Running Toward a New Market, Thanks to Content Strategy

An Interview with Lauren Schuman of FootSmart

Kevin Howarth Posted by

May 02 2013

rsz_lauren_schumanKnown for its expertise in foot and lower body health issues, FootSmart took a risk by approaching a new market. They debated and discussed the idea of a specialty shop for a while until latching onto the idea of The Running Shop. Focusing on foot and lower body health products for runners, FootSmart knew The Running Shop had the best chance of working if equipped with powerful content.

Lauren Schuman, Director of Online Merchandising and Content, combined her expertise in online merchandizing and promotion with Content Science’s experience in content strategy to formulate a Running Shop plan that connects to runners’ interests and intense physical activity. Debuting last week, The Running Shop launched with engaging content ready to go.

Lauren took the time to chat with us about how the Davey Award-winning Running Shop’s content strategy helped opened up an opportunity for FootSmart to go after a new customer. Her insights apply to any large organizations attempting to reach out to new customers and overcome the credibility challenges that entails.

How did you approach the Running Shop content strategy with such different customers?

Historically, FootSmart had not marketed many products outside of its existing customer base. So, we conducted research to determine how to communicate with runners, what content they liked, and how much content they needed. As affluent, well-educated customers, runners demand really great content. That means we needed to showcase our running expertise and not just appear as a retailer selling products. To communicate with runners, we decided to take more of an active and upbeat content approach to match their level of physical activity.

But despite such a different customer attitude, we found that the foot and lower body health needs of runners and our existing FootSmart customer remained mostly the same. Both customers use the same products but for different reasons. Whether their plantar fasciitis resulted from wearing poor fitting shoes or running 10 marathons in a year, their foot health needs remain the same. But when talking to the running customer, we emphasize different things such as stretching to help prevent an injury or how an injury will impact training.

What surprising insights did you discover about the running customer’s core content needs?

The running customer’s age surprised us. When we initially thought of runners, we prepared to share content with a much younger customer. But we found that the typical marathon or serious runner fell into a 40- to 50-year-old age range for women and over 55 years old for men. That falls very close to the age of FootSmart’s customers and suggested that some of our existing FootSmart customers may already be potential Running Shop customers.

Also, as well-educated customers, runners seek out a lot of information and rely on local running resources. Runners tend to find local specialty running stores where they develop close, trusted relationships. Similarly online, running customers not only expect to buy products but they also demand similar kinds of trusted, relevant content. That might include feeds of local running events or established brands providing useful content to runners. Early on, we realized that merely merchandizing The Running Shop or just talking about common running topics like “Top 5 Running Shoes” would not provide enough of a value-add. So, our overall research pointed us toward focusing on running through the lens of injury prevention and treatment.

When addressing medical-related topics such as foot conditions, injuries, and healthy running, how do you ensure content credibility?

In order for customers to view FootSmart as a running expert, we need credible content to back us up. People know us as foot and lower body health experts but not in the context of running. As a result, we partnered with the University of Calgary’s Running Injury Clinic, which primarily focuses on research, publications, and education about the impact of foot products and running practices on a person’s body.

When considering our goals for The Running Shop, partnering with the Running Injury Clinic fit perfectly. It helps that the Running Injury Clinic focuses on education, not selling products. As an objective subject matter expert, they help review content on behalf of FootSmart. That stamp of approval provides credibility for the running customer.

In addition, our long-standing relationship with the Atlanta-based Podiatry Institute helps us provide credibility for runners. They already help us with FootSmart content related to foot health injuries. Luckily for us, we discovered that an expert within their team researches and runs clinicals in the running space, so their team now helps us vet some of our running content.

As you can see, reaching a new set of customers takes a strategic approach to digital content. Follow Lauren’s example. Make sure you research the content needs of your new customers well ahead of time, look for ways to add unique value to your brand, and ensure that your content resonates credibly.

See FootSmart’s and Content Science’s teamwork in creating a successful content strategy to tackle a new market. Visit The Running Shop.