A campaign thrives or fails depending on the strength of its core idea. If you built your article on a solid idea, you don't have to convince your audience to share it with their friends. Conversely, if you put energy into developing articles that don't cut it, you could turn your audience off.
What's more, if you keep producing ill-thought-out work, you could lose credibility and autonomy at work. People balk at ideation, but it is easy. If you're stuck thinking of what to write in your articles, here are places you can turn to or things you can do to jog your inspiration.
A swipe file is a collection of writing examples—these can be anything from sample blog post titles, templates, landing pages, and much more. If you aren't yet keeping a swipe file, you should start. Whenever you encounter copy that you think is particularly well-written, save it for later. You can use multipurpose SaaS tools like Evernote and Notion to build your swipe file, or you can use the built-in Reading List function in Google Chrome or Safari.
If you are still building your swipe file and want some inspiration, you can check websites like Swipe File or Swiped—these are two of the largest online databases for content marketers.
All workers engage in brainstorming sessions, but few do it well. Often, people only end up having many discussions but making no real progress. Set your session up for success by honoring all ideas (at least at the moment of ideation). A single person questioning ideas or raising practicalities will kill everyone else's creativity.
Your session should have a single goal—you can have as many participants as you want, but you need to break your larger group up into smaller teams of five or fewer. Doing this keeps people engaged and encourages them to speak up. Give each smaller team a few minutes to talk about the prompt, then have everyone report back when the time is up.
Use Lateral Thinking
Often, all you need to do to keep things fresh is to approach an idea from a new angle. This process is known as lateral, tangential, or horizontal thinking. It is something many artists do to generate ideas for their work. For example, suppose you've written many in-depth articles about landscaping. You've covered the basics of planning a garden, discussed which plants and rocks suit your climate, and written about maintaining your garden.
If you were thinking analytically, you'd run out of ideas soon. However, if you exercise lateral thinking, you could uncover topics that you wouldn't consider or come up with on your first try. For example, you could write about the best plants to cultivate in an apartment or high-rise, curate lists of the best-landscaped gardens in popular culture, or break down award-winning landscape designs. These topics aren't directly related to landscaping, but you can tie them in using the right keywords and angles.
Talk to Your Sales Team for Ideas
The best sources of information on your customers are people in direct contact with them—your sales team. Sales reps and managers are the people most familiar with your target market's pain points, the questions they often ask, and the goals they have. You can get ideas for content by interviewing your sales team.
Record your interviews and transcribe them. The insights from these conversations can help you in different ways. Besides being a source for blog posts, you can use these to make your buyer personas better and create well-positioned campaigns.
Ask your sales team the common challenges customers or clients bring up. Pay particular attention to issues they have that your offerings can address. Ask them what makes prospects excited about your company and what questions and complaints they get the most. Find out what sales objections prospects raise at each stage of the funnel and which ones are most persuasive for them.
Take the chance to ask your sales team what their sales metrics are, if they're happy with their current sales materials, and what questions they struggle to answer. If your marketing and sales teams are in silos, you're not maximizing both groups' growth.
Make a Shortlist of Ideas
After going through your swipe file, brainstorming with your teammates, and interviewing your sales team, you should have several pages of ideas for content. You should have been open and receptive to everything during the idea-gathering phase, even to things that don't make sense to you. When you have enough ideas, it's time to sit down and select the best ones.
Doing this is easier alone. At most, you can have a small group of five people or fewer as you cross out ideas. Once you're ready, you can do the following:
- Eliminate – ideas that bore you
- Save for later – unfeasible ideas
- Keep – ideas that command your attention
Eliminate Boring Ideas
This step is the first you take because, quite simply, you're the person writing the piece. You need to be interested in the topic, or you will find it challenging to complete. Some topics or industries are naturally more exciting than others, and content ideas for these spaces could be "boring" to people overall. You could also use other criteria. For example, you can ask yourself if these topics will be helpful to readers. A topic could be boring to you, but it could be riveting to someone interested in the niche.
Keep Ideas with Potential
If a piece will take too much time to make, or if it costs a lot to produce, you can set it aside. Don't scrap the idea entirely. You might find yourself in a better position resource-wise to produce this content in the future. Or, you could be able to repurpose the idea and turn it into something you could write today.
After eliminating the boring ideas and setting aside the ones you can't write just yet, you'll be left with a shorter list. Finalize your selections by choosing the ones that stand out to you. Trust your gut with this one—you don't have to love the idea, but you do need excitement or a "spark." Keep an eye out for impactful, relevant ideas, especially ones you could turn into a series.
You can easily find ideas for your blog if you keep an open mind. Colleagues, other marketers, and content that's worked "in the wild" are excellent sources of inspiration. Of course, nothing works your creativity up like actually doing the work!
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