Marcus Schaller, President of B2B for Humans, a firm specializing in marketing, prospecting, and lead generation, is also a myBrainshark Learning Provider.
It’s the reason so many blogs, tweets, Facebook updates and webinars are ignored. If your content is going to break through and connect, you'll need a way to discover the topics that are most important to your audience. Quality over quantity. Ironically, since only a fraction of your ideas are going to be worth developing, you’ll need to start with quantity over quality; a large and diverse pool of ideas from which to discover the winners and weed out the duds.
Here are three steps to help you focus your energy on topics that are most likely to attract readers and convert them into leads.
Step 1: Develop Your Sources of New Ideas
Great ideas are all around you and easy to find if you know where to look. Taking the time up front to set up multiple topic sources will make the process as automatic and efficient as possible, giving you more time to fully develop your best ideas.
Source: The Problems Your Products and Services Solve
Clearly defining the problems your company solves is the starting point for your search and makes the rest of your content marketing decisions much easier.
Think high level and low level problems. For example, a CRM software package may solve high level problems like:
Losing sales due to incomplete or inaccurate real-time intel
Lack of a structured, automated follow-up process
This company’s content should help their readers address these high level problems as well as related lower level problems like:
Not knowing how to manage and analyze sales data
Lack of awareness of follow-up best practices
Poor communication between sales and marketing departments
Specificity is a huge competitive advantage and will make your topics and solutions much more attractive to your market.
Source: Your team
Your staff is the single most reliable and accessible source of content ideas. People at every level in your company will see your business in unique ways, and most will be happy to share their ideas and points of view. Tap into your:
Front line sales and service teams who interact daily with customers
Executive and C-level leaders who understand the big picture issues and trends that affect the industries you serve
Freelancers and vendors who work with other companies that serve your market
Source: Customers, Prospects and Readers
Getting feedback from your audience and customers is a critical step to finding out what they really care about. We should view our own assumptions simply as a starting point.
Ask your customers, prospects and readers to
Contribute guest posts or let you interview them about the challenges they face
Complete surveys and polls about the solutions that matter most to them
Share their thoughts and comments on your blog posts and forums
Source: Your Market
One thing that never changes is that everything changes, and it’s this chaos that creates opportunities to deliver valuable content.
If you can help your readers keep up with important changes within their industries and careers, you’ll establish your company as an invaluable resource. Monitor industry related Twitter feeds, blogs, magazines and forums for the trigger events that affect your customers and prospects, then create content that helps your readers make sense of these changes.
Regardless of the source, your content ideas should all relate back to the problems your products and services solve. This keeps you focused on the needs of the people and companies most likely to become customers.
Step 2: Capture and Organize Topics
Managing multiple sources of ideas can quickly become overwhelming. 20 great topics do you no good if you can’t make sense of how they relate to each other, which have the most potential, and where to start.
Create a clear SOP for how your team should share ideas. The process can be as simple as sending you an email with “content idea” in the subject line and a brief description in the body. Or it can be as formal as a weekly content brainstorming meeting. Regardless of your process, it’s critical to define ways for your team to contribute their insight.
Step 3: Test Topics
The goal of your content marketing strategy should be to publish only the most engaging and useful information for your audience. The most valuable blogs, white papers, and webinars have two things in common:
1) They solve a specific and important problem
2) They offer solutions that are not easily found elsewhere
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of topics, you can test your best ideas using Adwords, existing email lists, Twitter, Blog posts and Facebook updates. The key is to start with the simplest, most flexible media first.
Don’t fall in love with a topic and spend six weeks creating a complicated white paper. Start with a simple blog post or Facebook poll to get a sense of the topic’s value to your audience. Then you can build on the those solutions that resonate with your readers.
For more details on developing new topic ideas, watch my Brainshark on-demand workshop Endless Ideas: Where And How To Discover The Content Topics That Matter Most To Your Audience.
Marcus Schaller is a B2B content marketing strategist and author of Disconnect: 4 Reasons Why B2B Content Marketing Fails and How To Fix It, available at B2BforHumans.com.