This blog post was inspired by a presentation that I went to yesterday afternoon. It was at the monthly Atlanta HubSpot User Group meeting, and the presenter was Sarah Walpert from Ingenium. Her presentation was titled “Unboring Marketing For Boring Industries”, and she shared with us her method for coming up with rich, engaging, interesting content no matter how boring an industry or a topic seems on the surface.
Her boring examples included an engineering firm and a chemical manufacturing company. Potentially boring industries on the surface, but with Sarah’s step-by-step process, she demonstrated how she was able to come up with interesting topics for these boring industries. Here’s a link to an interview with Sarah (I’ll post her presentation slides as soon as they’re live).
Her presentation got me thinking as I was driving back home.
At 98toGo, when we engage with a client, we have a process that we go through to help extract the expert topics from the client, which we then turn into blog, ebook, email and social media content. We walk our clients through a question-and-answer process that allows us to pull great content out of just about any topic or industry (much like Sarah’s process). In essence, you can apply this question-and-answer process to any industry, any company, and just about any person within that company, and walk away with blog worthy topics.
Here's that exact process!
Identify your pillar topics
First you want to come up with what we call “Pillar Topics” (some people call them “Brick Topics”). These topics are typically going to be the things that the business specializes in and are the products or services they sell. So if a business has three services that they are specializing in, then those will generally be the pillar topics that we’re going to explore.
For example, one of our client’s is an Apple Computer Consultant, and one of his pillar topics is “Mac Integration” (which is one of his services).
Interview a subject matter expert
The next thing you do is sit down with a subject matter expert from that organization, pick one of those pillar topics, and ask them to give one of the most common questions that they receive on that topic. The key here is that the questions should NOT be about their business. I don’t want to receive brand specific questions here. I want questions that apply to the industry as a whole and the topic at hand, NOT about the company I’m interviewing.
Because I don’t want the blog content that I’m going to create from this interview to come across salesly. My goal with the blog content is not to sell the product or service of the company. No one wants to read that type of stuff. And if I only received questions that are about the company then that’s exactly how your content will come across.
So I will sit across from a client and ask, “What questions do you get most frequently on this topic?” Then my client gives me the first question and I write it down.
In our example, we talked with our client about his Mac Integration services, and asked for a common question he hears. His question was, “What are the benefits of integrating Apple devices instead of Windows devices into my business?”
Notice how his company name is not mentioned in the question at all!
Answer question succinctly
Next, I'm going to ask them to answer that question in two to three sentences. Again, just like above, you don’t want the answer to mention the brand or company at all.
In our example, our client’s response looked like this,
“There are 5 basic reasons why Mac is better than Windows for businesses: #1 yada yada yada, #2 blah blah blah, etc.”
Ask a follow up question
Once I have their first answer, I'm going to ask a follow-up question based on that answer.
In our example, my follow up question might look like, “So if those are the reasons, what would my cost be for a Mac integration versus a Windows integration?”
My client is then going to answer that follow up question, again in 2 to 3 sentences. At which point I'm going to ask another follow up question based on their answer, and the process repeats itself.
I will do this until I have 8 question and answer pairs to work from (we start with 8 pairs because that roughly equals one month of content if we’re publishing two blogs per week).
Use the question to inspire a blog title
The final step in this process is to turn the questions into compelling blog posts. Make the blog post title sexy and compelling enough to get people to click. Here are a few sample titles that you can use for inspiration: Click here for sample titles!
Requirements for success
Here’s what you need to execute this process properly:
- A subject matter expert
- 60 minutes
- A voice recording app of some sort, or something to take notes with
Here's what this process assumes:
- Your subject matter expert knows their buyer personas like the back of their hand (ie their ideal customer) -- if they don’t know this then the topics and questions/answer pairs are not going to be relevant to their buyers.
- Your subject matter expert spends a significant amount of time talking to or engaging with their ideal customers) -- if they don’t do this then they won’t know the most relevant and pressing questions that their customers are having
- Your subject matter expert is indeed an expert in the subject -- if they aren’t this then their answers will not be at an expert level and the content you ultimately create from them will probably be subpar.
This process can be done by just about anyone. If you’re tasked with coming up with blog content, then simply locate the subject matter experts in your organization and schedule a time to sit down with them. It could be Darrell in sales or Dana the VP. Doesn’t matter. And if you’re the subject matter expert then have someone interview you. You’ll be doing most of the talking, and they need only ask follow up questions and continue to pull you further down the rabbit hole.
A tip for this process is to make sure you talk to somebody who is actively engaging with the clients. You want to talk to a customer service representative, or a sales team representative, or the CEO of the company who started out going door-to-door trying to sell his parts and service and got a lot of facetime with customers.
You don't necessarily want to talk to the web developer who only engaged with a marketing department and I've never talked to one of the customers at all. Again, the magic in this process comes from knowing and understanding the questions that the client is asking, and then being able to continue to dig deeper and go further down into those questions.
So there you have it, a very simple way to come up with a number of blog article topics no matter how boring or uninteresting you think your industry or product or service is. If there is an industry for it, that means there are enough people with an interest in it to have supply and demand. And if the demand is there, you bet there are questions about it. I hope you will find this useful.
Leave some comments at the bottom to let me know whether or not this process works for you, has work for you in the past if you've tried it, or if you see some holes in this process and have any suggestions for improvements.
Want to see the result of this process in real life!
We use the above process when we develop our special 3 month content plans for our clients. You can grab a sample content plan for free, where you can see exactly how much content we can come up with by using the process above (and by doing a few other things). Click here or the button below to get your free sample plan.
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