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The first, if not the most difficult, step in content marketing is figuring out what you’re going to write about. If you’ve ever tried to write anything, I’m sure you’ve had episodes of writers block – staring at the blank page for what seems like an eternity hoping for creative inspiration. Successful content marketers don’t have this problem because they are always on the lookout for new and innovative content ideas. Put these tips into action and you won’t have this problem either.
Follow industry news. The key to creating timely, relevant content is to be plugged into the latest news and trends in your industry. If you don’t already, get in the habit of reading online publications and blogs in your industry. Google Alerts can help automate this process by emailing you whenever industry news is published.
Monitor social conversations. What are people tweeting about on Twitter, posting on Facebook or discussing on LinkedIn? These social conversations can be a great source for content ideas. Follow LinkedIn groups, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages related to your industry. You can automate this process using services like HootSuite to monitor social conversations.
Ask your sales and service people. Your salespeople and customer service people are interacting with your customers on a daily basis. They know your customers’ needs, challenges and opportunities. Even if these people are not great writers, ask them for the raw meat of each content idea – I bet there's a treasure trove of ideas to be uncovered. A talented copywriter can turn their raw meat into a brilliantly written piece.
Ask your customers. To be effective, your content needs to be customer-focused. So, when brainstorming content ideas, why not ask your best customers for input? Conduct an online survey asking your customers to let you know their top challenges and questions.
Conduct original research. By conducting original research, you’ll have content that is uniquely yours. Create a brief, focused survey on a topic your customers find to be important. Once you compile your results, analyze them and look for trends and insights. This valuable data can be used for many blog posts and articles. You can also publish a study of all the results as a whitepaper.
Eavesdrop on email conversations with customers. Now this may seem too “Big Brother” for some, but it is an effective way to understand the questions your customers have about your products, services and solutions. By setting up your email system to automatically "BCC" (blind carbon) your salespeople’s email messages, you will be able to see the questions that are on your customers’ minds, as well as the valuable answers your salespeople provide. By mining the information in these conversations, you will come up with countless content ideas.
Repurpose great content. This is one of my favorite ways of coming up with content ideas: Just repurpose old, good ideas in a new format. Did you write an article that got great feedback? Then write a 10-page whitepaper on the same subject. Film a short video blog. Create a webinar. Each good idea you come up with can be leveraged to create multiple content types.
Consider evergreen content. Evergreen content is content that stays useful for years with little or no need for upkeep. It can be referenced long after it was first created and still provides great value to the reader. What information or topics could you write about that will always be in season?
Bob DeStefano is a B2B online marketing strategist, author and professional speaker with more than 20 years of experience helping distributors and manufacturers leverage online marketing to produce bottom-line results. Bob is the endorsed online marketing consultant for many industrial trade associations and a faculty member of the University of Industrial Distribution.