When was the last time you hosted a content marketing brainstorm that was really productive? One that ended with actionable ideas (not out-of-scope concepts or copycats of everything your competitors are doing)? If that sounds familiar, don’t feel bad.
Coming up with strong ideas is one of the most challenging parts of content marketing. But your brainstorms don’t have to suck. With a little planning and structure, you can ensure that every meeting is as productive as possible—and the ideas you come up with will actually help you achieve your marketing goals.
How to Come Up with Good Content Marketing Ideas
From infographics and e-books to videos and interactives, we’ve brainstormed simple pieces and massive campaigns to help our clients connect with their audiences. In the process, we’ve also learned what does and doesn’t work when you’re trying to come up with fresh ideas.
No matter what type of content marketing ideas you’re looking for, these 10 tips can help you find the right ideas faster and with less frustration.
1) Assemble the right team.
“The more the merrier” might seem like a good idea when it comes to brainstorming, but it usually has the opposite effect. Usually, a few people talk while the majority stay quiet or tune out entirely.
Think about including the key stakeholders at each stage of the content production process (and anyone else who might add value to your brainstorm).
Tip: To ensure a successful brainstorm, try to keep it under seven people. Any larger and people tend to shut down.
2) Set expectations.
Clearly define the meeting objectives. Trust us, a “general ideas” brainstorm rarely produces truly actionable ideas that are aligned to your larger goals. Whoever is leading the charge should send a brainstorm brief at least a day ahead that defines the content goals, and encourage everyone to come to the meeting with a specific number of ideas (3-5 is a pretty good number to start).
3) Change your environment.
Your physical (and psychic) environment has a huge effect on how you work. That goes for collaboration, creative endeavors, and pretty much everything that requires focused thinking. When you’re struggling to come up with ideas, it helps to mix it up. Our team does this in several ways.
Tip: In a post-pandemic world, you might go to a coffee shop off-site, sit outdoors, or even take a brainstorming walk. (Studies have shown that walking is tremendously beneficial for creative thinking. You can still do a walk-and-talk call if you’re working remotely.
#TBT: We miss the days when we could work together IRL.
4) Document every idea.
There’s nothing more frustrating than coming up with a great idea during a brainstorm (or even the seed of an idea) and realizing that nobody wrote it down. To ensure that no idea goes wasted, it helps to assign point people to run each meeting.
Tip: Choose individuals who can run the agenda, time-keep, and note-take. BTW, even if you don’t use these ideas this go around, they might come in handy in the future.
Let’s be real: Creative thinking just doesn’t happen when you have Slack notifications, text messages, and emails coming in left and right. This one may seem extreme, but setting yourself free of all technological distractions can be very effective.
If you’re working in person, you may ask people to ditch cell phones or even laptops. If you’re working remotely, that may institute a “no cell phones while on Zoom” rule—or request that everyone’s notifications are turned off. This way everyone can stay present and engaged in the brainstorm.
Tip: Let your team talk ideas out, and have the note-taker take it all down. This way everyone else can let ideas flow freely without stopping to document everything.
For more practical tips to improve your brainstorms, see our SlideShare.
6) Hold back criticism.
People say there are no bad ideas. We’d say there certainly are, but oftentimes a bad idea can trigger a thought that inspires a really good idea. So don’t censor yourself. The truth is most ideas are fragile and need time to incubate. Don’t kill them immediately by criticizing. It’s important to build an inclusive environment where people feel safe, encouraged, and enthusiastic about sharing their ideas.
Tip: Make a “no interruptions” rule while someone is sharing an idea. This gives people time to really listen and compose their thoughts before they ask questions or share feedback about the idea.
7) Vet your ideas through personas.
Good content marketing ideas provide value to people in some way. Whether your idea is educational, entertaining, or inspirational, you should be able to clearly identify how and why your target audience would find it interesting and relevant. If you can’t answer that question, you shouldn’t proceed with the idea. The good news is that this simple practice can help you easily identify your best ideas.
Tip: If you’re not sure who you’re trying to reach, use our guide to craft useful marketing personas. You should also ask yourself these 5 questions to know if your content idea will work.
8) Vet your ideas through different types of cognitive thinkers.
Even if your idea does speak to your audience, if it doesn’t support your larger marketing goals, it won’t be effective. The problem is it’s easy to get excited about a singular idea, especially if you’re the one who came up with it, and forget to look at the larger picture. Luckily, since you’re working with a group, it’s easier to vet your ideas to make sure they really align.
If you’re not familiar with the four types of creative thinkers, you should be. (Seriously, go read that article. We’ll wait.)
This framework is hugely beneficial to help you:
- Identify how different people think (including yourself)
- Understand how their type of thinking influences their behavior (and might frustrate you)
- Learn how to use their special thinking to improve your ideas
For example, if you perceive that someone is constantly shooting down your ideas or poking holes in a concept, you’re actually dealing with an Agile Strategist, someone whose superpower is critical thinking. We can say firsthand that understanding these dynamics has hugely improved our interactions and ideations.
Tip: You probably have a mix of the four creative thinkers in the room. So before you move forward with an idea, encourage your team to point out any potential pitfalls or opportunities you might be missing.
9) Combine and improve ideas.
Hivemind can be a beautiful thing, helping you bring your best ideas to the forefront. While this isn’t always going to work, sometimes you can give your ideas new life by combining them. For example, if you have an idea for a how-to article but want to do a video campaign on your social channels, turning that how-to article into an explainer video might be a better idea.
Tip: A good content marketing idea comes to life through multiple elements: the core idea, the copywriting, the design, the format, etc. If you can’t decide between two ideas, think about which elements would be best combined.
10) Deconstruct ideas that worked.
A successful idea can feel like a lightning strike, but there are probably very specific reasons it worked. When you’re looking for future inspiration, look back at your most successful content.
- Who did it speak to?
- What value did it provide?
- What worked throughout the process?
- What could have been improved?
- What have you learned?
While you can’t necessarily replicate the formula each time, you can learn what elements can bolster (or hurt) your creativity.
Tip: If you want to understand the keys to your most successful content (and find out how it stands up to your competitors), do a full content audit.
FYI, we know that different people absorb information differently. If you want to share some of these concepts with the audio/visual learners on your team, see the video below.
More Tips for Good Content Marketing Ideas
There are many ways to come up with content marketing ideas, and part of the path of creativity is discovering those. That said, there are a few extra tips that can help you find those ideas faster.
- Look for inspiration in unexpected places. For example, you might dive into your internal data to uncover unique content marketing ideas. Find out where to source your data and how to find the story in it.
- Share your failures. Failure is a given in creative work. But learning to persevere, improve, and maintain resilience is vital to cultivate creative confidence. Any time you fail, think about how you can share what you’ve learned to help others avoid the same mistakes. For example, we’ve turned our mistakes into lessons about content strategy, infographics, and more.
- Use helpful prompts. For more tips on brainstorming and vetting content marketing ideas, ask these 5 questions to brainstorm interactive ideas, experiment with 16 ways to think of great infographic ideas, and use these 5 prompts to help you tell your brand story.
And if you need help coming up with ideas—or turning your ideas into interesting brand storytelling—hit us up.