You’ve been staring at that blank screen for 30 minutes. You try one sentence here, one sentence there. To get the creative juices flowing, you attempt free association. 5 minutes later, you end up with “What Kind of Dog is YOUR Software Solution?” Everyone loves dogs, right? You think of the hours you’re about to spend researching different dog breeds and mapping them to your target personas. You take step back.
Why is it so hard to come up with content marketing ideas your buyers will actually enjoy…and find useful?
The truth? You’re working too hard. As Joe Chernov said in an interview, “People overthink it. There are so many opportunities to generate ideas for content.” He’s right, and these opportunities are close by. In fact, their inside your organization.
We call them the Three S’s: Sales, Service, and Support.
The sales, service, and support departments are three of the best resources for topics that are important to your brand and also interest your buyers. Not only do they understand the buyer’s concerns and needs — they are, after all, communicating with potential and current customers all the time — but they’re also experts on the company’s products and the unique value propositions of those products.
Sales is constantly communicating with prospects about their wants and needs. They know why deals are won, or lost (and to whom), and the challenges facing specific prospects. They also know what features or services get people excited—and the problems those features and services solve. Also, with social selling as an increasingly effective strategy, salespeople need more buyer-appropriate content to share with buyers — and they usually have good ideas about what that content looks like.
For example, if a deal is lost, ask the sales rep why. Maybe the buyer didn’t know what questions to ask, or how to make a case internally for the purchase. Maybe the company was concerned with online security or software integration, and didn’t see any documentation addressing those concerns. Those lost deals highlight important information gaps, and provide an opportunity to fill them with useful content.
The service and account management department handles the needs of existing clients. On a daily basis, account managers field customer questions, respond to feedback (positive and negative), and hear about creative use cases. All of these daily experiences make the service team a goldmine for ideas. Also, by encouraging account management to share their ideas, marketers have the opportunity to create stories about happy customers that they can share with prospects in relevant industries, as well as content on topics buyers want to learn more about, and content that can be repurposed for retention and up-sell campaigns.
For example, say an organization wants to attract more financial services customers. Marketing can tap account managers for information on the most common questions and concerns they hear from current clients in that industry. They can also request testimonials and case studies from customers using products and features successfully and in interesting ways. Right there, the marketing team has an arsenal of content ideas that will attract and help financial services companies while supporting the goals of their own organization.
The support department hears everything from immediate issues with a product or service to unrealistic feature requests. They’re also experts at troubleshooting, and know how to think fast about a customer problem. Support hears from customers at their most frantic moments, and understands better than anyone why a feature is so important to an organization, how it’s used, and how to solve everything from common to bizarre challenges. Dealing with this wide array of topics and concerns makes them experts on customers and the product, as well as fantastic sources for content ideas on the current and emerging challenges facing buyers.
For example, say customers are constantly requesting a feature that will help them organize their day-to-day projects and tasks. Of course, the product team needs to know this information, but it’s also wonderful insight into missing content. Perhaps the marketing team begins a blog series around organization tips, creates downloadable templates to help keep track of projects, or films video tutorials on task management.
Idea Submission & Follow Up
To successfully gather and profit from the content marketing ideas of these three (and other) departments, the marketing team needs to let people across the organization know exactly how to submit ideas and how ideas are evaluated. A single point person might be designated to collect submissions via email, but that inbox can quickly become chaos. Another method is to circulate electronic forms that have required fields to collect all the information needed to understand and evaluate the concept. Then, ideas can be evaluated at a weekly or biweekly meeting. Incentives to contribute—cash or in-kind prizes, recognition, competitive bragging rights—also help. And be sure to respond to every submission, regardless of whether the idea is good or bad.
So ditch the dog idea brainstorm for now, and start communicating internally. You have nothing to lose (except ideas that are, well, a bit of a reach).
For more on generating ideas for content, download the e(comic)Book, Content: The Force that Moves the Buyer Down the Funnel. It’s full of great tips for organizing a content marketing strategy as well as coming up with ideas for content your buyers will love.