Interesting and relevant topic ideas don’t always need to come from a team brainstorming meeting, amind-mapping exercise, or afocused research session. As I always say in content marketing workshops I teach: “Every moment is a content opportunity.” You just need to open up your eyes and know where to look.
To be clear, this thinking doesn’t assume the unrealistic mindset of optimism where you repeat, “I think I can, I think I can,” to convince yourself you have something when you’re really grasping at straws. Instead, you must grow your perspective as a content creator, as a marketer, and as a human to see the diamonds hidden in the rough.
If you’re passionate about what you do, this shouldn’t come as a hard task. You, like me, are probably constantly reading articles in your niche, scoping the competition, having conversations about your work, talking with customers, and generally being interested in what you do. Some of the best content ideas I’ve discovered have come out of seemingly disparate life experiences to my marketing industry – taking a yoga class, reading a design blog, volunteering, conversing with friends, and on and on.
Drawing from these places not only makes my time sitting down to create content easier, but the content becomes much more rich and interesting for someone consuming it. Why? Because the idea and the content are born out of my direct experience and I can speak intelligently on something that resonates with me. People are attracted naturally.
Let’s look at five sources that can help you shift your mindset to find content opportunities anywhere at anytime. Keep in mind, this is a way to expand your “content awareness” and uncover new opportunities with relatively little effort (and who doesn’t like that?).
1. Your colleagues
Whether you work in an office or remotely, you collaborate with someone, somehow. Why not use every interaction to dig for content topics? Look for trends, reoccurrences, questions that need answering, and gaps that need filling; that’s where good content lives. Use these questions as prompts:
- What is a common theme I keep hearing in meetings?
- How can I make a certain process, system, or product better?
- What are some interesting stories I heard throughout the day?
- What’s the theme of our company meeting? Why is that important?
- What is our latest company news?
Tip: You’re not the only one who will have lightning-bolt moments. Make it easy for yourself and your team by setting up an email account such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” where anyone can send content ideas as they arise.
2. Your customers
Your customers are huge beacons of topic ideas because they possess direct insight into the heart of your business. They’re most likely asking you questions all the time about your business/product/service, so use that engagement. Here are three prompts that will help you start to notice customer-derived content opportunities:
- What questions do I get asked all the time?
- Why do I get asked those questions?
- How can I give better answers to the questions?
Tip: Nobody is better at answering questions and overcoming objections than your sales team members. The Sent folder of their email account is your gold mine. You’ll find mini blog posts in there just itching to be published … this is what I call “content magic.”
3. Your industry
Most marketers have a good pulse on their industry because they have to keep ahead of the curve. Use this to your advantage and see what can inspire you among the things in which you’re already taking part. You never know where the next idea will come from:
- Industry blogs and websites
- Events and conferences
Tip: Set up Google Alerts for mentions of key phrases that would be relevant or even peripheral to your business. You never know when something may spark your mind. These alerts are timely and come straight to your Inbox. You also can monitor social media with tools like Social Mention or Topsy.
4. Your personal life
There’s no division of church and state when it comes to content marketing. Topics can be found everywhere — even in your personal life. Some of the most powerful pieces of content can marry the business aspect of things with a personal narrative. Always be on the lookout for road signs that may point to content ideas from conversations, experiences, or shifts in your own internal landscape.
Tip: Your content ideas don’t need to be literal. Usually they come from inspiration. For example, I’ve been personally interested in productivity and making small improvements for big impact that compound over time, and I ended up writing a piece on how that perspective can intersect with content marketing. Look for the tangential connections with your life and content, and you may be surprised the connections you can make.
5. The stuff you wouldn’t expect
This is the one category in which you can’t really look because you never know where content inspiration will strike. Right now, I’m creating a piece about guacamole … for a content marketing blog. It doesn’t sound like it would make sense, but I saw something about guacamole and I ran with it as the foundation for my piece. Keep your mind open and you never know what you may stumble upon.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute