Sometimes the hardest part of a content marketer’s job is coming up with new and fresh content ideas. It can feel like you’ve written all there is to write about a given topic or industry. When you’ve fallen into that dark place, try these four creativity kick-starters.
1. Monkey See, Monkey Do… But Better
All content marketers and creators have a handful of brands or publications that they aspire to be on par with – in terms of content quality, authority, design, experimentation with formats, etc. Competitors are often the cause of much content envy. So, if you’re feeling like your creative ability to ideate has been temporarily depleted, why not begin emulating your content creation inspiration?
Check out what the competing/aspirational content team has created, and identify what’s working for them, and see if there is an opportunity to:
- Create a fresher, more up-to-date version. For example, your competition published a blog post called “Top 20 Restaurants to Try in Toronto” that ranks well on Google and brings in consistently healthy pageviews – but it was published back in 2014. If it’s relevant to your target audience, why not write the 2017 version with newer, better restaurants?
- Create a longer, more in-depth version. Top 50 Restaurants to Try in Toronto? A piece of content that is more comprehensive and more detailed will likely stand out and win out over the shorter, shallower alternative.
- Create a better visual experience. Half of the battle to capturing an audience is by providing them with content that is nice to look at and easy to consume. Create a video or an infographic to do battle with your competitor’s popular blog post, or an interactive map of the 50 best restaurants to try in Toronto.
2. Go Straight to the Source: Your Customers
It’s odd but a lot of content marketers have never spoken to a single one of their customers. Considering that a content marketer’s target audience is likely very similar – if not straight up the same – as the people already using the product/service, they should be asking them some questions to trigger ideation.
Find out what they’re talking about, questions they’re asking and what they’re interested in. The easiest, most obvious ways to reach out and ask questions is by sending an email or setting up a quick phone call, but there are other methods too, like:
- Ask your sales and customer service teams. They interface with customers daily and likely know common questions they have, their pain points, etc.
- Create a customer community. Some companies have found creative ways to build communities by organizing meet-ups to enable face-to-face interaction and to encourage customer camaraderie. Hootsuite, for example, has regular meetups (Hootups) to bring social media marketers together to provide product feedback, take part in networking and have some fun. Content marketers should be able to leave a meetup like this with at least a few new content ideas.
- Take advantage of live chat tools. There are live chat tools that can be integrated with your software or on your website, making it possible to ask customers about the content that they would find most helpful in a quick, efficient way. Catch them when they’ve logged into your software or are looking for something on your website.
3. Share Real, First-person Experiences
At its core, good content marketing is great storytelling. Recently, a lot of the content (created by brands) that I’ve seen passed around by peers on social and on Slack have been personal accounts of first-hand experiences – someone that tried something new at work and failed or someone that tried to create a new habit and succeeded, etc.
We’ve done this at ScribbleLive – when we enlisted our Senior Product Marketing Manager, Geoffrey Gualano, to share what he learned about producing product videos and what he learned about event marketing while working at Apple.
The beauty of making real stories a part of your content strategy is that it doesn’t all have to come from the content team, freeing up time and resources to churn out other content.
Find other people in your company that would be able and willing to share a story that is helpful and relevant to your target audience. You may run into a roadblock when someone from the human resources or development team has a great story but may not be entirely confident in their writing skills. Ensure them that you’ll be there to help the whole way through and that it’s your job to make them look good. Once you have one person on board, it will be easier to get others to start sharing their own stories, too.
4. Interview Thought Leaders and Influencers within Your Industry
Most industries have their own versions of rock stars – the people that have broken new ground, led disruption and influence practitioners. When you’re stuck on ideating, why not reach out to one or two and ask if they would grant you and your organization an interview. This has two benefits:
- The interview can be posted on your blog (or another form of a content hub) in text or video, providing you with brand new A+ piece of content
- Their answers to your questions will likely give you a brand new topic to feature that you’ve never thought of before
Interviews also harpoon back to the point above about personal, authentic stories – you can ask about achievements, adversity, etc. to provide your audience with an interesting profile of a person they’re familiar with or can learn from.
When it seems like the well of content ideas has run dry, you can hack inspiration by looking to your competitors, customers, co-workers, and influencers. Sometimes the most obvious content ideas are the ones closest to you/the ones that go overlooked – so don’t despair for long and start using the above ideas to make your editorial calendar look a little less barren.