello Ainsley,
    What an inspiring post and a great blog you have created. Congratulations to you and your Dad. I found the story about “cutting horses” very interesting due to your effective writing skills. I went to the cutting horse blog and found interesting information that furthered my knowledge about something that I never knew existed before. Being a photographer I found a distinct lack of photos of the horses on your blog. Just a suggestion to keep in the back of your mind: Websites are very visual and people really enjoy looking a pictures. Me personally, I think you could enhance your blog a lot by adding pictures to each and every page. I’d also like to see a picture of your Dad. This helps to personalize the blog as well. Keep up the great job and add some more photos of those beautiful horses and their activities.
    Best Regards,
    Ron

  27. tim says:

    I like the idea that your first site has led to some paid blogging gigs. That’s been pretty much the only money http://timmyjohnboy.com has made me. It’s been a sort of online resume or example of my writing, authority and skill.

    I also like your tip about finding a partner, especially one that fills in the gaps you may have. Good stuff.

  28. Very inspirational story Ainslie, thanks for sharing. It is always good to learn what others go through to get through their particular barriers and certainly great to learn that it works! Wishing you both continued success. Jackie

  29. My hubby knows so much about a lot of topics (fixing ANYTHING, collecting old cars, you name it) I am trying to get him to see that he could earn money doing this, but he has no marketing experience. We are going to get it together one day, as I believe it could be the door to leaving a job he hates.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Bernice
    Are you too busy to be yourself?

  30. Marcie says:

    I like the fact that you created an opportunity based on the people side of a topic as opposed to the technical. I was considering that for my site. This pretty much confirmed what I’ve been thinking.

    • Marcie,

      Whilst it is a good strategy, it may take your audience a while to get it. Because we didn’t push selling something for a long time dad was always asked at cutting horse events “What is in it for you?”

      We jsut knew we were on the right path so kept at it.

      Good luck with your site.

      Ainslie

  31. Femi says:

    Nice read! Glad that you and your Dad can bond more while making money. There may be a trend developing in children helping their parents who have the years of experience in their respective fields, to leverage the internet and create businesses. Great stuff!

  32. Hey Ainslie,

    This is awesome how you’ve been able to partner up with your dad like this!

    In my partnership with my site, I’d be completely lost without my partners help. He’s the one who builds all the sales pages, sends out the autorepsonders, takes care of customer service, built the site, added all the widgets, etc. etc.

    He does a ton of technical stuff that I no doubt could come to learn but would totally take me away from the task of writing content, writing sales and marketing material and taking notes on the programs we do. I feel so blessed to have him as my partner.

    I imagine your dad feels the same way about you! You make his life way easier! And you make it possible for him to share his gift with the world which I imagine makes him happy! Hope you guys keeping Crushing It! Hahaha! :-)

  33. Great post Ainslie. It’s cool that you’ve found this niche. I’m trying to start businesses and blogs in very concentrated niches.

    Hearing success stories such as yours get me all pumped up!

  34. What a fascinating way to discover a new niche! Thank you for sharing your story, it just expanded my idea of what a profitable niche could be.

  35. Fred Tracy says:

    That’s awesome. Great story. It reminds me how important it is to really sell a story, not a product. The sales will come by themselves. :)

  36. Oliver says:

    I’ve thought about doing something similar with my father, writing about modelling works well in magazines and I guess a blog is an online mag! I’m curious, however, as to how you’ve made money through the blog? Is it purely through listing fees and classified ads?
    Nice blog non the less, and a great post!

  37. Ronda Kay says:

    Ainslie,

    What a wonderful story! I can’t stop LOL picturing this: “Dad now walks around quoting Crush It”.

    This amazing case study has succeeded in inspiring me more deeply than all the “How-tos, Why-tos” I’ve been absorbing for a year. I hope your cutting horses chase my lizard brain right out my head.

    Thanks so much for sharing this, and best wishes for continued success, everywhere!