Marketing managers have a hundred things on their minds — from creating coupons and approving media buys to reviewing last quarter’s P&L statement and identifying areas of improvement. On top of all the traditional responsibilities, many times the marketing team is now expected to come up with marketing content calendars for the web, digital and social campaigns. How do you turn yourself and your team into idea-generating hubs, and how do you ensure those ideas are right for your brand?
For this post, we collected top idea generating tips, tricks and thought processes from content marketing strategists. Supporting a variety of clients in different verticals and consumer sectors, they do sometimes come up against mental blocks, or hit plateaus where they feel like they can’t find any new approaches. But with the help of other creative, they get the wheels turning again. See if these examples inspire you in turn…
12 content ideation tactics for marketers
1. Look for stories behind your work.
Look at your list of past clients, strategic partners, past successful projects. Is there a story behind the work you did together? Maybe together you could create some testimonials or case studies. These are probably the most important types of content to have on hand so that other potential customers can see them.
2. Make the most of FAQs.
What are the questions that people ask the most of you on social media or via email? When your sales team takes a call, what do they always end up answering. Make a list of all those questions, and turn it into a FAQ document. Or, if people have a lot of questions about one specific product, person or service, consider doing a piece of content that’s just “Getting to Know X.”
3. Explore tips and tricks.
Along similar lines as an FAQ, but with a lot more possibilities to actually entertain your readers and get them excited: the “Tips & Tricks” subcategory of content. There’s a lot of room to explore this theme in almost any industry. Whether it’s tips on how to use a device or software better, tricks for cleaning the garage, tips for weather-proofing a car, or tricks for retaining information better — whatever your business provides, you can probably come up with tips and tricks on an adjacent topic.
4. Set up alerts for topics and keywords.
Set up Google alerts for topics that are relevant to your business, or to your industry, or that are of personal interest. Some writers make up a list of random words that are a jump-off point to interesting and obscure conversations (for example, “particle accelerator,” “new insect discovered”, “ultramarathon champion”), and just leave Google alerts for those word combos set like lobster traps till they eventually catch something thought-provoking enough to inspire a post or more.
5. Follow the empathy map of your customers.
Do an empathy mapping session with your team, to garner deeper and more thorough insights into your customer. Bring in as many of the customer service and community engagement managers as you can for this. Encourage their feedback as well as their suggestions regarding how to better serve the customers. From this exercise, you may come up with several ideas for new articles — some to address topics the customer service team regularly fields, and some that come from new findings on your customers.
6. Take a look at your competitors’ content (and their gaps).
Always have a good look around your competitors’ websites and social media, as well as the content they create for native pieces on other outlets. Though you probably don’t want to copy them, a competitive analysis specifically of content can definitely help you see areas where you can improve, and areas where you already are doing better than the competition and can build on your strengths.
7. Create a social “swipe file.”
Put all that aimless social media scanning time to good use! Create a “swipe file” — things that pulled you in or stopped you from scrolling when you saw them on social. Either start hitting ‘save’ on posts that intrigue you, or just screenshot them and dump them into a folder. When you’re in need of inspiration, go through the file and review each item, including articles with sticky headlines or Twitter threads that got tons of engagement. Closely review social videos or graphic advertisements very relevant to your business (or that you’d like to emulate in some aspect). Channel those vague feelings of interest, envy or inspiration into a “to-create” list.
8. Scan the calendar for events.
Look up official days of observance, food holidays, silly holidays and other cultural moments. This might seem like you’re artificially creating a moment — and in some ways, that’s true — but not only does it give you something to post about, it gives you a reason to engage with others around a common interest. The day that you’re commemorating doesn’t need to be directly related to your product or service. It can be tangential, or even personal. For example, if you sell outdoors equipment, it makes sense to post a gorgeous outdoor scene for National Mental Health Day, with a caption about the health benefits of getting into nature.
9. Create stories about your the people behind your company.
What goes into your product, and who makes it? What are the parts or ingredients or components that make it, and who are the people? If the parts aren’t compelling as a story — say, for example, that you produce hinges or sausage or chemicals — look instead to the stories of the people making the product. Follow Oprah’s guiding words: “Everybody has a story.” Find the personal stories that will bring your company to life.
10. Research common questions in your industry.
Research the more generalized queries or unanswered questions that people have about your industry or specialty. There are various sites that will provide common questions, like Quora or the industry insider’s current crush, AnswerthePublic. From there, pick questions that seem relevant to your business specifically, that you’re confident you could answer or even expand on, and outline content pieces specifically to provide answers and information pertaining to those questions.
11. Play with keywords.
Play with keyword tools that will actually generate content ideas for you. KWFinder is a good free tool, although most require paid subscriptions. There are full service SEO and marketing analytics services like SEMrush and Moz, and then more limited keyword search tools like keywordtool.io — and some of these tools even have a capability to generate content topics based on specific keywords. In many cases you won’t need it, because the keyword combinations themselves will inspire you to come up with your own topics.
12. Make a rebuttal to something you don’t like.
Have you recently read an article or post about your industry that you didn’t agree with, or didn’t think was valid? Or maybe you’ve seen a certain behavior related to your industry, and you don’t like it. Channel that irritation and write a rebuttal or just hot take to get your POV out there where it can engage people who agree with you.
Are you ready to ideate?
If this post helped you understand how you can repurpose some of the engagement and conversation around your business into content, great. If it inspired you to start writing hot takes and posting them on your blog and Tweeting them — go for it! For some people, the creative exercise of coming up with content ideas is invigorating and fun, and feeds itself, and feeds the business. For others, it’s tedious or mentally draining, or not the best way to spend time. Or, maybe you just don’t have the time. In that case, reach out to ClearVoice and let us line you up with a content marketing team that can leverage all these strategies and more on your behalf.