The biggest roadblock for marketers building their Content Marketing Machine is the ideas stage: what content are we going to produce now? In the Content Marketing Institute’s 2012 Content Marketing Research Report, over half cited consistently outputting content as their greatest challenge, which is a particular struggle over figuring out what to produce.
So how can marketers generate ideas that move the needle? Here are three ways to ramp up ideation in your organization.
How To Build And Operate A Content Marketing Machine eBook: Ideas
Remember, the bulk of your content is going to be about your customers’ interests, not your own products. So the best way to generate ideas is to better understand your customers’ interests. There are three best practices for this process:
Engage Your Organization. How to hear the voice of the customer and learn of their interests? Your colleagues in sales, support, services and beyond are having conversations with customers every day, so make sure you leverage their insight. Develop a process whereby employees can submit content ideas into your Content Marketing Machine–but don’t make that a black box as you have to motivate your colleagues to participate. Quickly inform them of approval or rejection. For approved ideas, keep them updated on progress and involve them in the content creation. Sophisticated machines even track employee participation for HR reviews and publish leader boards to generate internal competition.
Social Listening. Your customers are talking on the web every day. Dive into your target categories on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and forums focusing on your topic. See what topics and issues are on your customers’ minds. Q&A sites like LinkedIn Answers, Focus and Quora are great indicators of just what questions your prospects are looking to get answered.
Buyer Interviews. Some content marketers go direct to the source and ask potential buyers about their issues. This is not done in a sales context: the best, most unbiased interviewees do not know your brand; some marketers do this without revealing the brand that they work for. This can be done with in-person interviews or anonymous surveys. Either way, the objective is not to sell to prospects, but to instead learn about their challenges so you can better structure your content.
These best practices can generate lots of knowledge about customer challenges. But while your top-of-the-funnel content should not discuss your products, it should lay out your unique, inspiring vision for how customer challenges can be solved–such content is truly thought leadership. So while part of the ideas process is understanding customer challenges, it should also include your envisioning of solutions for those challenges. The resulting concepts are the best materials for creating compelling content.