How to generate content ideas that get results
Are you responsible for generating content marketing ideas but not sure where to start? Or are you at the end of your own ideas list and looking for inspiration to kick start your creative juices again? If so, read on for Rin's top five tips for generating content ideas even when you're not feeling inspired.
Ideas are worth their weight in gold. When I was a freelance journalist it wasn’t my expertise with the English language I was selling. Instead I was peddling ideas.
Editors were well aware they can polish any copy a freelance writer produces and make it sound good. What they need is a steady stream of interesting, engaging, entertaining, relevant ideas. And those aren’t always easy to come by.
This is difficult if you’re a busy business owner or marketing manager. Because there’s a very good chance that you have to produce regular content without the input of an endless team of freelancers.
That’s why I thought you’d appreciate a list of techniques to help you generate ideas even in the middle of a really dry spell.
#1 Focus on your target clients’ problems and aspirations
Just for a moment, forget about what you’re trying to sell. Forget the impression you’re trying to make. Forget the outcomes you’re hoping to achieve. Those things are important but they will stifle your creative idea-generating process.
Start with what your target audience wants to read about (or watch or discover). What are they struggling with? What are they hoping for? Jot down some ideas. You can always find a way to get your message in there later. Or not. Sometimes just adding value can be enough to give your brand a boost.
#2 Look at the ideas everyone else is coming up with
It’s very hard to endlessly generate output unless you’re giving as much attention to the input. It’s like a reservoir. Unless there’s regular rainfall eventually the taps in the surrounding houses are going to run dry. So make sure you’re inputting in whatever way sits you best. Read blog posts. Watch videos and listen to podcasts. Go to industry events and exhibitions and expos. Talk to colleagues, clients, competitors.
As Mark Twain said: “There’s no such thing as a new idea.” While I’m not suggesting plagiarism, it’s ok to look around at what other people are doing and put your own spin on it.
#3 Think of ideas outside your direct area
If you’re a personal trainer, you might feel that your content subject matter is restricted to exercise techniques and fitness tips and perhaps nutritional guidance.
But what about sports psychology and time management and workout fashion and the best places in Bristol to go for a run? These are all subjects your audience is likely to engage with - and they’re bound to feel less salesy than ones directly related to your core service areas.
Real life example: We work with a brilliant local document scanning and storage company, Scan Film or Store. About a year ago we wrote a quiz for their blog entitled Are you a hoarder? There was still a genuine call to action that related to their services but it was deliberately lighthearted and fun to engage with.
#4 Create content categories
Sometimes the breadth of the task “come up with some ideas” makes it paralysing. Instead, your brain will thank you for setting with categories that help give it a bit of focus.
For example you might create ‘how to’ content, news, behind the scenes, trends, opinion, interviews, case studies and so on. By selecting the categories you think will get the most interaction from your audience you can start to shape an editorial calendar of ‘slots’ that you can fill on a regular basis.
#5 Be specific - no, more specific than that
As blogging is one of the services we offer, it would make sense for me to write a blog post on how to blog well or something similar. After all, I’ve got lots of ideas to share and tips to give. But that would have wiped out a whole subject in one post. And “how to blog better” is not very interesting, is it? Instead, here is a selection of titles we’ve posted over the last few months:
- What’s the point of your blog?
- How to blog consistently
- Blogging - how long, how often and other important numbers
- How to make your blog posts more engaging
If generating ideas is not your strong suit, why not get someone in to help?
This is where I do a little plug for our Editorial Calendar package - ideal for those who aren't ready to outsource their blog but need some professional input.
It’s a potent cocktail of strategy, goal setting, accountability and idea generation that I created especially for small businesses, sole traders and freelancers with a limited budget. If you want to talk things through, just get in touch.
Want to read more? Try this - How to blog consistently