How to Come Up with Content Marketing Ideas that Actually Work

Whether you’re creating content as basic as a blog post or as sophisticated as an interactive brochure, your efforts will be rewarded only if you actually engage your target audience, answer their questions and prove your value to them. It’s a simple concept, but when you look at some of the things that actually pass for “content marketing” these days, it seems that message is getting lost.

Bad examples abound: ebooks with catchy titles but no insights, blog posts with no discernable purpose and tissue-thin downloads designed purely for lead generation. The sad truth is that a lot of content marketing is out there answering questions that no one asked—and when your customers and prospects figure this out, they’re not exactly thrilled.

If you want to avoid this problem, you need to invest some time in figuring out your audience’s REAL questions. That means being clear-minded about the difference between the messages your organization would like to convey versus the information customers really want. Only then will you have content topics that add up to more than just noise. Luckily, we’ve got ideas about how to do it right.

Two Easy Ways to Generate Content Marketing Ideas

  1. Search the search engines.

There are a number of tools that will take you quickly down the rabbit hole to generate content marketing ideas based on search keywords. The “Searches related to” section at the bottom of Google’s results pages is a great place to start. You’ll find this usually generates basic, top-of-the-funnel ideas—for example, searches related to “scheduling software” include “free scheduling software,” “best employee scheduling software,” and “appointment scheduling software.” Basic though the terms may be, Google is providing a huge service here by tipping you off to topics with real user interest. Keep clicking the related search terms to see relations-to-the-relations and you’ll have a slew of topics in no time.

If you want to get a little more data, you can try Ubersuggest, which scrapes data from Google Keyword Planner and Google Suggest. Plug your term into Ubersuggest and it will generate a list of keyword ideas that you can then sort by search volume to know where you’ll get the most return on your content marketing efforts.

Finally, you can look at search data from within your own website to see what your own visitors are looking to find. Big caveat here: Sometimes when a term is frequently searched on your site, it’s an indication that that particular information is not located intuitively in the site architecture—if it’s there at all. Consider whether you need to address this topic as part of the core content of your website and make it easily discoverable, rather than simply generating a blog post that can quickly become buried.

  1. Ride along with your sales reps.

Another really effective way to generate content marketing ideas is to put on your extrovert hat and spend some time with your sales team. (Jeron says so too!) Sales reps can help you discover what your targets at the middle and bottom of the funnel are trying to learn, as opposed to the top-of-the-funnel topics you’ll typically see in search keywords. I suggest getting a team of reps together in a room (pizza helps) and holding an informal focus group.

You can also try sitting in on real customer calls and demos, or attending a trade show where your reps are working their magic in the booth. This can be a great way to gain insights into how your targets approach your product and how it compares to others in the field. You might even come away with some amazing customer quotes you can splash all over your marketing materials.

As a side note, one frequent point of friction I’ve observed between sales and marketing teams is the whole “right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing” thing, so remember the key to making this tactic successful: close the loop. If you develop great content using insights from your sales team, make sure they know! And as your content catalog grows, you’ll likely need an organizational system that helps reps find the content they need, so they’ll have it at their fingertips when it counts.

Looking for more help with implementing an effective content marketing program that engages your audience and moves them to action? Get in touch with me!

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Kate Tichy

With experience in public relations, content creation and content governance, Kate has a knack for whipping content into shape. She spent the first decade of her career at a PR agency, then took a turn to the corporate side, managing content marketing for a fast-growing healthcare IT company. Having worn the client hat herself […] Read Bio »

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