According to Search Engine Journal, content ideation is the process of developing relevant topics for content and determining which of those topics will really resonate with your brand’s target audience.
Your target audience’s needs are at the heart of the ideation process. All of the content created should be based on a foundation of knowledge of that audience and their pain points. After all, the fundamental purpose of ideation is to come up with content that is focused on problem solving.
Finding interesting topics that will appeal to your target audience, help build trust and establish you as an authority in your field is not always easy. But we are here to help. We took a look at several different content marketing agencies and learned about their particular tactics when it comes to ideation, so we could share them with you. From that research, we have created the following synopsis of the possible steps you can take to arrive at the best content topics, from thought showers and research to the online tools that will make the job easier.
Review your goal
One important piece of advice we took away from our research was often overlooked when ideation was discussed. When you begin the ideation process it is important to check in with your goals. Are you trying to build awareness to get the reader thinking about your solution? Your content should push you toward your goals – always keep them in mind.
Brainstorming is not a new idea, it was actually created way back in 1938 by Alex Osborn, we just refer to the operation as thought showering now. The process involves generating creative ideas and solutions through intensive open group discussion. Members of the team are encouraged to think aloud and suggest as many ideas as possible, no matter how out there or bizarre. All ideas should be recorded then later grouped together for analysis, discussion and modification after the session is over.
In our research, some businesses used this method to generate innovative ideas for content, and some prefer to have people work independently on ideas before bringing them to the table for discussion.
Working alone or as a team from the get go is a personal choice. Perhaps take time to experiment and try both methods to see what works for you.
In order to come up with new and exciting ideas for content that will really hit the mark with your audience, you have to first fully understand them. A great way to do this is to ask questions. The following infographic, created by Oz, maker of content research AI software, shows a great overview of many of the types of questions you can ask to enhance the ideation process.
We have also compiled the following list of target audience, imagination and lateral thinking questions. In case you are not familiar with the term: lateral thinking encourages you to remove yourself from your mind’s comfort zone when facing a problem and approaching it an indirect and creative way. This ability to find a different perspective on the same problems is critical for fresh content ideation. Sometimes you must think in completely new ways about topics to come up with content that keeps your readers engaged. We will get further into this creative mind-set later on.
- What would I want to read?
- Will this idea go the distance?
- What questions are you tired of answering over and over again for your prospects?
- What questions do you wish your prospects would ask during the sales process?
- What common misconceptions exist about your company or industry?
- What questions are your customers likely to have at each stage of the buying process?
- What would you want your younger self to have known about the industry?
- What are the top questions you get asked every day from customers and prospective customers?
- Pay attention to the questions people aren’t asking but should be asking.
- Ask all of your employees what questions they are getting from customers routinely. It does not matter what department these employees operate in. It can be questions the C-Suite are hearing, people from accounting, customer service even questions delivery people are getting can provide invaluable insight.
- What’s the best, most accessible format for this specific bit of content? Words or images? Mixed? A different format altogether?
Internal interviews: By conducting internal interviews, you can gather knowledge from the people who deal with your customers on a daily basis within your organisation. Compile a list of questions that will bring out intricacies in your employee’s daily routine at the company, so that you can uncover potentially buried pain points or other golden snippets of information.
External interviews: You can conduct interviews with – or provide surveys to – your customers to see how they are receiving the information you are sharing. Get the information right from the horse’s mouth if possible. Compile these interviews in such a way to see if there are any overarching themes that emerge, you can expand upon these in your next thought shower round.
Read, read and read some more
Knowledge is power. It is a good idea to equip yourself with the information that is currently out there about your industry as a whole, and competitors within the industry. Here are some ideas we found helpful for researching purposes:
- Read the blogs your prospects read. This will give you insight into what they find useful.
- Read something epic that inspires you to write on a similar topic.
- Read comments on industry news sites and industry boards.
- Read content from other websites in your field.
- Read articles those in your field are promoting on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep current and on trend
Do your research
There is a seemingly endless amount of information out there on any given topic. It is your job to get as up to date with what your customers require and where they are finding the answers they seek. After all, you want to be the person they turn to for these answers. We recently covered ways in which you can cut through the clutter and you can read about it here. For now, here are several avenues your research can take.
Key Word Research: This requires you to put yourself into someone else’s shoes, which is a great way to start understanding the mind of your audience. There are so many tools out there that you can use to help you discover the best keywords for your content, from Google Search Console to Soolve to the complete list I found after running a google search Here.
- After compiling your keywords, ask how that keyword would help with your goals and what part of the buyer’s journey it would target.
- Do a search for that keyword. See what comes up – how recent is the content? Has one competitor written more about the topic than another? What are other people saying in their content, and what type of responses are they getting?
- What terms are people searching for in reference to your industry?
- Use Google: type your question into the search box and see what autocompletes pop up. Anything that pops up means enough people have been searching for the exact same terms.
Audience research: You need to know your audience if you are going to bring them the content that will help and matter to them. We found a handy tool to share. You Gov Ratings provides a way in which to determine the UK nationally representative popularity score for thousands of things, from brands and products to companies and people. These statistics are based on millions of responses and new responses are coming in all the time, constantly enriching it. It is a fresh way to gather some information for that lateral thinking we mentioned earlier on.
General research: Twitter is a great resource on which to gather mass amounts of information and connect with users in real-time, answering questions, posting updates and replying to other posts. You may find yourself inundated with a flood of news, helpful tips, blog posts and more as Twitter is a chaotic site to delve through. Making lists that are pertinent to you and your audience will help organise the mass of information rushing at you. You can create your own lists or subscribe to other users lists. Here is a step by step guide to setting this up. Follow the most relevant content to you and track your customers and competitors.
Use google news to research the most current developments in and around your industry.
Reddit is a great resource on which you can search any given topic and discover the wealth of information that people are talking about related to that topic. In addition to searching the subject, you can search a niche-related Reddit AMA (ask me anything) from the search results and start to grab some interesting ideas from the direct interviews there.
As mentioned earlier, lateral thinking is an important part of content ideation. A large chunk of the ideation process is focused on making boring business speak, interesting. Everyone wants to be entertained on some level, even B2B tech business readers. Who wants to read “Complicated business lingo: A dry white paper”? Try to get the creative energy flowing by challenging existing assumptions, shake things up, see if there is an angle you have not previously explored. Try linking unrelated concepts, come up with ways that they can work – try to connect the unexpected.
If you are at a loss, here are a few tools to get the creative juices flowing:
Content ideation can be a daunting task but it should also be an enjoyable one. Tapping in to your creativity will be fun and bring a wealth of new ideas to the table that you can incorporate into your upcoming content.
We hope that you found this overview of some of the ways you can enhance your ideation process helpful. We are full of ideas so if you are looking for a deeper dive into the topic get in touch we would love to explore with you. Drop us a line at [email protected]