Developing engaging content is driven by finding original, relevant and timely ideas for your content marketing. However, this was also identified as the the most difficult challenge in the latest Content Marketing Institute survey. So where do your ideas come from? One way to find content ideas that will engage your audience is ask yourself the following eight questions.
1. What are the industry pain points?
You can start by asking your own teams, what do they think are the real challenges facing the industry. You should also talk to customers and develop buyer personas. As you gain insights into what they need and what keeps them awake at night you can identify the pain points. You can then work with your own teams to develop helpful content or perspectives on how to address these pain points. Another way to help address industry pain points is to create case studies showing how businesses have overcome common challenges and the lessons that can be learnt from their experience. Writing about pain points really gets an engaging conversation going.
2. What questions are your customers asking?
One of the best forms of content is addressing customer questions. This is even more important with Google's more semantic search approach. The more you answer customer questions the more customers will find you via Google. Talk to your sales people and ask them what questions customers are asking or mine your forums. Remember every question is a potential new piece of content.
3. What are people talking about?
What are the current topics of conversation in your industry? You can use curation tools such as Scoop.it or Storify initially to explore the latest content in your topic area. You can also search out what are people talking about in the more popular LinkedIn groups or Google+ communities. You can then identify where you can add value to the conversations taking place and interact with people to explore the issues further. Another important source of data is to research the articles that are being shared most on the various Social Networks. You can do free topic searches with tools such as Topsy and BuzzSumo. A further step is to identify the key influencers and check what they are talking about. The key is to take Robert Rose's advice when researching content ideas to "go out and see what the zeitgeist is about a particular topic."
4. What are your brand stories?
Coca-Cola say they want to develop brand stories that provoke conversations. Their dynamic storytelling approach involves developing incremental elements of a brand idea that get dispersed systematically across multiple channels to create a unified brand experience. Thus ask yourself:
- what are your brand stories?
- in what ways will they provoke conversations?
- what are the incremental content elements that you can use across channels to create a unified experience?
5. What does the data whisperer say?
According to Coca-Cola data is the new soil in which new ideas grow. Jonathan Mildenhall, their VP of Global Advertising Strategy, says "data whisperers will become the new messiahs.” There is something in this, so identify your data whisperers and talk through with them ideas suggested by the data analysis. You can also review your own content and assess what is working for you. Where is your content most shared and engaged with? What were the top five pieces of content you produced in the last year and more importantly why?
6. What are your competitors doing?
You may not have the monopoly on good ideas. It is useful to keep an idea on what is working for your competitors. In addition to researching their sites and content, you can type their name or url in Topsy or Buzzsumo to see what content from your competitors is being shared the most. What competitor content is finding traction and why?
7. What is happening outside your industry?
Read about a completely different subject and think about what may be relevant to your industry. I often find some of my best ideas come from looking outside my immediate industry. Read widely. Read a magazine or blog each week from different industry sectors and identify ideas which could be applied to your business. For example, what can you learn from the latest architectural ideas, the latest in biotechnology, the latest car designs, etc.
8. What is the latest industry news and what are the trends?
I have left this until last because in many ways this is the easiest question to address. If you are immersed in your industry you will know the trends and latest thinking. However, we can all become obsolete, you need to keep up by reviewing the latest RSS feeds, the latest surveys and industry reports. You can also conduct your own surveys to provide new insights. Every insight is potentially a piece of great content.