Is your content engine running out of gas? Is writer’s block keeping you up at night, and preventing your marketing campaigns from driving new leads and creating more revenue? Take heart… you’re not alone. According to a recent article in eMarketer based on research from Kapost, B2B marketers are having trouble coming up with fresh concepts to power their digital campaigns. Among B2B marketers in North America, approximately four out of 10 said it was difficult or somewhat difficult to come up with ideas for content marketing, and half said they didn’t have enough ideas to fuel their campaigns.
It’s true… coming up with ideas is hard. Sometimes it seems like everything you want to say has been said before. And if you come up with a truly novel idea, you wonder if it’s as brilliant as you think it is. You start to doubt yourself. And then there are the times when the well just runs dry. You simply don’t have anything to add to the already crowded conversations that continue chattering away in the digital content landscape.
For me, the answer is simple. Stop writing and start doing something else. Every time I feel stuck, blocked, or simply out of ideas, I step away from writing and start editing, proofreading, researching, or designing. Better still, I take a walk, do some yoga, or rustle up a snack. Have a conversation. Look at clouds. Anything is better than beating your head against the keyboard (I know, because I’ve tried that, too.) Usually, the ideas start coming again after a short break.
If not, I have a few more tricks up my sleeve. Here are just five of the many ways I come up with new content ideas when I’m up against a wall (and a deadline).
1. Read industry news, related blog posts, and current research
The best way to figure out what hasn’t been said before in a particular field is to read what has been said. I subscribe to relevant emails and RSS feeds all about the topics I generally write about: general marketing theory, content development, email best practices, marketing automation, social media, and so on. Here’s a roundup of great resources for marketing agencies that work for in-house marketers, too. And here’s a list of over 50 expert resources for internet marketers.
For example, that fact from eMarketer at the beginning of this post showed up in my inbox last week. I read the subject line, “eMarketer Daily – Do B2B Content Marketers Have Trouble Keeping Creative Juices Flowing?” and I thought, “I’m guessing the answer is yes.” It made me think that it might be helpful to other marketing content creators if I wrote a blog post about the ways I keep the ideas coming. And so, here we are.
2. See what’s hot now and trending tomorrow
When I go looking for content ideas, I think about the needs of the people who will be reading it. What does your audience want to know? What questions are they asking on your forums and community message boards? What issues are customer service reps dealing with? Which terms are they using to search your site? What keywords are driving them to your site? These are the hot topics today that you can use to inform your content creation. You might want to host a webinar on a topic, then write a follow-up blog post that answers the top questions from the event.
Use Google Analytics to understand the content that’s performing well on your site, and Google Adwords Keyword Planner to research concepts related to your subject. Google Trends can tell you some of the hot topics being searched as well as subjects people are interested in that are relevant to your themes. For example, should you write about content marketing or mobile marketing? Looks like they’re both getting a lot of interest, but content marketing has taken the lead in the last year or so.
Tools like BuzzSumo’s Top Content search can also help you find the most shared content for any topic or domain. And with Act-On website tracking, you can also look at the visitor history of your most valuable customers to see which content drove them to convert. Chances are good, those topics will lead to more content ideas. Check out what topics are trending on the social channels your audience frequents, as well.
LinkedIn Groups can be a great source of inspiration, since like-minded people often post the issues they’re dealing with every day. For example, a recent post in a content strategy group I belong to asked about “snackable content.” What it is, what it’s used for, where to find examples, and so on. (Perhaps I’ll write a blog post on that topic next.)
3. Remember to have fun with it
Usually when I have trouble coming up with ideas, it’s because I’m not really enjoying the whole process anymore. Any and all of those topics can be interesting and yes, even fun, but not if you’re feeling weary about the whole thing.
Sometimes it’s better to get silly for a little while. Rather than trying to chip away at your writer’s block, laugh through it. Try a funny content idea generator – Portent has a good one. Enter the subject “content” and you might get the title suggestion “Why Content is the 51st Shade of Grey.” Yikes!
Keep trying and here comes “Why Content is Key to Hillary in 2016.” Say, I might actually write a blog post about that one. I was just thinking that her campaign launch has relied heavily on video, social sharing, and personalized email marketing so far. Thanks, Content Idea Generator!
4. Reuse, repurpose, and recycle
If you’re running out of ideas for a blog post, take a look at the other types of content your company has created recently. Any type of content that’s not a blog post, like a webinar, podcast, case study, infographic, datasheet, video, and so on, can easily be turned into one. Don’t just copy and paste – that doesn’t add any value (and it can be detrimental to SEO). Instead, try these ideas for rejuvenating old content:
- If you’ve got a case study that’s older than a year, call up your customer and interview them to see what results they’ve achieved lately. Get new quotes and update the data that demonstrates results. That way, you can refresh your old case study and get a new blog post at the same time.
- For an infographic or survey report with statistics about industry trends, reach out to several experts in your field to ask them for comments. Everyone likes to be seen as a thought leader, and their new perspectives on the data could lead to additional topics for future posts.
- Take a long video and chop it up into soundbites to share on social media. Use excerpts of the video transcript to create a blog post, and embed those shorter clips right into the post.
Learn more about turning one piece of content into many in order to get gangbuster marketing results on a shoestring budget.
5. Create a roundup of content
Another way to repurpose content is to create a roundup of previously published works. For example, you can run a blog post about the top articles of the past year (always a favorite around the holidays, when your brain is already on vacation). You can make predictions for the coming year. Or you can gather up interesting facts and useful data, like this collection of marketing automation statistics. Many of these posts end up being extremely popular. After all, people love lists, and writers love writing content that gets read – and that gets results.
Want even more ideas? Check out this toolkit to learn what it takes to create killer marketing content. And be sure to share your tips for boosting your creativity in the comments.
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