The core ideas behind content marketing are simple ones…
- Use content to grow your audience and attract new prospective clients.
- Use content to demonstrate your expertise, encouraging leads to get to know you, like you and trust you…paving the way for a professional relationship.
- Get into Google’s favor by continually adding high-quality content to your website.
It’s easier said than done.
There are some huge rewards to be gained from regularly publishing content on your website. This has always been the case, but “Content Marketing” is just the shiny new label for the practice of sharing useful content on your website.
Anne Handley writes in Content Rules that content will “position your company not just as a seller of stuff, but as a reliable source of information.”
I’ve been looking for a ‘system’ myself….a sort of fool-proof way to set myself up for success in publishing regular content.
Is this going to be like going to the gym?
If you are like me, thinking about the idea of finding time to create and write content every month (much less every week!) is making your head explode right about now.
As business-owners and busy marketing professionals, it’s just hard to find the time. (So, in this way, I guess it is a little bit like going to the gym!….Sorry.)
The harsh truth is that content doesn’t just happen….you have to schedule time for it. If you don’t schedule time for it, then you really just aren’t making it a priority.
But…much like going to the gym, when you start to reap the rewards of your efforts, you realize…it’s totally worth it.
It gets easier with these simple strategies and tools
This past week, I listened to a podcast with Pamela Wilson of Copyblogger (who I love) about how to generate a never-ending flow of blog posts and also a Copyblogger piece on writing amazing blog posts which got me thinking about what strategies might be most helpful to those of you who are ready to get your content marketing off the ground.
Getting the Creative Juices Flowing by Creating a Daily Brainstorming Habit
This isn’t the part of the article where I tell you to write everyday to engage that part of your brain…although, if you are primarily a writer, this might be a great approach.
Most of us aren’t full-time writers.
What works for me is to set aside 2 hours to write an article in one fell swoop.
The big problem with sitting down to write
The one major glaring flaw with this approach is that if I don’t have a topic ready, I will inevitably waste the entire 2 hours facing a blank page trying to decide what to write about.
Fortunately, this is an easy problem to fix…..by always having a working list of topics.
The easiest way to make sure you always have a long list of article ideas available for when you are ready to write is to think about topics a little tiny bit every day.
Habit formation is the process by which new behaviors become automatic….and when things are automatic, they are easier to do.
You’ll also find that getting these ideas out of your head everyday helps ‘prime the pump’ for new ideas and creativity around your business. As you generate more ideas, you will be able to organize them into a complete content strategy. But let’s start with baby steps…
This is the strategy that works for me. Try this:
Every day, while you are having your morning beverage of choice, devote 15 minutes brainstorming possible topics for your business blog.
Do this using the following strategies.
1. Catch up on the news of your industry
Reading about the latest news in your industry keeps you up-to-date with the latest trends, and sparks ideas for content topics.
Be careful not to fall into the “comparison trap” where you feel like the topic has already been covered. There is a HUGE market out there…remember that you are writing for YOUR audience. They are relying on you to tell them what is going on out there.
Pro Tip: I use a free online RSS Feed Reader to subscribe to industry blogs so I can scan all the relevant industry news quickly.
2. Ask yourself….
- What are your prospective clients’ hopes and dreams?
- What questions do your prospective clients ask over and over?
- What are the pain points that are driving your customers mad right now?
- What questions do you answer over and over for your existing clients.
3. Think about topics from each of these perspectives:
- How to….
Demonstrate your deep knowledge of the subject matter by creating in-depth “How To” articles. Don’t worry about giving away too much. Stand out by being a problem solver.
- Why you should…
Think about the strategies behind why you do the work you do. Demonstrate to clients scenarios where they would benefit from your services.
- Case Studies
Case studies are just telling stories about what has worked for other clients.
This daily practice of brainstorming and documenting every day will help the continual flow of ideas.
Each time, focus on a different aspect of your business. I often find it helpful to picture that ideal client and the problems for which they are searching for solutions.
Get some brainstorming help from these Tools
Sometimes it’s easier to get ideas from hard data instead of “using your imagination”. Try using the free keyword tool from KeywordTool.io to do a little keyword research.
I love this tool because while it doesn’t give you search volumes (you have to pay for that), it does show you the actual search phrases that people are using on search engines. This is a goldmine for article ideas.
Look for longer more-specific keyword phrases that fit your areas of expertise.
An example of how to use the Keyword Tool to Brainstorm Blog Topics
If you are a landscaper, you might enter the word “landscaping” into the keyword tool to start. Here are some of the keyword phrases returned that might provide great starting points for articles.
- landscaping around trees
- landscaping around above ground pool
- landscaping a hill
- landscaping border ideas
- landscaping drainage
2. “Blog About” Blog Title Generator Tool
The Blog About tool generates blog post titles where you can fill in the blanks. The act of imagining the title can often spark inspiration about a blog topic. It’s kind of fun, too.
Capture Your Ideas in a Reliable Readily-Accessible System
I really like to do brainstorming on paper because it engages a different part of my brain (and I like to doodle), but I always transfer my ideas over to an app for safekeeping where my list is always at my fingertips.
I use the free version of Trello to organize EVERYTHING, both business and personal. There are lots of options out there, though…Evernote comes to mind and even Google Docs can work as a cloud-based centralized place to keep ideas.
You may find you have time to write at the oddest times (while traveling for instance), and having access to your working list of topics is crucial to not killing the moment.
Even if you are in the position to be able to hire a copywriter to actually DO the writing for you, it’s still important that the content your are putting out there on your website address the real issues your unique customers are facing.
This means, your content needs to ring true with these people…which means the best ideas and topics come from within your organization, from those people who work with customers every day.
One of the most valuables ways to get inspiration for your content topics is to ask your clients directly with a survey about what struggles they are facing day to day around your services
Always be capturing ideas.
As you are going through your day, pay attention to opportunities to address a solution or topic for clients (or potential clients) in a blog post. Prime examples of this are the things that you find yourself repeating day in and day out.
Find a trusted system like Trello for capturing these ideas so that you always know where to go to find them. If you don’t have time to open an app, try creating notes in your smart phone or even emailing yourself so you can add them to your working list later.
Do you have tools and strategies that work for you? Feel free to share them in the comments!