If you have a blog, a newsletter, social media accounts you post to daily, or any other venue that requires fresh new content on a regular basis, you’re familiar with the never-ending hunger of the content beast.
The content beast is devoted to gobbling up the very best and meatiest content you can provide, but come next week, or next day, or next hour, that content eater wants to be fed again.
And creating this content on a regular basis is what prevents a lot of harried, overworked small business owners from engaging in content marketing at all, despite its many benefits.
I get it. It seems overwhelming.
But you’re smart – you know that for marketing and SEO purposes, positioning yourself as an expert in your niche online by providing juicy new content on a regular basis is a critical piece of your marketing pie.
What you need is a system.
Because here’s the thing: great blog post or newsletter ideas don’t materialize out of the blue, like an inspirational lightning bolt from a Greek god/goddess — well, sometimes they do, but you can’t count on this bit of serendipity on a weekly basis – you need a system for coming up with ideas.
So I’m a gonna tell you what I do, then I’m going to give you the no-fail techniques I use that work like a charm, every single time, to generate fresh content ideas daily, weekly and monthly.
My personal system for consistently generating ideas for blog posts, newsletter content, guest posts, social media status updates, and so on, which can be adapted to any niche you happen to do business in, is this:
1. I keep an “Ideas File” – a Notepad doc is open on my computer at all times while I’m on the interwebs. Anytime I see anything that sparks an idea – blog post, newsletter, newspaper headline, social media status update, video, etc. — I paste the link to that resource into my Notepad doc and add a few notes about it.
2. I set aside at least one hour each week to get really quiet and do some serious brainstorming for content ideas. Early in the morning at my desk with a strong cup of coffee, a legal pad, and the patio door open seems to work best for me. (The key is to treat this hour each week like a firm it’s-written-in-ink-in-your-day-planner appointment with yourself. )
3. I commit an hour each week to go through the resources below and “idea-gather;” again, making a note in my Notepad doc of every idea that comes to me while doing so. These content creation “hacks” have served me well, and I bet they’ll do the same for you.
That’s it — that’s my current “system,” which I constantly tweak, but which works extremely well for me.
Tried-and-True Methods for Generating Heaps of Compelling Content Ideas
I’m going to take the broad topic of “small business marketing” through the paces of the content creation hacks below to show you how I do it.
1. Magazine Headlines
One of the best ways to spark ideas for blog posts your audience wants to read is to grab a bunch of magazines in your niche and read through the headlines, a handy little shortcut I wrote about in more detail in How to Create Blog Posts Your Target Audience Wants to Read.
Publishers spend thousands of dollars and do exhaustive research to figure out which stories will generate the strongest response among their readers, so why not piggyback on that research to gather some ideas for your own business/blog/newsletter niche?
Want some examples? I thought you might.
From Entrepreneur (online), I spied these headlines:
• Need Ideas for Your Business Blog? Here Are 50
• How to Create a Social Media Marketing Schedule
• How to Adopt a Sales Mindset
• In Amish Country, A Lesson in Niche Marketing
My creative juices are already flowing with ideas for a blog post and a couple of social media status updates I can do, using just the headlines here.
Alltop bills itself as “an online magazine rack for your favorite topics.” Essentially, Alltop aggregates the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a particular topic. They then group these collections, or “aggregations,” into individual web pages, and display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph.
From the “small business” topic page on Alltop, I found these interesting stories (among hundreds):
• How to Grow a Business with Little Cash
• Don’t Confuse Passion with Competence
• Do Your Services Pass the Sniff Test?
• The 5 Biggest Email Marketing Mistakes
• 7 Low-Budget Small Business Marketing Ideas
• How to Write A Business Story Pitch
There are hundreds of ideas hiding in plain sight inside Amazon you can riff off of for your own content ideas. Here’s what you want to do here: search on your topic in the books category, then pick a few books in your niche from the returned results. Once you get there, click on the “Look Inside!” option on the book cover image. Once there you can cruise through the Table of Contents of said book, and let the idea sparking begin!
I searched the Books category on “small business marketing,” which returned 5193 results. Gold mine! : )
From the book “Duct Tape Marketing” by John Jantsch I see these chapters in the Table of Contents:
• Identify Your Ideal Client
• Discover Your Core Marketing Message
• Get Found Online in Your Town
From the book “Book Yourself Solid” by Michael Port, these:
• Why People Buy What You’re Selling
• Develop a Personal Brand
• The Book Yourself Solid Web Strategy
I’ve already written about getting found online in your town a little and I know it’s a topic I want to produce more content on, so that’s going into the “Ideas File,” ditto “Why People Buy What You’re Selling,” because I find the psychology of business and sales so fascinating, and it would make for a great blog article. So there ya go, I just got at least two ideas for blog posts from spending just 10 minutes on this exercise.
Now don’t you know that if I spent an hour going through the chapter titles of a few more of those 5193 books on small business marketing, I’d come up with dozens more ideas? You betcha, and you can do exactly the same thing.
There are several other resources I use regularly to generate ideas for content, which I’ll talk about next time on the blog. Until then, why don’t you give these three methods a try and see what you come up with?
What are your tried-and-true methods for coming up with great content? Share them in the Comments!
[Don’t have time to do this yourself, but want an editorial calendar of solid content ideas for your blog and newsletter for the next 60-90 days? Check out the Content Coaching/Strategy Session option on the Work With Me page!]