I recently met with an entrepreneur who was trying to plan out a social media calendar. She asked a question I’ve heard a lot: how do you come up with marketing content ideas? I could say it’s a specialized skill and hand over a consulting proposal [rubbing hands with glee]. But…I think I’ll share a few easy ideas to help bootstrapping entrepreneurs come up with good content topics themselves.

Because the truth is, you can do it. Everything that’s worth saying about your business is already in your head; you just have to tap into what you know about your customers. The key is choosing topics that both resonate with your audience and serve your business goals. Below are five easy, low-tech ways to come up with marketing content ideas for any platform or medium, along with some made-up examples you should totally swipe.

First Things First: Goals & Audience

Before developing content ideas, you should be clear about two things: purpose and audience. Start by answering these two questions:

  • Who should the content be most relevant to?
  • How will that audience benefit from consuming my content?

You can tailor your messaging and content through market segmentation, which means dividing your customers into groups based on common needs. Even if you’re not ready for that in-depth analysis, you can make your content really resonate by zooming in on an aspect of your audience. For example, let’s say you offer a blanket that magically makes babies go to sleep. Your core customer is sleep-deprived parents of newborn children. Let’s narrow that down further to sleep-deprived parents who just had their first child. You’ll get their attention—and earn loyal customers—by addressing their unique needs.

Next, identify how this content serves your business goals. You may want to establish your company as an expert resource. Or grow your potential customer base by engaging more users. Or prompt customers to take action (view a product, read your blog). The trick here is to flip the intention so you’re looking at it from the perspective of the customer: what do they get out of reading/engaging with/clicking on your content?

Now we’ll look at five ways to come up with content ideas for your target audience.

1. Break Big Ideas into Small Pieces

Start with the big picture and work your way down to bite-size topics, then figure out where you can add value to the conversation. This is a good approach for seasonal advice or life hacks. Could you offer a list of recommendations? A how-to tutorial? Some comic relief?

  • Big picture: New parents don’t get enough sleep.
  • Drill down: This makes them tired, which can affect their productivity at work.
  • Add value: Offer advice to help sleep-deprived new parents juggle life at home and in the workplace.
  • Content examples: Share different tips in successive social media posts. Write a LinkedIn article on how to function at work. Create a funny infographic with a baby bedtime workflow.

2. Spin Off Content from Prior Posts

Take a look at your most successful content so far. Which posts had the highest engagement, which blogs have the most comments, which videos received the most views? Now think about ways to expand on some of those topics, by either diving deeper into an individual subject or exploring related ideas.

  • Successful content: Your blog, “Top 10 Newborn Sleep Tips”
  • Spinoff idea: Pick a couple of those tips and dive deeper with additional info.
  • Content examples: Create videos demonstrating bedtime massage techniques or how to swaddle a baby (with links to your website in the description). Share a playlist of sleep-lulling music. Post a list of household items that, in a pinch, make good white-noise machines.

3. Answer Your FAQs

What are the most common questions people ask before buying your product or service? These could come through your customer service reps, social media comments, emails from customers, etc. Customer questions can be a gold mine of content topics that will resonate with your target audience’s needs. Plus, if you find yourself answering the same questions over and over, providing (and promoting!) an informative blog or video is a great way to head off some of those incoming calls and emails.

4. Be the Evil Twin

This one’s kind of fun, I swear. Find popular how-to or best practices articles and create content from the opposite angle—what not to do, mistakes to avoid. I’m not talking about poking holes in other people’s work; I mean flipping the ideas so you’re providing parallel content. Helping your audience avoid mistakes can be as valuable as telling them what to do.

Some ideas for our baby blanket company:

  • 9 Ways to Sabotage Getting Your Baby to Sleep
  • The Most Problematic Foods to Give a Baby Before Bedtime
  • New Parent? The Best—and Worst—Advice Your Coworkers Will Give You

5. Use Questions & Contests

There is no better way to engage your followers and customers than to ask for their input. Try asking thought-provoking questions, soliciting tips and ideas, asking people to post their own stories and photos, or holding contests with a product or gift card as the prize. This type of approach can serve several purposes at once, helping you boost your engagement and visibility on social networks while garnering you valuable content and—ta da!—more fodder for future content topics.

Ideas for our baby blanket company:

  • Ask Facebook fans for their best hacks for getting a baby to sleep, and then send those tips to your email list (crediting each customer’s contribution).
  • Hold a contest asking Instagram followers to post their cutest baby burrito pic with a unique blanket-related hashtag.
  • Share a funny personal story about a new parenting fail, and ask your social media community to share their own.

It’s All About Your Audience

Whatever tack you take, always start here: who is the content for, and how will they benefit from it? The next time you’re stuck for topics, trying to fill out a social media calendar or come up with blog ideas, remember your company purpose. You’re trying to solve a specific set of problems for a specific kind of customer—so, if you were them, what would be of the most value to you? When it comes to writing that content, take a few tips from our blog on powerful words.


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