Content marketing is perhaps the most common (and popular) tactic businesses across all industries utilize. Whether it is running an active blog or posting on social media, content is the way that most brands choose to get their messages across these days.
This means that marketers are under extreme pressure to constantly produce and create content that drives in results. Many admit they often feel stressed about meeting expectations since there is a lot more that goes into content creation than just writing.
According to a survey from SEMrush, content marketers and strategists agreed that one of their top challenges is the beginning stages of finding and researching topics that will resonate with their audience.
Another study from Clear Voice found that content writers struggled with ideation. More particularly, when it came to planning content calendars and coming up with ideas that were original, creative, and relevant.
Pitching ideas and creating outlines for client approval is only part of the process – but it is extremely important. If your content team is struggling to create top-notch ideas for either your company’s own content library or for clients, it is a major issue.
Thankfully, there are some methods and strategies that can help to improve the ideation process and help to vastly improve their results.
1. Take A Thorough Look At Your Client’s Library
If you are a content marketing agency that does link building (via guest posting) for other brands, you must first understand the type of content that is likely to get published on the sites you are pitching to. The same goes for guest posting under your own name or for your company.
For instance, say that you are content writing for a client that provides SEO services for e-commerce stores. They want a piece published on a blog that caters towards entrepreneurs. Step one is to take a gander at their content voice before pitching any ideas.
See what types of topics they cover on their current blog and how they incorporate their links. Notice the voice and tone used throughout the publication.
- Is it highly professional or more casual and friendly?
- Do they include lots of visual aids?
- Do they use real-life examples or general ideas?
- Who seems to be their intended audience: consumers, B2B C-level executives, experienced professionals, or just the average person?
Take notes on the type of style they tend to use when it comes to points and paragraphs. Some blog sites prefer lists with lots of points readers can quickly browse through, while others want three or four main points with multiple subpoints for highly detailed, in-depth writing.
2. Research Related Studies And Statistics
You will need to have some solid proof to back up any claims you are making in the content. Do some research to see what the latest studies have to say about your subject.
If you are looking for generalized statistics on consumer behavior, Statista has lots of surveys that are consistently updated with new data.
Take a look at what the most recent reports have to say about your topic of choice to give yourself some ideas of what points to focus on. For example, if you are writing about social media, you will certainly want to do some research to see which platforms are most popular with various demographics. Or, how consumers are engaging with brands through these channels.
Also, check out what leading industry leaders have to say about the subject.
- What do SEO experts think about the latest Google algorithm update?
- What are successful e-commerce business operators doing to reach global markets?
- What do tech experts predict will be the next hottest technology trends?
Noting these surprising statistics or trends over the past five years are great starting points to grab your reader’s attention. They can also help your content marketing writers in creating eye-catching titles and headings for an appealing outline.
3. See What Others Are Saying
Taking a look at your competition can be another way to spark inspiration and ensure that you are creating content that is relevant to your audience.
Tools like BuzzSumo or Ahrefs are designed to help you research webpages and see how much engagement they are generating. They also keep track of trending keywords and subjects. This is a huge help in keeping a finger on the pulse of what your audience is searching for.
This can also help you come up with a more specific topic to cover.
Say that you are working with a client that offers landscaping services. There are many topics within that subject. By using these tools to see what similar blogs are posting, you can see which more niche topics resonate.
Perhaps customers are more interested in what types of foliage to plant depending on the time of year or are looking for advice on taking care of their lawn.
It is also good to see how you can add your own unique spin to trending content topics so it stands out from the pack. Can you take a different approach by going with the other side of an argument or use more recent examples/statistics?
4. Keep Discarded Ideas For Another Day
It is quite rare to find a content marketing writer with a perfect batting average – meaning that every single idea or content piece they pitch ends up being accepted and published. Some clients and site editors are extremely picky. Even great content pieces get passed on from time to time.
Rather than feeling disappointed or frustrated, keep track of any rejected outlines, ideas, or fully written pieces – as they can be useful in the future. If you work with other clients who cater to similar audiences, you can adjust the content accordingly – instead of starting from scratch. You can also use some of those sections in new content if it is relevant.
No idea should go to waste! It’s always good to keep a stockpile of unused ideas.
5. Never Stop Learning
Finally, the best content marketing tip for the ideation process is to keep your mind sharp.
Although you may be researching day in and day out, you may not be necessarily retaining all of that information. It is important to encourage content marketing teams to stay in a state of constant learning so they can instantly pull information for new ideas.
Developing these talents will help with far more than just the ideation process. It will help the company as a whole!
A report from LinkedIn found that employees who worked for businesses that offered extensive training and development programs were less likely to resign, more engaged in the workplace, and their performance levels were far higher than competitors without these types of educational programs.
Now, it is not always possible for every company to offer extensive training programs for their employees. While it may be good to send your content marketing specialists to conferences from time-to-time to get fresh ideas, this investment in constant learning does not need to be expensive or time-consuming to be effective.
It can be as simple as opening up a Slack channel for employees to share interesting articles, advice from industry experts, or educational YouTube videos. TedTalks and podcasts are also great mediums for people to learn about new subjects in a new way.
Content writing is an important piece of the marketing puzzle for any business – and the quality of your writing is largely determined by the inspiration you have.
To improve the ideation process, content marketers need to approach the ideation phase with a strategic mindset to get their creative juices flowing. There are plenty of ways to inspire the next great piece of content for your business or your client. Sometimes, you just need to know how to get started.