Consistently coming up with clever and relevant topics for your audience is a huge challenge. You can monitor industry news and competitors, but there is a gold mine of source material that often gets overlooked: your own customers.
Depending on your business, there are a number of opportunities to gain some key insights into what your customers think of you. Setting up processes to regularly listen to what they are saying is a critical way to keep your content marketing on point and, most importantly, generating business.
In this post we’ll cover 2 approaches to coming up with fresh website content ideas as well as 17 sources you can use to find content ideas.
2 Approaches to Coming Up With Content Ideas
1. Keeping an Ear to the Ground
Of course, the key to success in content marketing is to know your audience and understand what they are looking for. To do this though, you need to pay attention to where they’re talking to you (and what they’re talking about). Depending on the specifics of your business, these can include:
- Direct customer service feedback
- Blog comments
- Social media posts
- Surveys and questionnaire responses
- Online forum posts
- Comments on your competitors’ blogs and social posts (for your future customers)
Once you’ve identified your audience’s interests and concerns, demonstrate your expertise and explicitly give them the information they’re looking in a format which will appeal most to them. Some possibilities include:
- Blog posts. Great for existing or potential new customers. They can be highly specific and people can find them via search engines. It’s also easy to share on social to expand your reach. Ideal for informational and the more ‘how-to’ types of content.
- Webinars and White Papers. Perfect for tech and/or science-focused companies to connect with audiences that are looking for a higher degree of detail.
- Micro-Content. To reach and attract a wider audience, relevant and visually compelling micro-content can be very effective at generating social engagement.
2. Customer-Focused Content Marketing: Done Right
In 2009, Marcus Sheridan’s in-ground swimming pool company, River Pools and Spas, was on the brink of financial failure. Sheridan decided to retool the company’s marketing approach and focus on blog posts designed to answer customers’ most common questions.
He did what the competition didn’t do: divulged sensitive – but essential – content that customers needed to know before making a purchase, such as the cost of various types of pools. River Pools’ honest, customer-centric campaign paid off: that single article about pool costs resulted in over $1.7 million in sales.
Source 1: End-User Based Ideas
1. Just Ask. It’s That Simple.
Asking about your consumer or end-user experience not only shows you care about what they think, but can also generate great feedback. What are their pain points? What do they love? What do they wish you offered? What other complementary or supplementary services are they interested in? If they consent to you quoting them verbatim, that’s fantastic user generated content for social proofing. Take advantage of every opportunity to gather real feedback and answer it in writing.
2. Be a Blog, Review and Facebook Snoop.
Read through the comments on blogs of related offerings, competitors, industry-wide (and possibly your own) and then create website content that addresses unanswered questions. Do the same with consumer reviews and Facebook comments and you’ll have material for months.
3. Check Out Quora Questions.
Quora is a great questions-and-answer website where members can vote on the answers provided (similar to Yahoo Answers and others). Simply type a relevant topic into the search box and you’ll be presented with a list of popular questions. There is also an ‘open questions’ link which features unanswered questions. Both the questions and the popular answers are sound sources of inspiration.
4. Relevant Forums.
Use search engines to search for forums on just about anything and you’ll usually get a few pretty decent results. Explore them to see what people are talking about and what questions they have to filter out some more great ideas for your content creation endeavors.
Look at your own website’s FAQ section, and those of your competitors. Are there any topics you can expand upon, explain and even enhance with a video, e-book or guide. The frequent questions your customer service team receive are also great fodder.
Check your social media content regularly to understand what your audience is interested in and what content they’re sharing. These channels are a great source for up to the minute trending topics and ideas for quick turn-around pieces.
7. Ask a Sales Person
Ask a sales person about the common questions or pain points they hear prospects talking about. These are topics that you know prospects care about so it’s worth investing some time into create an article that speaks to the pain point.
Source 2: Industry Insights
1. Google Alerts.
Start with a base of core topics you already know resonate well with your audience and see how you can use and improve on what you find.
2. Google News.
Not surprisingly this is an excellent source for hot industry topics and trends, use it!
Subscribe to a few popular industry newsletters and look out for popular topics. Also look at what your competitors are offering in return for signing up. Can you improve on their incentives?
3. Interview Experts.
Experts in your field are very often happy to collaborate and co-create in person, via email, by phone or on Skype. You can decide whether you want to get their permission to use the interview as content or to simply use the discussion for inspiration.
4. Conferences and Trade Shows.
Listen to talks, follow the live blogging sessions if you can’t attend and take notes at any Q&A sessions you can access. Come up with content that answers the questions, take note of key nuggets and take-aways from speakers, quote them, and create content pieces around those nuggets. Go back in time and listen to old TED talks as well. There are some great high-level topics that can provide an enormous amount of food for thought and the written word. At tradeshows, speak to other attendees and exhibitors to get their thoughts on what’s new, what’s up-and-coming, what’s popular and what’s declining.
5. Industry Studies and Statistics.
Popular industry reports on sites like Nielson and Emarketer are an excellent source for data-driven content pieces, like infographics. Additionally, you can simply pull a few key figures, tie them into the macro-and-micro environments of your subject matter objective and you have a nearly never-ending source of informational type articles.
Source 3: Personal Experience
1. Your Business Day.
Give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your business. Regardless of your role or title, sharing the ins-and-outs of your working day is a great way to build credibility and engage like-minded readers. This also happens to be one of the easy content buckets to turbo-boost by adding photos and videos to your content arsenal.
2. Your Co-Workers.
Ask team members for interviews or do a series of biographies to show the real people behind your business. The experts at your company will know more about their topic than you do. Ask your technical team about little-known product features. Ask your sales team about what they hear from customers. Ask your marketing team about current trends. Don’t expect them all to ‘get-it.’ In fact, this may be one of your tougher targets to tap for inspiration, so start with marketing and management and move out into the wider realm with proof of your efforts for the unconvinced.
3. Company News.
Share pictures, commentary and comedic moments from a corporate event. Always write about awards won, milestones achieved (that can be publically shared), community involvement and upcoming events. If there’s a new product release on the horizon or your business is expanding, toot your own horn. If you’re sun-setting a product, comprehensively explain why to help alleviate negative sentiment and boost awareness of the approaching discontinuation.
4. Play Devil’s Advocate. Speculate.
Approaching a topic in your industry from a different angle is an effective way to start a conversation and boost your brand’s profile. If you want to drive some potentially controversial discussion, speculate about the future direction of your industry, product type or technology. People are always looking for ways to prepare for the future and for ways to enhance their knowledge. This is an area is which you can be particularly obtuse as long as it falls within brand guidlelines.
5. Look To Your Tools.
What tools do you use to make your life, work or work-life balance easier? It’s likely your audience will find your recommendations, reviews and insights engaging and interesting. Explain in your own words the benefits of downloading or purchasing an ebook, software, or an app, or just share what works for you and what doesn’t in each different area.
6. Amuse Your Readers.
Sometimes poking fun at yourself when something either went amazingly right or drastically wrong at work or at home can offer a bit of diversion for both your readers and for you. When done well, these pieces can be highly engaging and can help to further grow your base of evangelists. If you don’t mind sounding like a bit of a klutz every now and then, these can be very effective provided they’re about you, not someone else or the business.
Approach content creation from the perspective of your target audience. Answer questions before they’re asked. Keep a notebook on you at all times and make use of these ideas if only to make your life easier.
Hopefully, these suggestions will help you in your content marketing journey and ensure you can deliver meaningful content to your audience consistently and for a long time to come. If you have any suggestions that we haven’t covered, please co-create with us and add your comments – we love great ideas too!