Is This a Bad Idea? A Checklist for Evaluating Content Topics

7 minute read

Upland Admin

People in the content world talk a lot about ideation—how to generate topic ideas for new content, how to figure out what your audience wants to consume, how to keep an eye on your competition…the list goes on. In fact, some of our competitors have made flashy, machine-assisted ideation a highlight of their offerings. Not to put those folks on blast (but in reality, definitely to put them on blast) generating ideas isn’t usually the problem. Assessing them is.

At a high level, most marketers have a solid understanding of the issues affecting their customers and prospects. Whether we’re speaking to our clientele directly, hearing about their concerns through sales and customer success teams, or lurking around online forums and industry events, we’re steeped in the world of our buyers. We’re well versed in the hot new topics, the problems no one seems to be able to solve, and the key arguments and angles from which our competitors approach their voice in the market.

If you need new ideas for an eBook, webinar, or even just a blog post, a minimal amount of research will leave you with plenty of subject options to cover. But knowing which to choose? That’s where real strategy comes into play.

Here are the questions you should ask to figure out whether you should tackle the topic you have your eye on:

Do We Have the Authority to Speak on This Subject?

Are you considered an expert when it comes to this topic? Is anyone looking to you to weigh in? I know—these can feel like circular questions. After all, how can you hope to build a voice of authority if you don’t start speaking up?

Wading into a new space is one part “fake it ’til you make it,” one part prove yourself. That’s why, if you’re setting out to build your company’s reputation around a topic you don’t currently own, you’d be wise to hitch your lot to someone who’s already where you want to be.

Your Job:

Partner projects are a great way to introduce your brand to a conversation (and constituency) it hasn’t yet tapped into. Find a way to associate what you do well with a subject you’re weaker in, and work with a partner to bring a collaborative project to life.

Skeptical? Our team recently tried this strategy out ourselves. With an audience of trailblazing marketers, we knew it was important to address the growing interest in account-based marketing (ABM). To break into the conversation, we teamed up with account-based marketing software company, Engagio, to bring together our expertise. With our knowledge of content and theirs of ABM, we worked together to write The B2B Marketer’s Guide to ABM Content—a perfect example of a product that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Does it Relate to What We Sell?

Your company, like all companies, does not do everything. (Obvious.)

This means that not everything your customers do is your concern. (Less obvious.)

Say you’re on the marketing team at a webinar platform company. The people in your target audience include those who are creating webinars, as well as those overseeing their strategic impact within larger strategic objectives. But these people probably think about a lot more than just webinars. They might also be interested in starting a podcast, bulking up their influencer strategy, or possibly improving alignment between marketing and sales.

There’s a never-ending list of content you could churn out that would be relevant to this group that wouldn’t have anything to do with your business.

That’s why the sweet spot for great content falls between where your business goals and the curiosity of your customers overlap.

Your Job:

Option one: Nix any idea that doesn’t have the potential to advance the way a prospect or customer will think about your brand.

Option two: Shift the focus of your content. For example, if your webinar platform company wanted to attract your target audience by weighing in on the importance of influencer marketing, you could discuss how to find the right influencers to serve as guest presenters. That way, you’ll be able to check both boxes: your customers’ broader interests and your company’s.

Are We Speaking to Someone in Our Buying Group?

If not, are we okay with that?

Odds are, the folks who ultimately choose whether to buy your product or service aren’t the only ones affected by it, so it’s important to be intentional about your audience. If you’re in the construction industry and sell a product that improves the efficiency of crews, you may find yourself inadvertently developing content that’s ultimately only relevant to the men and women on the ground—even though they aren’t the ones writing the checks.

Your Job:

Option one: Rethink the way you’re approaching the topic. For example, instead of approaching an issue from the perspective of an individual crewmember benefitting from the specific features of your product, write it for someone who oversees crew contracting. How will their ability to improve efficiency in their teams impact the bottom line?

Option two: Play the long game. Perhaps the person you’re talking to isn’t in a position to make a purchasing decision now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be down the road. For example, we recently released content creation templates for content creators, even though they aren’t the ones buying Kapost. We gamble that a) their support is critical when we make a sale, and b) some of them will eventually find themselves in charge of a marketing budget, and  by then will consider us a trusted ally.

Is This Topic Saturated?

Don’t fall into the trap of believing your company needs to talk about the same thing everyone else is talking about. If your audience is inundated with the same topic day after day, what makes you think they’ll engage with your version of it?

What’s more, weighing in on a thoroughly covered topic will make it incredibly challenging to rank in search engine results, meaning even people wanting to read up on the topic may very well never find you.

Your Job:

Option one: Channel your energy toward newer topics you think have the potential to be big. Getting in on an idea while it’s still gathering momentum allows you to corner the market and position your brand as a voice of authority, while also earning higher search rankings and reference links.

Option two: Identify the niche subjects other companies and influencers have overlooked. Who and what challenges can you speak to that are currently being ignored?

Are We Saying Anything New?

If you do decide to cover an idea that’s already been hashed out in your space, it’s imperative  to make sure the answer to, “If I’ve already consumed everything out there on this topic, will I find value in what you have to say?” is a resounding, “Yes!”

Your Job:

Put your own spin on the hot idea that’s dominating industry discussion. What insight or perspective can your brand bring to the table that no one else is saying? If you can’t land on an answer, it’s probably better to sit this one out.

Does This Showcase What Differentiates Us as a Brand?

Your content is the public face of your company. It’s the way most people will spend the majority of their time learning about and interacting with you, so it’s crucial that every asset makes the argument for your brand.

Whatever topic you choose to tackle should ultimately be tied back to the thing(s) that makes you different—and better—than your competitors. Developing a strong, unique point of view will show customers and prospects that you aren’t like the other guys.

Your Job:

For any asset, ask the question that a conference speaker once blew my mind with: If I removed the logo, would anyone know this came from us? If the answer is no, consider ways to bring the brand’s point of view to your subject. If you don’t have a unique perspective on the issue, you may be better off covering something else.

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