HOW TO: Find great topics for content marketing

Content marketing may be all the rage, but how do you generate ideas? Adam Sutton, freelance marketing writer at Magnet-Ink.com provides five top tactics

Many B2B companies hit a rut after six months of content marketing. At first, ideas are easier to find than fish in a pond. They practically jump in the boat. But when the ideas stop jumping, you feel sunk.

Don’t abandon ship. When you’re out of ideas, you need inspiration and a fresh set of eyes – and you should get them from your clients.

Clients and prospects are your audience. When you see from their perspective, you will create better whitepapers, blog posts, and webinars. Follow them and you will have the delightful problem of more ideas than you know what to do with.

Here are five tactics to follow your clients and find great topics for content marketing year after year:

1. Focus on a problem
Start with the biggest problem your company solves. How do you help your best customers? The answer is a fantastic topic for content marketing. Use it to write ebooks, newsletters and case studies that help customers solve that problem.

For example, let’s say your company streamlines order fulfillment. A major pain point faced by your prospects is that orders stack up faster than they can be shipped out, and no one has time to find a solution. You can endear these prospects to your brand with topics such as ‘How to simplify fulfillment on a tight budget,’ or ‘Efficient fulfillment in 10 minutes a day.’

2. Multiply topics with segmentation
You likely solve more than one problem. For example, you might provide software as a service (SAAS) and consulting. If so, the clients who lease your software have different needs than the clients who need advice. These two groups have different needs and interests. This lets you take one topic and write about it from two perspectives.

For example, let’s say your clients need to understand how mobile computing opens an opportunity. The SAAS customers need this information explained in the context of your software. They need to learn the relevant features and how to use them. The consulting clients need general information about strategy and application. You cannot be more specific with them because they use all types of software. This splits the topic of “mobile opportunity” into two pieces of content written from two perspectives.

3. Ask salespeople and account reps
The core challenges you solve should be etched on your soul. You shouldn’t have to research them. When you want to dig deeper, ask the only other people in the world who know your customers as well as you do: your coworkers.

Salespeople can explain the problems that drive prospects to your company. They can also explain the challenges prospects encounter when they try to adopt your services or sell them internally. Account managers are also valuable. They can describe the problems they help clients solve and how they solve them. All of this information can uncover topics that will mean something to your audience.

4. Ask clients indirectly
Unfortunately, asking clients ‘what do you want?’ is never enlightening. In the words of Steve Jobs, “It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want,” (it’s yours).

You can interview and survey clients, but ask them indirectly. Ask them about the challenges they face when researching, launching, using, or improving results with your product or service. Ask them how they achieve and prove ROI. Ask them about the next steps they’d like to make. All of these areas will help you find new pain points to rub.

5. Ask your data
If you’re the analytical type, there is a pile of data that can point you toward great content. Look for common characteristics across groups in your database. This will help you find new angles for the topics you’ve already covered (remember the ‘mobile opportunity’ example). Also look at the keywords people use to find your website, and be sure to look for long-tail queries such as, ‘how do I know when to XYZ?’

Your web analytics can also point to good topics. The most popular pages on your site can demonstrate what your audience is most interested in. If you don’t find anything fresh in this data, try combining topics. For example, instead of writing about social media or mobile technology, write about social apps on tablets.

Follow needs as they change
Your market will always change. Some problems will never go away (such as budget constraints), but most will shift over time.

Think of Google. The company changed marketing forever. Its IPO was only eight years ago. Facebook changed marketing and its IPO was a few months ago. Then there’s mobile computing, and the list goes on.

The next ‘new thing’ is only a year or two away. It will change the content your audience wants, so don’t get caught with your feet in cement. Follow your customers and watch where they’re headed.   

Content marketing may be all the rage, but how do you generate ideas? Adam Sutton, freelance marketing writer at Magnet-Ink.com provides five top tactics

Many B2B companies hit a rut after six months of content marketing. At first, ideas are easier to find than fish in a pond. They practically jump in the boat. But when the ideas stop jumping, you feel sunk.

Don’t abandon ship. When you’re out of ideas, you need inspiration and a fresh set of eyes – and you should get them from your clients.

Clients and prospects are your audience. When you see from their perspective, you will create better whitepapers, blog posts, and webinars. Follow them and you will have the delightful problem of more ideas than you know what to do with.

Here are five tactics to follow your clients and find great topics for content marketing year after year:

1. Focus on a problem
Start with the biggest problem your company solves. How do you help your best customers? The answer is a fantastic topic for content marketing. Use it to write ebooks, newsletters and case studies that help customers solve that problem.

For example, let’s say your company streamlines order fulfillment. A major pain point faced by your prospects is that orders stack up faster than they can be shipped out, and no one has time to find a solution. You can endear these prospects to your brand with topics such as ‘How to simplify fulfillment on a tight budget,’ or ‘Efficient fulfillment in 10 minutes a day.’

2. Multiply topics with segmentation
You likely solve more than one problem. For example, you might provide software as a service (SAAS) and consulting. If so, the clients who lease your software have different needs than the clients who need advice. These two groups have different needs and interests. This lets you take one topic and write about it from two perspectives.

For example, let’s say your clients need to understand how mobile computing opens an opportunity. The SAAS customers need this information explained in the context of your software. They need to learn the relevant features and how to use them. The consulting clients need general information about strategy and application. You cannot be more specific with them because they use all types of software. This splits the topic of “mobile opportunity” into two pieces of content written from two perspectives.

3. Ask salespeople and account reps
The core challenges you solve should be etched on your soul. You shouldn’t have to research them. When you want to dig deeper, ask the only other people in the world who know your customers as well as you do: your coworkers.

Salespeople can explain the problems that drive prospects to your company. They can also explain the challenges prospects encounter when they try to adopt your services or sell them internally. Account managers are also valuable. They can describe the problems they help clients solve and how they solve them. All of this information can uncover topics that will mean something to your audience.

4. Ask clients indirectly
Unfortunately, asking clients ‘what do you want?’ is never enlightening. In the words of Steve Jobs, “It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want,” (it’s yours).

You can interview and survey clients, but ask them indirectly. Ask them about the challenges they face when researching, launching, using, or improving results with your product or service. Ask them how they achieve and prove ROI. Ask them about the next steps they’d like to make. All of these areas will help you find new pain points to rub.

5. Ask your data
If you’re the analytical type, there is a pile of data that can point you toward great content. Look for common characteristics across groups in your database. This will help you find new angles for the topics you’ve already covered (remember the ‘mobile opportunity’ example). Also look at the keywords people use to find your website, and be sure to look for long-tail queries such as, ‘how do I know when to XYZ?’

Your web analytics can also point to good topics. The most popular pages on your site can demonstrate what your audience is most interested in. If you don’t find anything fresh in this data, try combining topics. For example, instead of writing about social media or mobile technology, write about social apps on tablets.

Follow needs as they change
Your market will always change. Some problems will never go away (such as budget constraints), but most will shift over time.

Think of Google. The company changed marketing forever. Its IPO was only eight years ago. Facebook changed marketing and its IPO was a few months ago. Then there’s mobile computing, and the list goes on.

The next ‘new thing’ is only a year or two away. It will change the content your audience wants, so don’t get caught with your feet in cement. Follow your customers and watch where they’re headed.   

Content marketing may be all the rage, but how do you generate ideas? Adam Sutton, freelance marketing writer at Magnet-Ink.com provides five top tactics

Many B2B companies hit a rut after six months of content marketing. At first, ideas are easier to find than fish in a pond. They practically jump in the boat. But when the ideas stop jumping, you feel sunk.

Don’t abandon ship. When you’re out of ideas, you need inspiration and a fresh set of eyes – and you should get them from your clients.

Clients and prospects are your audience. When you see from their perspective, you will create better whitepapers, blog posts, and webinars. Follow them and you will have the delightful problem of more ideas than you know what to do with.

Here are five tactics to follow your clients and find great topics for content marketing year after year:

1. Focus on a problem
Start with the biggest problem your company solves. How do you help your best customers? The answer is a fantastic topic for content marketing. Use it to write ebooks, newsletters and case studies that help customers solve that problem.

For example, let’s say your company streamlines order fulfillment. A major pain point faced by your prospects is that orders stack up faster than they can be shipped out, and no one has time to find a solution. You can endear these prospects to your brand with topics such as ‘How to simplify fulfillment on a tight budget,’ or ‘Efficient fulfillment in 10 minutes a day.’

2. Multiply topics with segmentation
You likely solve more than one problem. For example, you might provide software as a service (SAAS) and consulting. If so, the clients who lease your software have different needs than the clients who need advice. These two groups have different needs and interests. This lets you take one topic and write about it from two perspectives.

For example, let’s say your clients need to understand how mobile computing opens an opportunity. The SAAS customers need this information explained in the context of your software. They need to learn the relevant features and how to use them. The consulting clients need general information about strategy and application. You cannot be more specific with them because they use all types of software. This splits the topic of “mobile opportunity” into two pieces of content written from two perspectives.

3. Ask salespeople and account reps
The core challenges you solve should be etched on your soul. You shouldn’t have to research them. When you want to dig deeper, ask the only other people in the world who know your customers as well as you do: your coworkers.

Salespeople can explain the problems that drive prospects to your company. They can also explain the challenges prospects encounter when they try to adopt your services or sell them internally. Account managers are also valuable. They can describe the problems they help clients solve and how they solve them. All of this information can uncover topics that will mean something to your audience.

4. Ask clients indirectly
Unfortunately, asking clients ‘what do you want?’ is never enlightening. In the words of Steve Jobs, “It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want,” (it’s yours).

You can interview and survey clients, but ask them indirectly. Ask them about the challenges they face when researching, launching, using, or improving results with your product or service. Ask them how they achieve and prove ROI. Ask them about the next steps they’d like to make. All of these areas will help you find new pain points to rub.

5. Ask your data
If you’re the analytical type, there is a pile of data that can point you toward great content. Look for common characteristics across groups in your database. This will help you find new angles for the topics you’ve already covered (remember the ‘mobile opportunity’ example). Also look at the keywords people use to find your website, and be sure to look for long-tail queries such as, ‘how do I know when to XYZ?’

Your web analytics can also point to good topics. The most popular pages on your site can demonstrate what your audience is most interested in. If you don’t find anything fresh in this data, try combining topics. For example, instead of writing about social media or mobile technology, write about social apps on tablets.

Follow needs as they change
Your market will always change. Some problems will never go away (such as budget constraints), but most will shift over time.

Think of Google. The company changed marketing forever. Its IPO was only eight years ago. Facebook changed marketing and its IPO was a few months ago. Then there’s mobile computing, and the list goes on.

The next ‘new thing’ is only a year or two away. It will change the content your audience wants, so don’t get caught with your feet in cement. Follow your customers and watch where they’re headed.