How to Find Content Marketing Ideas

The content well has run dry. Now what?

Rearview shot of a young businesswoman writing down ideas on a glass wall in her office

It happens to all of us. Some weeks, we’ve got so many new content ideas we can barely get them all down. But occasionally—probably more often than any of us would care to admit—the well runs dry.

What’s a content marketer to do? Go out searching for new content marketing ideas, of course.

Here are four tried-and-true tactics for generating new content marketing ideas:

Address the pain points of your target audience. 

When in doubt, always come back to your audience. Because if your new content doesn’t resonate with them, then you might as well save yourself all the effort of creating content in the first place. Take a walk, go to a movie — do anything but create content your audience will ignore.

So how do you know what your audience cares about? Start with their pain points. If your audience is tax accountants, then their pain points might include:

  • Document management: How do I keep track of all the physical and digital documents I need to close the books?
  • Regulation and compliance: How do I stay on top of evolving reporting guidance and tax rules that I need to follow?
  • Company culture: How do I ensure my staff and colleagues are both productive and satisfied in their careers?
  • Managing stress and burnout: How can I care for my mental health when pressures mount — particularly during busy season?

Notice that I phrased each pain point as a question in the first-person. This is a really effective way to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. It also provides you, the content marketer, with a jumping-off point to find content marketing ideas and execute on them. If your content — whether it’s a blog post, podcast or video — can answer a question your audience has, that’s a content home run. 

Look at what the competition is doing—and do it better.

I often see marketers get a little too obsessed about what the competition is doing, but a little bit of competitive content research can go a long way. 

There’s really no magic number to how many competitors you should look at, but any more than five is verging on overkill. Simply write down the competitors whose lunch you are most interested in eating and, one by one, take stock of the content they are creating across channels.

If you want to get audit-level granular, create a spreadsheet and document the following for each piece of content: 

  • Topic
  • Audience 
  • Theme
  • Sophistication Level 
  • Tone 
  • CTA (Is there one? What is it?)
  • Shelf Life (Timely or evergreen?)

Deep competitive content audits can help you build a long-term content marketing strategy, but  if you’re just looking for new content marketing ideas, then that level of analysis might not be necessary. 

As a quick-and-dirty exercise, you can just skim the headlines of the blog posts, reports and videos of your competitors. Any topics that are performing well (e.g., they’ve garnered lots of views on YouTube or attracted a lot of comments or social shares) could be worth pursuing. The catch is that you can’t just replicate the content of your competitors. You need to either find a new angle on the topic, or execute the same angle more effectively. Preferably, you do both. 

For example, maybe your competitor has a 300-word blog post titled “Tracking On- and Offline Docs in a Digital World” that’s gotten some traction on social media. In it, they’ve provided three high-level tips that most accountants have probably tried before. As you pursue this content marketing idea, seize the opportunity to go deeper in your research as you uncover novel solutions to this audience-specific problem. Reach out to actual tax accountants who have solved the document management problem. Email them, get them on the phone, and really drill down into the processes, software, tips, and methods they use to wrangle financial documentation. After putting in the work, you could have a new 1,200-word blog post: “Tax Accountants Share These 11 Proven Ways to Manage Physical and Digital Documents.” Same topic? Yep. Same content? Nope — yours is way better and has a great chance of outperforming the competition over time.

Consider how the latest news relates to your audience.

If you’re looking for quick content inspiration, newspapers and magazines can be your muse. New technologies are always coming to market. Companies are being founded, scaled and acquired. Different generations, from high schoolers to seniors, are adopting new trends and behaviors. Interest rates, unemployment numbers, company annual reports — economic news never stops.

And all of it can relate to your audience. Your job, as a content marketer, is to make that connection for them.  How does the devaluation of a once-high-flying fintech impact accountants? How does virtual reality relate to people with dementia? How do interest rates affect AirBnb hosts?

All intriguing content ideas, but don’t delay. The sooner you can publish your thoughts on newsworthy topics, the more likely your efforts are to get results.

Although social platforms emit more noise than a group of Harley Davidson enthusiasts on their way to Sturgis while you’re just trying to enjoy an al fresco brunch, thought-provoking topics do bubble up on social media with impressive frequency.

Keep an eye out for question-posts that attract lots of answers, like this one. Threads comprising several posts linked together that generate strong engagement can also serve as inspiration for new content ideas. Trending social conversations show you that there’s already interest in the topic, so you can use that insight to create high-performing new content for your own brand.

Just remember: Your new content ideas can’t just be interesting to you—they must always be engaging to your audience.

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