Coming up with a continuous stream of content ideas is really, really hard. Especially if you’re not a creative person. As content marketing becomes more and more prevalent and crucial within the marketing world, it’s important that we deliver what our customers want from us.
Today, I wanted to provide you with the framework you need to stay focused and create a funnel of ideas and strategies that will make your content-creating-life less stressful. Whether you’re still dealing with this yourself, or looking to provide your marketing team with some direction, one of the most crucial things you need to do is start using a content or editorial calendar.
What is the purpose of your content?
Before you start creating content, you really need to strategize and decide what the purpose of the content is. Who are you creating it for, and what do you expect it to achieve? It’s important that you’re creating content that your ideal customer perceives as valuable and is genuinely interested in. Once you’ve gone through the process of creating your customer profile, and clearly defining what the desired outcomes and expectations are, you can start creating content around those principles.
One of the most powerful tools you can use when it comes to creating content is an editorial calendar. This is something completely free and unique to your own needs — you can literally just use your own regular calendar and create an editorial calendar for yourself with Excel or whatever spreadsheet tool you prefer. If you’re using a project management software like Hive, you can do everything right in there. You create weekly ideas, topics, plans, and even blog titles so that each day or week, you know well in advance what the plan is and what you’re going to blog or vlog about it. This allows you to create content in a meaningful and structured way and saves the frustration and panic of not knowing what to create.
Once you figure out how to manage your calendar and decide on your output level, you can create ideas around topics and subjects.
For example, let’s say I’ve decided that I want to create 3 pieces of content each week — ideally I’ll do 2 blog posts and 1 video. I’m an established Dentist in Denver, Colorado with a large team beneath me. I know that primarily, Mothers are my target clients as they are the ones calling the shots for the entire family. It’s cheaper to keep existing customers coming back than to find new ones, so I really want to focus on retargeting and relationship-building with content that is valuable, relevant, and timely.
Based on what I know about my target market, I am confident they would appreciate content that offers tips to promote dental health and safety for their children and the entire family, low-sugar baking recipes, and maybe even local events. There’s also lots of common questions I get that could easily be answered through blog posts. When thinking about content to create, I’m not thinking about my business but about my end user and trying to come up with topics that are relevant to THEM. I’m digging deep into my Buyer Persona to try and understand what type of content they want.
Based on the parameters I’ve created for myself above, I can start to fill out my editorial calendar:
My first post will be: 10 Dentist & Kid-Approved Snacks
My second post will be: Things To Look Out For When Switching Dentists
My third post will be: All Your Flossing Questions Answered
My fourth post will be: 5 Kid-Friendly Activities Happening In Denver This Weekend
All of these pieces of content are topics my ideal client would find useful and want to read. It’s not sales content — it’s content that will engage, build trust, and allow me to position myself as the industry expert. Those are the objectives I clarified in the early strategy stages. It’s important that you can loop back and confirm that your content matches your initial objectives.
Additionally, we’re thinking about SEO — search engine optimization and being found when people are conducting relevant online searches. What terms are your ideal customers searching for and what cities would they reference? Think about those things when crafting your blog topics and try to get those words into your blog posts as well. We’ll do a deep-dive into SEO writing in a separate guide soon.
In my editorial calendar, I’ve created these titles in advance, so each week I already know what I need to write about. I’ve taken the guesswork out of it, and I’m now creating content in a structured manner that will help me achieve my content marketing goals.
Now, the fun part is coming up with your ideas. Regardless of your industry, here are some creative ideas that can be tailored to match your ideal customers and industry:
- Create a list of benefits for your products or services. If you offer legal services, for example, create a list of positive outcomes — such as why hiring a lawyer when purchasing a home is beneficial. - Create a list of things to avoid or to watch out for. For example, if you’re a digital marketer, you could write about things to watch out for when hiring an agency. - Create Top 10 or Top 20 lists. - Create a weekly theme, such as a weekly FAQ. Answer questions that have been posed to your by clients or team members. - Offer a daily tip. - Feature success stories from your clients — this is powerful content that also serves as a testimonial. - Predict future trends in your industry or local market. - Create an “In The News” weekly feature where you summarize all the important news around your industry or hometown - If you have anything coming up, like a sale or promotion, write about it. - Write about events after they’ve happened, such as trade shows or charity dinners — this will give your clients an inside view of the company. - Write about “behind the scene” things customers don’t get to see, like what’s happening with your employees or your latest buying trip. - Conduct surveys or interviews amongst your customers, readers, or industry experts and write about the results. - Reach out to guest bloggers and create some partnerships. Ask them for their suggestions. - Demonstrate how to use your products. - Create “How-To’s” that are industry related — if you sell cars, create a video that shows people how to change a flat tire. - Repurpose and reuse your old content creatively. You can compile shorter blog posts into a complete guide, or turn older posts into videos. - Create content around “Did You Know?” or industry misconceptions. - Articles about “Then and Now” — for example, if you build houses, you could create content about building codes and best practices. How have things changed over the last 20 years? - Compare your own products or services and help people to understand the key differences between them. - Feature local industry experts or upcoming businesses — extend the olive branch and position yourself as an industry leader who wants to help others succeed. - Create in-depth guides and/or White Papers. This is another great way to repurpose old content; you may have already done the bulk of the work. - Pay attention to search trends from social media and Google Analytics. Writing about current events will always attract eyeballs. Discussing recent events through a live platform is another way to do this. - Don’t forget about video — many of these ideas can be done as a video, rather than a blog post. - Create infographics out of long-form content or anything that has a few numbers. People love infographics and it’s an excellent way to turn numbers into a visual experience that will be absorbed.
Content marketing isn’t easy, but taking these steps to do your homework ahead of time and get that content calendar populated will literally be a game-changer for your company. If you skip this important step, you wind up either not publishing new content or slapping something together for the sole purpose of getting something out there.
My recommendation is to sit down once a month and block off time to do this. Get your month ahead populated, and then schedule time each week for whomever is responsible for the creation and publication of your content. As you begin to publish regularly, monitor your analytics and social channels to see what type of content you readers are engaging with the most — this will show you what type of content your audience wants from you.
Investing the time upfront to select topics that are truly relevant to your ideal customer is what will ensure your content is valuable, relevant, and timely. Because without those elements, you won’t get the results you need.