The cornerstone of any successful inbound marketing campaign lies with content, and blogging plays a big role content development.
But what if you don't know where to start when it comes to blog ideas?
I've got some good news for you...this is completely normal. You don't have to be a "creative" type or have a degree in Journalism. You don't even have to vanish into the desert on a month long peyote binge to "free you mind" (I know that may disappoint some of you).
All you have to do is know how to gather ideas. That's it.
And to make your blogging life even easier, this article will give you twelve ways you can do that.
Let's do this.
1. Ask Your Customers
These people buy from you and (hopefully) like what you do. They're more than willing than most others to answer some simple and direct questions from you.
That conversation is very simple and goes a little something like this...
"Hi Bob. We're working on creating valuable articles for our clients to help make their lives a little easier when it comes to our industry. Given your experience working with us and our product, what do you think would be useful for you to know?"
You can also finish up with, "What information would've made your decision to buy from us that much easier?"
Your client answers the question. You write it down. You crank out a killer blog. Boom.
2. Use Your Customer Survey Data
While we're on the topic of customers, you can also use the survey data you gather from them each month, quarter or year.
"What if I'm not surveying my customers," you say? To which I reply, "Ugh!" dramatically slapping my palm against my forehead. You HAVE to be gathering client data. Not negotiable. Get a Survey Monkey account and get crackin' (here are some survey tips to help you get started).
Now, once you have your data back from your customers, you'll quickly see some trends, good or bad. You can use the negative feedback to your advantage. Sometimes negative feedback doesn't necessarily mean you suck. It can mean that proper expectations weren't set or the client is misinformed about that aspect of your business.
So, you take whatever they think sucks and turn it into a blog article! For example, if they think your product or service is too confusing to use, you can create blog articles on "How to do X."
Not only did you get a sweet blog idea from from the survey but you also get to leverage this new blog to help resolve this issue with future clients.
3. Record Your Conversations
To avoid losing friends or a possible restraining order, make sure these are work related conversations.
Whenever you and your team are in the conference room or out for coffee discussing work stuff, take a recorder along to capture some of those ideas. I do this all the time and often just use my smart phone. Super simple.
Not only will this help you generate blog topics but it also serves as a great method to hold you and your team accountable - not to mention preserve some of the ideas that tend to get lost amidst a hectic week.
4. List the Features of Your Product/Service
This method is one of the easiest because we know a lot about our own business.
List the features of your product or service, one by one. Then use each one to base a blog topic on. It helps if you cover why this feature is important, what it does for the buyer, how it works and how it plays a role in the greater scheme of your offerings.
For example, a network security firm might write a blog about firewalls or anti-virus software.
5. Interview Someone Noteable in Your Industry
Interviewing other major players in your industry is a great way to generate blog ideas because it carries three benefits in one tactic:
- Helps improve your company's authority by association
- Increases your involvement with influencers
- Potentially increases your blog's reach
Make a list of everyone who's "somebody" in your industry. Then think of questions you'd like to ask them centered around the info you've gathered from your customers or prospects.
You'd be surprised at how many of these people will gladly volunteer to answer your questions. Just shoot them an email, tweet or message letting them know you'd like to interview them. If you're successful in interviewing them and composing a blog, they may even share it with their own followers -- expanding your reach dramatically!
6. Write a Book Review
I'm sure there are some great books related to your industry. Books you read while you were getting started that really fueled your ambition, saved you time from trial and error or even just revealed a new and interesting perspective on your industry.
By writing a detailed review outlining what you thought were good and perhaps even bad points in the book, you start to build your brand's personality, authority and possibly even reinforce your positioning within your market. Your prospects and clients may find this interesting and will also see that your company is dedicated to staying "in the know."
Like the interview above, you might want to consider sharing your review with the author, who may in turn, share it with their own followers.
7. Talk to Your Sales Team
Here's a content generation technique that gets overlooked all...the...time.
Why? Because your sales team is running around making calls, setting appointments and closing deals. If they're hardly making time to update the CRM, you think they're going to make time to craft a blog article?
However, your sales team is absolutely LOADED with great content ideas because they are in the trenches with your prospects, day in and day out. They are on the front lines, gathering intel on prospects, competitors and industry news -- whether they know it or not.
So, while they may not craft blog articles for you, they may hang out with you for a few minutes during lunch to answer some of your questions. Come prepared though, while the data is extremely valuable, your time will be limited.
Ultimately, it's your sales team who benefits from content marketing - if they get that, they'll make time.
8. Highlight Your Staff
Here's another easy one.
Pick a team member and get their approval to write an article about them. Be sure to not just focus on their job, but their personal interests as well.
While this type of blog can really help strengthen your brand's voice and promote it's culture, it can also be less popular among leadership -- especially if your company has a higher staff turnover rate.
If you're not in a leadership position at your company, make sure you get clearance on this tactic first.
9. Leverage Your Partners
It's highly likely that your company has some strategic or even channel partners, especially if you're in the services industry.
There are typically three ways you can leverage your partners for blog ideas:
- Ask them to craft a blog for you.
- Interview them (following step 5 above).
- Have them send you articles (or websites) they use to gain insight.
If you can get them to commit to step one, you're on easy street. Otherwise, they're still a great resource for content ideas.
Pro Tip: If your partners are large enough, don't forget to ask them about marketing development funds (MDFs)! If you can show them a simple campaign concept in which they can push their product/service along with your own, they'll often make a financial contribution to your efforts.
You can use this to hire an expert writer, automate your email marketing with new software or even advertise the content you create.
10. Offer Your Take on Industry News & Events
If you're staying up on industry news and events (which we should all be doing), than don't be scared to tell the world what you think about it.
Subscribe to blogs and newsletters that you feel are delivering truly valuable and relevant content. Likewise, attend conferences and events that you feel are the best in your industry.
Doing these things will give you a TON of useful blog ideas without having to pull them from thin air. As always, once you've written your blog, share it with the author or event hosts who inspired you and you may get some extra exposure from it.
11. Invite Guest Bloggers
Look into your network of partners, colleagues and industry mavens to see who writes great content. Then, reach out to them and see if they'd be interested in writing a blog article for you.
People like to write guest blogs for two general reasons: (1) It gives them the opportunity to reach a new (your) audience, and (2) they'll get one or two backlinks to their website -- which can be good for SEO.
This means you'll have to have a decent website that's not some outdated old dinosaur. It would help if it has good domain authority too.
Now, whether you or the guest blogger comes up with the blog idea is up to you, but sometimes it's good to let them generate the topic. Sometimes this can lead to content you wouldn't have thought of, yet is still quiet useful to your readers.
12. Hire Someone
And finally, we've got this least creative, yet sometimes most effective method for generating blog ideas.
Hiring a blogger or agency for content marketing services can really help kick your blogs into gear. If you've got the budget to hire someone, you'll be making an wise investment in the future of your online marketing and lead generation.
There are three killer benefits that come standard when hiring an agency to do the blogging for you:
- They have the resources to crank out as many blogs out as you need (preferably at least once per week) in a highly organized fashion.
- They should have enough digital marketing knowledge to tie your blogs into a specific keyword strategy that improves your SEO while also aligning with your digital marketing goals.
- They know how to write copy that isn't just informative, but also compelling, so that your content does what it's suppose to do -- create relationships with customers/prospects, drive more traffic to your site and convert more visitors to leads.
A word of caution: Make sure that if you hire a writer (instead of an agency) that they are clued into what you want to achieve with your online marketing efforts. Not all writers are actually marketing savvy since they're very different worlds.
Crafting great blogs...
There are a ton of companies (including your competitors) engaging in content marketing and inbound marketing these days. This increasing popularity shouldn't dissuade you. Blogging is popular because it's proven to not just generate traffic and leads, but deliver a very low cost-per-lead as well.
Just be sure you're sticking to these basic blogging guidelines for each and every one you produce and remember that your blogs are more than just simple articles -- they're a gateway to your marketing and sales funnel. You need a marketing strategy first, blogging strategy second.