The most difficult thing about content marketing is coming up with the ideas. Once you’ve covered all the FAQ’s and obvious topics in your industry, it can be hard to come up with anything exciting, interesting or engaging, especially if your industry isn’t particularly glamorous. In a previous post, we discussed 22 great content marketing ideas that can be tailored to suit any industry or business, but now it’s time for you to go it alone with our useful tips for productive content ideation.
Use Your Target Audience
Drilling down into your main target audience and learning what makes them tick is a great way to help spark ideas, after all, these are the people you’re creating the content for. What problems do your audience face that you hold the solution to? How can you convey the message that your business can help, in an interesting way? If you’re not sure how to get inside the mind of your target audience, start with creating a range of buyer personas as this can really help to inform your ideas.
Once you have an idea of the topics your audience will find insightful and useful, head to Google Keyword Planner or Google Trends to find out what they’re searching for. Use these keywords and common search terms to build the titles of your content. Getting your content noticed is important, so the title needs to be compelling.
You’re also going to want to see what your competitors are getting up to with their content, and determine what you think works well for them and what they could improve on. When you’re looking for improvements you might just stumble upon a trick they have missed and you can then fill this gap.
When you’re carrying out your competitor research, you should be looking for anything trending in your industry, finding which keywords and long-tail search terms get the most traffic, and the social content that others are putting out and how their following engage with the posts. Look at the content that the top players in your field are putting out and see which pieces are getting the most attention. You can find out the specific organic keywords your competitors are gaining traffic for by entering their site on Similar Web.
Think wider than just the blog when you think of content too, check out your competitor’s videos if they produce any, subscribe to their email list to analyse how their email campaigns are performing and take the time to read some of their bigger pieces, such as whitepapers. This can be time consuming, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to gain an understanding of ways you can provide for your customer that your competition isn’t already leading on.
Keep in the forefront of your mind that you should only use competitor research to inspire your own ideas. Be careful to avoid simply copying or regurgitating that which has already been said. Your content should be original, so ensure you incorporate your own brand’s messages and values into each and every piece.
What Makes a Good Idea?
How can you be sure that your idea is a good one? When it’s your own idea, it can be difficult to distance yourself far enough to distinguish whether it will perform well. Run your ideas past others in your team, or even existing clients or customers to see if it resonates and take any feedback into consideration. Where the input of others isn’t possible, there are ways to help you decide whether your idea is worth pursuing. One of these ways is evaluating the idea to see if it’s ‘valuable’.
Good content is often equal to valuable content. No doubt you’ll have heard this term before, but what does it actually refer to? According to the Content Marketing Institute, a piece of valuable content has the following characteristics:
Findable – Is the title of your idea something that will enable the user to easily access the content?
Readable – Is the idea compelling to attract the user? Is it presented in a way that makes for easy reading?
Understandable – Have you written the content in an easy-to-understand tone of voice? Have you targeted it to your persona? Have you made the context clear?
Actionable – Will the user be equipped to take action following reading the piece?
Shareable – Does the idea make for shareable content? Give the reader a reason to share this piece on and ensure it is easy to do so.
Set specific time aside to come up with content ideas. You can do this on your own, but getting others involved can be slightly more productive as you can bounce ideas off of one another. Some ideas won’t be a great fit, or perhaps you might not currently have the budget or the resource to fulfil a piece to its potential, but don’t worry about this during the ideation process.
The mentality you should enter a brainstorming session with is ‘no idea is a bad idea’. Don’t shoot anything down, just add it to the list and revisit it at a later date. Even ideas that don’t fit at all could potentially inspire another that would work.
For a productive brainstorming meeting, avoid telling the group what you’re not looking for as this can put people off giving their input. Allow and encourage each person in the session to be as creative as possible. Capture each idea in a visual way, such as placing them on a whiteboard, having the team create ‘posters’ or use an online tool such as Bubbl.us.
Create an Ideas Repository
Remember those ideas we mentioned earlier that just didn’t fit right now? Well they might be viable at a later date. When you’re coming up with ideas, it’s worth remembering that not every single one will be turned into a full piece, but keeping a log of all your ideas can serve as a useful inspiration tool in the future.
Create a bank of content ideas that the whole team can access and add to, and go back to these on a frequent basis. Something that once wasn’t relevant may become relevant as the seasons change or as trends in your industry change and develop.
Not only can you find inspiration within your own industry, but you can also look further afield. There may be something that another industry is using effectively that can be applied in your industry. For example, look at the ways other industries collate and present useful data and if they do it in a particularly engaging way. You can then take trends or insightful data from your own industry and present it in a similar way.
When looking to other industries for inspiration, it’s more about HOW they are doing it, not WHAT they are doing. The bonus of researching how other industries apply their content strategy is that there is little room for duplicate content, as their topics will be entirely different to anything that would be relevant for your business.
Inspiration can come from many places and at any time, so keep an open mind and don’t feel that ideas can only come when you set aside the time to think of them. Read anything and everything that you can, keep up to date with what’s going on your industry, and others if you feel necessary, and don’t overthink the process too much.
Recycle & Reuse
Remember that successful content can be recycled or reused. Get the most out of your successful pieces by updating them or building on them. This way, the idea is there for you already, so if ideation hasn’t gone so well this week, you have something you can count on. Even evergreen content can become a little stale if it isn’t given a little bit of love from time to time.
Has anything changed since you last posted on this topic? Is there room for a follow up piece? How can you make use of that which you have already created? Be sure that you only spend time doing this for pieces that have proven to be successful and perform well in the past as it’s more likely it will do well again in the future. Keep your content as fresh as possible.
According to Moz’s Matthew Brown, a great content idea is relevant and recent, it is detailed – a piece should be as long or as short as it needs to be to include all information necessary. It should be targeted to a specific persona or audience, it should be evergreen or updated regularly and it should be personal, relating specifically to the target audience.
In order to come up with quality ideas for your content marketing strategy, you need to put in the time. Keep note of ideas as they come into your mind so that you can flesh them out at a later date and set time aside each week fully dedicated to ideation. The more regularly you spend time practicing this creative process, the more productive you will become each time. Need help with ideas for your content marketing strategy? Get in touch with us today.