One question I get asked a lot at industry events is, “How do come up with more interesting content?”
First, it’s important to remember that you are an expert on the details of your industry. What is obvious to you, may very well be new and exciting for your audience. That’s one reason it’s important to map your buyer’s journey – to have a form of checks and balance as to whether that blog that feels “boring” is actually important.
At the same time, the longer you’ve been immersed in something, the more challenging it can be to feel creative. You may even find yourself running out of ideas.
Not only is it hard to come up with good ideas, it starts to feel like an Everest-sized task to come up with an idea that’s truly unique.
Whether your well is running dry after years of content creation, or you just need a fresh perspective, there are a lot of tactics you can use get more creative with your content. And some of these even have an instant effect.
Use these six tips to generate better content ideas.
1. Communicate with Your Audience Regularly
The most obvious answer is often the best.
Many marketers interview their customers when they first start a new job or project. But this should definitely not be a one-and-done activity.
It’s important to identify multiple communication channels to collect regular feedback and insights from your audience.
- Set up social media listening tools.
- Use surveys to collect responses.
- Pick up the phone and make some calls.
- Have call tracking in place? Set aside some time to listen to the recordings from your customer service or sales lines. Or better yet, ask them to send you the highlights from the month.
Your audience is your best resource for ideas. They have questions – a lot of them – and if you take the time to ask them, you will come up with new ideas for conversion-driven content.
2. Schedule Time to Consume Industry Information
Melanie Griffith’s hard-working character in one of my all-time favorite movies, “Working Girl”, says of her research style: “Oh I read a lot of things, you never know where the big ideas will come from.”
I find these to be words to live by.
Mark Twain once said, “There is no such thing as a new idea.” We just take a kaleidoscope of information, mix it up, and put it together in a new way.
The more inputs you have to put in your kaleidoscope, the more colorful your ideas will be when they come out on the other end.
Make sure that some of the social listening tools you set up to monitor customers also allow you to track industry information. Follow your industry’s leaders and keep an eye on what competitors are doing, too.
As days get busy and fires crop up, these are often the first things to fall off your list of priorities but they are critical to creativity. Avoid letting these drop off by scheduling time for each week that’s just for your own learning and growth.
3. Brainstorm with the Team, Regularly
You’ve heard the old adage that two heads are better than one.
Brainstorming is a great way to come up with new ideas when you’re feeling stuck.
Remember that kaleidoscope of ideas from the last point? Different members of your team each have unique experiences that they can bring to the table.
Bring together team members from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels. Representatives from sales, customer service, social media, PPC, SEO, etc. will all have different perspectives. You may even compile a group as a task force and meet on a quarterly or monthly basis.
Make sure to give the team background information so that they can come prepared for the meeting and follow a brainstorming format that allows for creativity. Don’t restrict anyone at this point. There is no such thing as a bad idea in a brainstorm. You can always filter out the information later.
4. Take Advantage of Free Tools
Because coming up with content ideas is such a common problem, there are a lot of brave marketers who have come before us and developed tools to make your life a little easier.
Sometimes you have half an idea like a solid keyword. Or maybe you know that you want an infographic but you aren’t sure what area in which your customers have the most questions.
Here are few content ideation tools that can be especially helpful:
- Google’s Free Tools (Trends, Suggest, Keyword Planner)
- Topic Generators (Answer the Public, SEMrush, BuzzSumo)
- Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator
- Portent’s Title Generator
- Quandary Content Idea Generator
- Content Row’s Link Bait Title Generator
5. Take Digital Content Offline & Vice Versa
We often find ourselves stuck in the constructs of what we can do online. But when you open your minds to the possibilities of the “real world,” you may find yourself being a lot more creative.
For example, maybe you’ve identified that you need to find a way to boost your user-generated social media content. Try sending some of your favorite customers some promotional items in the mail with a hand-written card that happens to mention your social accounts.
Or perhaps your sales team is headed to a tradeshow. Be sure to partner with them ahead of time to craft an entire digital marketing campaign that matches up with their in-person efforts.
Allowing for your ideas to pull from and work with your more traditional marketing efforts will bring new life to your digital content campaigns.
6. Build a Repository of Your Ideas
You can’t always control when you’ll be hit with that bolt of creativity. Find a way to record your ideas as they come to you so that when you need a source of inspiration, you have a repository to go back to.
I remember one marketer talking about how he had his best ideas while in the shower, so he kept a set of waterproof markers on-hand to be ready when lightning struck.
I tend to have ideas while I’m driving. So Siri and I have become very good friends.
Have a plan in place so that you can collect all of these ideas in an easily accessible way. In traditional marketing, this repository was often called a “swipe file.”
There are a lot of digital formats that you can use to collaborate with a team on this creative repository.
Whether you prefer a board format like Trello, or something more like Google Drive or even a private board on Pinterest, the trick is to set a standard an stick to it. Create a section for all of the areas that are important to you (paid media, websites, campaigns, etc.) and add to your repository as you go.
Great Ideas Often Take Time
You may get lucky once or twice and have an incredible idea with little effort. But most often you will find that sustained production of highly creative and unique ideas requires diligence and a little bit of pre-work.
The little-known secret of the most creative marketers is having a method of organizing information from a wide range of sources so that they have a funnel to feed their creativity.
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