This is a guest post by Lesley Vos.
I write every day. Guest blogging and ghostwriting are time-consuming, not to speak of data research, networking with influencers, writing for social media, proofreading and editing my fellow bloggers, brainstorming ideas, and working on my writing skills to avoid embarrassment when it comes to outreaching big dogs like Entrepreneur or Inc.
Fortunately (or not?), statistics is on my side, telling I am not alone. Content marketers are multitasking, and lack of time is one of their top five challenges to overcome.
Taking into consideration the fact that 79% of marketers are involved in the process of content creation, and 76% of them create content by their own, their need for better time management is apparent.
Creating content is hard work. Coming up with ideas for stunning content is even harder.Content is hard work: from coming up with ideas to producing it, learn how to do it like a PRO Click To Tweet
Content marketers constantly need ideas and plans to conduct their campaigns successfully:
- What to write?
- What content will meet the audience’s eye?
- What topics will readers love and want to share?
- Where to get ideas for blog posts?
- Is this topic relevant enough to engage readers and improve my conversion rate and ROI?
These are among questions content marketers try to answer daily. They have to find different tactics to avoid stumbles in generating content and become more productive, as well as optimize their work to achieve top dog results.
It’s a problem for many marketers. The more often they brainstorm ideas and take part in content generation, the more often they experience blocks and stumbles leading to procrastination or content quality sacrifice.
Sounds familiar? Don’t panic!
This article is aimed to become your personal how-to guide on generating content without stumbles. It will reveal secrets of finding great ideas for your content, and it will teach you how to plan content creation and how to write or repurpose it for capturing a wider audience.
So here it goes!
1) Analyze Your Goals
You won’t be able to create and distribute valuable and relevant content if you don’t know the objectives and goals of your business:
- Why do you need this content?
- What audience do you want to attract?
- What do you want to achieve with your content?
In case it’s still Greek to you, content marketing is not about content. It’s about what you want to achieve with your content, so determining your business objectives and analyzing your marketing goals is a must.
Here’s the deal:
First of all, define your target audience and create a buyer (marketing) persona, aka representation of your ideal customer.
One of the best descriptions of a marketing persona comes from Ardath Albee:
A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.
Experts recommend creating three to five personas representing your audience. You might want to know the following information about your targets:
- Who are they?
- Where do they live?
- What is their profession?
- What are their hobbies?
- Where do they spend free time?
- What problems do they have?
- What do they value?
- Where do they spend his time online?
- What are the best linguistic patterns to speak to them and influence their buying decisions?
Kevan Lee from Buffer did his best to create the complete guide to marketing personas. Here is his overview on what you should include into your template:
Once determined, your audience becomes your best source for content ideas. To make it easier for you to analyze business goals, also create a content SWOT analysis. It helps to understand the main challenges and opportunities of your marketing strategy and, therefore, come up with a content plan that will impact its success.
With so many templates available online to use for creating SWOT, it won’t be a problem to choose one. Thus, you can try this:
Or this one:
Once you determine your target audience, strategic goals, and objectives, the next step is to build a plan that defines how you will use content to achieve them.
2) Create a plan
As a marketer, you take responsibility for a content strategy; so, it would be a good practice to plan it out. It helps to get a clear picture of your corporate objectives, rethink your approach to content creation, and build alignment between all members of your team.
The best way to do this is by using an editorial calendar. It might be challenging to fill them up for upcoming months or even a year, as it’s not a simple spreadsheet to track publications but a document to manage the entire lifecycle of your content marketing campaign.
Jodi Harris shares daring tips on setting up your editorial calendar, as well as free templates to use for it. In fact, there are many editorial calendar templates, and you are free to choose the most appropriate for you or create your own in agreement with your objectives and marketing goals.
Curata published the ultimate list of templates available on the market, including those free to download.
This one is from Curata themselves:
And this one is from Convince & Convert:
Speaking about Curata, they also invented the content pyramid principle that helps to divide your content into levels and structure it according to your marketing objectives. Try it for planning your content and saving time on its generating and promotion.
A content pyramid has three levels:
- Core content, aka the heart of your strategy: it’s your original material, well-researched and in-depth explored, that becomes a source for other assets of your content pyramid.
- Derivative content, aimed at supporting and promoting your core content. It can be infographics, guest posts, long reads, slideshare, etc.
- Micro-content, which is your social media posts and curated content to build awareness. It’s a foundation of your content pyramid.
Another way to create your content plan is by using a content matrix. It helps to avoid stumbles and quickly generate content ideas, arranging them evenly along your editorial calendar.
How does it work?
Say your niche is furniture. Someone will call it boring, but you can generate tons of great content ideas by using a matrix’s three measurements: generalization, specification, and similarity.
That’s what your matrix might look like:
The crucial moment to understand about content matrix is balance. Keep it by watching your audience’s interest in the topic: going too far from the core (furniture, as suggested in the example), your brand risks to lose communication with the target audience, while constantly emphasizing on the core might result in your brand’s domination and, therefore, annoy readers.
When your content plan is ready, it’s time to make its every part engaging for the audience. To avoid stumbling here, you need sources for generating ideas.
3) Get Ideas
This one is the hardest.
It’s the reason of your stumbles: to work efficiently, you need to come up with new content ideas all the time. More than that, you should generate ideas for valuable, relevant, and engaging content.
It’s not easy. It’s mentally draining.
And it’s frustrating!
You spend hours to come up with nothing but run-of-the-mill ideas, and it kills you. As the result, you struggle more with ideation than actual content creation.
To generate ideas without stumbles, try these sources.
“Steal” from competitors
How often does it happen:
Once you come up with a brilliant idea, it appears published by someone named Jeff Bullas or Jon Morrow? Fine, they are gurus, so you can handle it.
But sometimes your competitors take your brilliant idea but fail to represent it the way it deserves. You know you can do it better! Here it stops being plagiarism; it becomes an improvement.
- Find potential-worthy content (Google search, BuzzSumo, Quora, Open Site Explorer can help you).
- Improve it (make it longer, display it differently, or expound it).
Your task is to take a good (or even great) content and make it better, citing all sources and not infringing any copyright. For example, this is how Bid4Papers turned an image-heavy, hard to absorb, yet awesome content into a bright infographic:
Source: Bid4Papers blog
Newspapers and magazines you read can be a great source of ideas. USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Eating Well, and similar publications – they all work for those who see. By studying their covers and pages, you can generate lots of ideas for topics, headlines, and even structure and style of your content.
- Step 1: Check them for recent publications.
- Step 2: Study their covers for headlines.
- Step 3: Flip through pages for topics.
- Step 4: Turn them into topics to suit your audience.
Resources other than the Internet are a goldmine of ideas for your future content: books you read, conferences you attend, or even your meetings with friends. To be substantive, one seminar on content marketing has brought me ideas for seven blog posts, including this one for SEMrush and this one for MIG.
Ask your audience
Readers are your #1 source of content ideas. Who will know what they want from you, if they don’t? So, don’t hesitate to ask your target audience, as it is the most effective way to not only come up with ideas but to create better content as well.
- Talk to a friend who is in your target audience.
- Go to a local meeting group of your audience.
- Carefully examine comments on your published content to understand what else people would like to read from you.
- Visit Q&A communities to determine what in your niche is interesting to people at the moment.
- Listen to what others in your industry are talking.
This one is my favorite! You won’t believe but each free writing session gives me 2-3 blog posts ideas. (I would share some links, but you are fed up with them already, I suppose.)
Never heard of this technique? Let’s ask Urban Dictionary then:
In English, free writing is taking your laptop and writing several pages of text quickly, with time limits, and the way you think. You express subconscious ideas in this way, which might give you several topics for your content.
With ideas in your pocket, you start the process of content creation. It might be stumbling, too. (Have you ever heard of writer’s block?)
To avoid blocks, you might want to develop useful writing habits, such as:
- Reading (for inspiration, new knowledge, and wider vocabulary).
- Time management (for better productivity and work efficiency).
- Making notes (take a notebook and pen everywhere with you, even when going to bed).
- Drink coffee or tea (caffeine stimulates memory, and theanine enhances creativity and helps to stay focused).
- Write on mornings (the creativity center of our brain has its peak then).
To write without stumbles, you might want to create a vocabulary of power words to use in content. There are many, and top influencers in the niche have already developed the ultimate lists of words for marketers. Aaron Orendorff goes further and creates the ultimate guide to ultimate word guides for you to write like a boss.
A good tactic of your marketing strategy might be the adaptation of your content for channels other than text blogs. Repurpose your existing content to prolong its lifespan and grab a wider audience. It can become an infographic, video, audio (that’s what guys from Social Media Examiner did to my article), webinar, or SlideShare presentation.
Also, you can update old content from your archives. Check your analytics to see which posts still generate traffic and are loved by users, make sure they are still relevant, and republish them with updates to extend their lifespan and minimize the effects of stumbling upon content ideas.
Did you know that up to 76% of your monthly page views can come from your old posts? So, why not try after all?
And now, for the most interesting part:
Rephrasing Stephen King, the road to becoming a good content marketer is paved with challenges. But remember that the man who never made a mistake never made anything. So, whether writer’s block or another stumble, you are armed with tactics and instruments to overcome all challenges on your way.
What are your personal tactics on generating content without stumbles? What would you recommend to marketers struggling with the problem today? Share your tips in the comments below.