Coming up with sexy content topics on a consistent basis is hard work, “Harder than a cat trying to bury a turd in a marble floor.” BOOM! Been waiting to use that one for a while now.
But seriously, you’ve been there right? Sitting with a pen and paper or your favorite word processor staring at a blank page despite the fact that you’ve been at it for hours, trying come up content ideas your audience just might be interested in.
Does this sound familiar? Are you ready to find some go to techniques for finding a never-ending supply of content ideas that your audience will love?
I used to truly dread content idea days. Constantly restructuring my to do list so that I could put it off a little longer. Anything to not have to undergo this torture. It got to the point where I was missing deadlines simply because I didn’t have a process to come up with these ideas.
I decided to face the dragon, making it my mission to develop ideation techniques to simplify this process. I read everything I could read, tested every tool I could test. Finally, I found a process that works for me.
Understanding Customer Needs = Better Content Campaigns
It all starts with knowing your audience. I want to get inside their head to understand what makes them tick and what keeps them up at night. If you’re willing and able, interview them. Here are just a couple of the things I’d like to know for this exercise.
- What triggering event caused them to look for a solution?
- What did they want to change in their business?
- What was the goal of their research?
- Where do they go to find information? Search engine, Blogs, Social Media?
- What kind of questions did they ask during this research?
- What keywords did they use?
- What trade shows/events are important to their industry?
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it will help you in this ideation process.
Create Content Campaigns Around Key Events
After getting to know your customers a little better, it’s time to plan out your content in the form of an editorial calendar. At 98 To Go, we like to plan out our content 6 months in advance. It allows us to be flexible when new trends come up that we need to cover. Click here to download our free editorial calendar template.
The first thing you want to do when planning out your editorial calendar is to think about and make note of the major upcoming events that are important to your potential customers. Here’s a list to get your juices flowing.
- Industry Events
- Seasonal Events
- Films, Music
- News Events
For instance if you’re a florist then you’re probably going to want to mark down Mother’s Day and Valentines day as important dates and then create targeted content around those holidays.
Here’s another example from our industry. Hubspot, the inbound marketing software we use, has a big conference every fall where businesses and agencies come together to learn the latest and greatest inbound marketing strategies. Our ideal customers are Hubspot users who are overwhelmed and either don’t have the time or expertise to manage the software themselves.
This being the case, we definitely want to make a note of the dates of the conference on our calendar and plan some content around the time leading up to the conference something like “5 Presentations You Don’t Want To Miss at Inbound 2014.”
During the conference we could have a live blog sessions sharing our notes on each presenter.
After we could do a wrap up piece highlighting what we learned and the big takeaways we got from attending Inbound. This would be valuable content for our ideal customers, especially if they weren’t able to make it.
So again, make note of the events that are important to your audience, and create campaigns around those key dates.
Create Content Series Around Similar Topics
Unfortunately there will be months when you aren’t able to leverage events or holidays for content. Luckily there’s tons of great ideas just waiting to be uncovered.
The way we generate the most leads and sales opportunities for ourselves and our clients is by creating monthly content campaigns centered around a specific theme or topic. Once we decide on the topic, we develop a series of blog posts that promote a related ebook or whitepaper that the reader can download in exchange for their contact information.
That’s great Ron, but how do we come up with these themes?
Easy big fella or gal, we’ve got you covered. There are several ways we do this.
Solve Your Customer’s Painpoints
Earlier we talked about understanding your customers, and I gave you some key questions that would help in the ideation process. Some of these focused on questions the customer asks during research, they keywords they use, their triggers and research goals.
If you did a good job getting those questions answered in your interviews, you should have a ton of themes you can create these campaigns around.
Let Previous Successful Content Be Your Guide
Another way to come up with these themes is to find posts that have worked in the past. These posts could be from your blog, blogs you follow in the industry, and your competitors blogs.
For your site, check your analytics and look for the content that has generated the most traffic, has converted the most leads, or has the most social shares or comments.
Buzzsumo is a great tool for finding successful content on influencial blogs in your industry or those of your competitors. Simply paste the URL of the blog you want to analyze and Buzzsumo shows you which posts have been shared the most and on which social channels. It also allows you to filter by time period and by content type in case there’s a specific type of content you’re interested in.
Want some more advanced techniques for uncovering successful content like posts that have the most comments or most backlinks? Check out this awesome article by Matthew Barby.
Be The Go To Resource For Industry Trends
Industry trends are another way to find hot topics people are interested in. To find these trends monitor the conversations going on in your niche.
This is easy to do on Twitter. Simply set up influencer lists, monitor relevant hashtags, and save keyword relevant keyword searches that you check out on your lunch break.
For LinkedIn, make sure you’re involved in groups where your ideal customers hangout. What are people talking about? What articles are people sharing? Or kill two birds with one stone by kicking off a discussion by asking about the latest industry trends.
Topsy and Social Mention are a couple great tools that aggregate conversations from multiple sources around in the interwebs. Using these tools along side Google keyword alerts sent to your inbox at your convenience are great way to keep tabs on what’s new and hot.
Use these techniques to build a social monitoring system to keep you abreast of what’s hot giving you a treasure trove of timely topics to fill your editorial calendar with.
So there it is.
The next time you find yourself wishing you were being water-boarded rather than having to come up with content topics, refer back to this post and try a few of the techniques discussed or start using them today. I promise the next time you have to do this exercise it will be a lot easier and way more enjoyable.
I’m always looking for new techniques and strategies for content topic generation, so I’m prepared to have my mind blow. How do you come up with content topics? Leave us a comment and let the world know, and don’t forget to share this post with you network if you thought it was valuable. Until next time. Cheers!