Even the most innovative marketers sometimes hit a wall when it comes to creating content.
Sometimes the industry is slow, the market is lagging, or the product/service you offer just doesn’t change much. It can feel like there’s nothing left to say, but that’s never actually the case. You just need some fresh inspiration to get back on track.
Here are six ways to keep your content fresh and flowing:
1. Look Around
It’s so easy to get buried in blogs, social media, and other digital channels that we forget to look up now and then. But checking in with the real world once in awhile can lend a fresh perspective to your content. Don’t stop looking for ways to incorporate your own daily challenges into your content.
I find inspiration in everyday situations: on the train, in line at the grocery store, at parties, on Facebook. I purposely look for ways to link the topics I’m writing about to everyday challenges. I use television, music, people-watching, and the web. Wikipedia is a great place for inspiration. Search for a topic (or select the “Random topic of the day”) and explore what pops up.
2. Look at Your Industry From a New Angle
The most successful content brings something to the table that isn’t necessarily being offered anywhere else, but coming up with new ideas is tricky when there is so much focus on content creation.
If you feel like everything that can be said about your industry has been said, you’re not alone. But you’re also not correct. Finding new angles on topics that may have been covered extensively is possible when you alter your perspective a bit.
Gary Dek is an internet entrepreneur who writes about blogging at StartABlog123. He’s found success in content creation by reading content from others in the industry—and considering what they aren’t saying.
If you are active in your niche, you should be finding great inspiration from the other blogs you read. However, for something truly unique and innovative, take 15 to 30 minutes a day and ponder trends in your industry, the needs of consumers and businesses, possible solutions, and other issues that may be getting ignored by the “experts” and “leaders” in your niche.
As the CEO of Content Science, a content intelligence and strategy firm based in Atlanta, Colleen Jones knows what works. Her 20 years of experience includes leadership roles with the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention and Cingular Wireless (now AT&T).
The best inspiration for creating content is empathy for your customer or user. Imagine walking a mile—or several—in their shoes. Think about their goals, needs, and questions along the way. You’ll come up with a long list of content ideas in no time.
Russell Sparkman, CEO of the New Jersey-based Fusion Spark Media, connects inspiration and strategy:
These days, we begin relationships with clients by asking the question “What’s your purpose?” This is, perhaps, one of the most important content strategy questions to ask these days. Answering the question about your purpose can uncover deeper meaning about why you do what you do. Almost every product or service has an answer to the deeper meaning of their business that can be turned into creative content ideas, ranging from mini-documentaries for a brand to content that educates the customer. The former may offer content that serves a greater good, while the latter is content that has practical value, such as how-to content.
3. Utilize New Tools
There’s no shortage of tools that can foster content inspiration, from those that are specifically designed to facilitate content creation, like BuzzSumo, to the ubiquitous search engine.
Russell Sparkman, has been pushing content marketing outside the box since 2000. Russell’s most inspirational tool is one you probably use daily:
Google. Prior to the internet and Google, artists would seek out libraries, book stores, galleries, and museums to help inspire creative sparks. While these remain great “tools” for inspiration, nothing beats Google when it comes to doing the research and the insight-gathering you hope will lead to creative ideas.
Try doing a Google image search for some of your keywords or core business ideas; an image might spark a creative angle. You can also conduct a normal web search and scroll to the bottom of the results page to see what Google recommends under, “Searches related to.”
Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Specialist at Page One Power, a custom link-building firm based in Boise, Idaho, and a Search Engine Land columnist. Andrew utilizes Google too, but also has an affinity for content intelligence tools.
One of my favorite tools for inspiring content creation is BuzzSumo. I use BuzzSumo to find popular topics within my niche and gain insight into what types of content resonate with my audience. Another helpful tool is BuzzStream Discovery, which I use to follow prominent authors. Seeing what industry leaders are writing and talking about often helps me come up with interesting ideas for my own content.
Avishai Sharon is CEO of the autonomous content marketing attribution solution TrenDemon, based in Israel and New York. A self-described serial entrepreneur with over 16 years of experience in growing companies in the online space, Avishai keeps content fresh by staying on trend and adding visuals.
Tools like PicMonkey and Canva, that allow you to create custom-made visuals to accompany your content, also help to keep it fresh and visually appealing.
Colleen Jones creates her own tool.
When you have the buyer’s journey defined, you can map content ideas to the journey, decide where you need more or less content, and figure out how to deliver the right content at the right moment in the journey. You can make the journey a simple spreadsheet or an engaging infographic, which is helpful if you’re working with several people or teams.
4. Try a New Process
There is no single process for coming up with new content ideas. If your routine is leaving you uninspired, try another way—whether it’s cutting yourself off from all distractions for a while or gathering your team and putting your minds together. You might find that a process you’ve never tried is the one that works best.
Scott Abel’s favorite method may not be accessible for everyone on a regular basis, but can be used to inspire your own distraction-free content creation work space.
Airplanes are my secret inspiration for content creation. I think that’s because a cross-country airplane trip—or better yet, intercontinental voyage—allows one to sit and focus. Few distractions, a solid block of time, and—if you’re lucky—a wifi connection. My inspiration is connected to my desire to finish the work before we land.
By contrast, Andrew Dennis prefers less quiet focus and more interaction as a content strategy:
At Page One Power, we believe in collaboration. We often have brainstorming sessions as a team where we bounce ideas off each other and discuss potential projects. We also keep a “living” Google document that houses ideas and can be accessed and added to by anyone on the team, evolving over time as our strategy evolves.
There are also a few different methods for gathering content ideas from your customers. The most straightforward is to simply ask them (via email, forum, chat, etc.) what questions they have or what topics they would like to see covered on your blog. Another option is to use customer surveys or questionnaires to discover common pain points or areas of interest. You can even use your own internal search (if you’ve set one up) to uncover what topics interest your audience most.
5. Think About Something Else
Sometimes, the best way to find content inspiration is to stop thinking about content inspiration. Russell Sparkman agrees:
If you’re in need of “reinvigoration,” it means you’re in a seriously deep, non-creative rut. And like other needs—from finding a date to finding a job—the harder you focus on trying to find that one thing, the more likely you are to spin your wheels. So one way to reinvigorate your content creation is to not focus on it at all. Ignore it. Walk away from it. Go do something else, anything else, that gives your mind something else to work on and gets the heart pumping.
One of the best ways to get inspired is to get out there and attend an event, a conference—anything that gets you out of the industry and hearing new perspectives. Scott Abel finds inspiration in cutting-edge presentations.
TED anything will get your mind going. So will conferences about advanced technological topics (cognitive computing, intelligent content, artificial intelligence, smart devices, predictive analytics, machine learning) or conferences dedicated to the discussing what will (or will not) be part of our future.
Joe Cox suggests stepping out of the comfort zone of industry conferences.
Please get outside of your vertical. Find events that your audience attend, not events with groups of marketers talking in an echo chamber. If you want to find inspiration at events, it’s more about seeing your user and things that your user is interested in than it is about you seeing a bunch of case studies. Think more ethnography than personal education.
6. Surround Yourself With Creativity
On the other hand, sometimes you need to get out and convene with other creative people in your industry. Look for events and conferences where you can listen, learn, and share your own expertise with others.
Marketing conferences are full of inspiration, says Avishai Sharon.
Content Marketing World is one of the biggest content marketing events in the world, attracting companies and leading experts from various backgrounds. Conversion Conference is a great event if you’re interested in conversion rate optimization. Last but not least is, of course, Marketo’s The Marketing Nation Summit where the best and the brightest come together to discuss best practices, the latest trends, technologies, and methodologies.
A few other worthy events include:
Content Marketing Inspiration Status: Overflowing
Now that you’re swamped with inspiration, keep it that way. No marketer wants to find him/herself scrambling for content ideas at the last minute, so start building processes to keep the inspiration flowing (if you don’t have them already).
Joe Cox leads Engagement and Media Alignment at Barkley, working with brands like Hershey, Dairy Queen, and WingStop. He keeps content invigorated and on track by ensuring the strategy is continuously active.
We schedule a quarterly workshop with our teams to review current content, editorial authority pillars, and current channels. The desired outcome of these workshops is to decide what large pieces of content strategy need to evolve and to make sure we’re still laser focused on our content business objectives and the metrics that get us there.
The next time you’re in a content rut, try a new angle, tool, or process and then get yourself (and your team) set up to keep the inspiration flowing in the future. What other tips do you have? Share in the comments below!