Writer's block is a real thing. It took me 10 minutes to write that sentence.
All jokes apart, running out of content ideas for your B2B blog and product is a serious issue. Without engaging content, you have no way of telling your story, nurturing your prospects, and maintaining relevance.
Us marketers like intelligent-sounding jargon, so let's call it "content ideation fatigue".
A Google search for "content creation ideas" leads to an endless array of 15, 400 (!!), 15, 35, 21, and 88 ways of generating new content. The ever-present Neil Patel sneaks in with "100 ideas in 60 seconds". Way to go Neil!
Ironically, these posts highlight how tough it is to generate new content. They talk about the same tired, old methods. Look at your competition, repurpose old content, use analytics, use Google’s suggestions, and so on. Boring!
Here are 5 ways that don't suck.
I'm one of those weird people who remembers life before the internet was everywhere. 2 relics of that era that I miss the most are rotary dial phones and public libraries. I'm willing to concede that phones have made giant leaps since my childhood, but nothing has ever replaced libraries.
They were the best place to learn something new. Libraries are dwindling these days but books have and always will be a steady fountain of knowledge. There are great books on almost every subject, including yours.
Head over to Amazon and browse the bestselling books on your subject. You should get creative with what you search for. For example, if your product automates invoicing you're going to have a hard time finding books that extoll the benefits of AR efficiency.
However, can you find books about productivity? Can you find books that talk about the future of technology as it relates to human society? Focus on the problems that your product solves and zoom out (or zoom in) on the subject. You'll find yourself making connections and ideas will sprout.
How do these ideas help you sell an invoicing solution? Content marketing isn't about shoving your product under your prospect's nose every few seconds. Get them thinking and engage them with larger ideas beyond your product.
That's what leads to sales. The more interesting you are, the more relevant your audience will find you. Be helpful and educational. Sales will take care of themselves (with a little help.)
A list of popular books in broad topics related to your niche will also uncover great ideas. Think of these lists as crude (but free!) third party intent data. The synopsis of each book tells you the author's angle and Amazon's BSR tells you how popular that angle is.
If you're lucky enough to live near a bookstore that still allows people to read within them, head over there and scan a few of these books. Ideas and topics will come bursting forth!
A close cousin of using book lists is listening to podcasts. Popular podcasts are a good way to scan for important topics. The trouble is there aren't many B2B-relevant podcasts out there. However, you can search for broad topics and tie their themes to your product to create fresh content.
Let's say you want to figure out what your customers' pain points are. Or you want to get their thoughts on which features they'd like in an upcoming release. What's the best way to figure these out? You ask them, of course!
Instead of asking your audience for just feedback and pain points, you can ask them what they want to learn more about. Keep a track of your engagement metrics to figure out which topics resonate with your audience.
Create polls connected to a topic that has high engagement and check whether your audience wants a deeper breakdown of your content. For example, let's say you read my article about addressing controversial topics in B2B marketing and want to learn more about evaluating trust.
Would you be interested in reading something like "X indicators your audience trusts you"? Of course you would! Your audience is a valuable asset. You can source more than just money from them.
The above is one way of crowdsourcing your content. You can spotlight members of your audience through case studies and success stories as well. Repurpose that into a video and add it to your sales collateral stack. Create an infographic from the case study. That's content repurposing done right.
You can even go the social media giant route and ask your audience to generate content for you. Admittedly, this is a tough task in B2B Fintech and SaaS. However, can you weave together a customer testimonial with highlights from a whitepaper or case study to generate a small series of blog posts? Yes you can!
So stop relying on the tired old trope of "repurposing" old content when you run out of ideas. That method will have you updating old posts with a few modern stats and releasing it into the wild. You’re better than that!
What's the easiest way to generate fresh content and sound relevant? Simple, go out and talk to your peers and influencers in your niche and publish your findings in a study. This tactic gives you the added bonus of sounding intelligent as well.
The term "commission a study" conjures images of white-coated nerds huddled over graphs and charts. I'm sure there are a few studies that are conducted in that manner.
However here's a little secret. As every management consultant worth their salt will tell you, a study is only as complex as you want it to be. For obvious reasons you want to present your findings using the most credible sampling and analysis techniques.
The beauty of a study is that you're free to explore pretty much any topic or angle you want. Think B2B content marketing is relying too little on chatbots? Commission a chatbot study! Think marketing is the saviour of small businesses after the pandemic? Commission a study exploring small business marketing!
Your choices are endless. A great way to boost the credibility of your study is to rope in a well known influencer into the report. For example, you could take a look at something an influencer wrote about recently or talked about on another platform and explore that idea . Get creative with it!
By crediting the influencer on the report, you're creating a content outlet for it and at least one credible link. This will give your findings a nice boost out of the gate once you release it.
Stir Something Up
Call this the 90's upcoming rapper street cred strategy.
The 90s upcoming rapper recognized the power of controversy with regards to drumming up attention. Whether it's taking pot shots at notable figures in the industry or challenging existing norms, controversy sells.
Social media's engagement driven model doesn't discriminate between positive and negative engagement. It's all shares, comments, and views as far as the bots (and the humans running them) are concerned.
I'm not saying you should stir things up just for the sake of it. You have your brand image to consider as well. The question of whether B2B brands should address controversy is a long standing one. Ultimately, it comes down to trust.
How well does your customer trust you and are they willing to have that uncomfortable conversation with you? If you don't have enough trust built with your audience and present a left field take, you could land flat on your face.
Needless to say, your take has to make sense to preserve your credibility. Backing up your take with proof and action is essential if you want your controversial take to have a positive impact on your engagement. If you don't do this, you risk being the most shamed brand on social media.
After all, the bots don't care about positive or negative.
Monitor Topic Clusters
Given the analytical bent of today's marketing landscape, I couldn't finish this article without a nod to analytics. Most of the usual stuff about content generation ideas will tell you to look at articles and content that your visitors are interacting with the most.
However, what exactly are you supposed to do with this? Let's say every visitor on my website starts reading my take on why the person in the middle seat gets both armrests (Oh yeah, I went there!).
What am I supposed to do with this information? Write more content about armrest design? Instead of monitoring individual content, zoom out a bit and take a look at topic cluster consumption. If your articles aren't clustered, then categorize them immediately.
Your clusters are equal to content themes. It's far easier to create content based on themes than individual topics. Some topics don't have much meat on them. A cluster is guaranteed to have some angle you can explore further.
You can aggregate the usual metrics such as time spent on page, clicks, and CTRs to create a quantitative framework and determine which angle might work best. There's a wealth of information in your data but you need to marry it to an intelligent process.
Bonus: Read a Lot and Practice Creativity
Creativity is thought of as being spontaneous and this largely holds true. However, you can practice being spontaneous by exercising your creative muscles .
A personal favourite of mine is to head over to Reddit's r/Writingprompts and take a look at what I can come up with. It's not difficult to begin with aliens landing on Earth and end with an epilogue about your protagonist vampire finding suitable housing in London.
Go where your brain takes you!
The best writers are readers. The more you read, the more you realize that many of the best ideas come from little tweaks, not earth-shattering conclusions. Take a big idea, tweak it here, nip it there, add some salt and pepper on it, and voila! You have a fresh take.
Combining these tips with existing wisdom will give you a good number of ideas to explore further. As intimidating as your deadline or empty content calendar looks, don't fret! There are many ideas out there.
All it takes is some creativity to squeeze it out onto your page.