Years ago, we set out to answer the question “Where do good ideas come from?” for a course we developed for Columbia University’s graduate program in Information and Knowledge Strategy. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized we needed to reevaluate the basis of this question. Good content marketing ideas don’t just come to us. They aren’t simply lying around like seashells on a beach waiting for us to pick them up, nor are they so random.
Viewing brainstorming through that lense doesn’t give adequate credit to the creative enterprise of an individual or group, or the focused action that takes place in our brains. Thus, we decided to deconstruct the question. Instead of asking where good ideas come from, we wanted to look at the elements that help us generate good content marketing ideas (or any ideas, for that matter). Once we did that we realized there were clear and specific ways we could help our team (and yours) find great ideas consistently.
How to Come Up with Good Content Marketing Ideas
No matter what type of content marketing ideas you’re looking for, from infographics and interactives to videos and data visualizations, these 5 tips can help you find the right ideas faster and with less frustration. We hope they help.
1) Place Yourself In a Pleasing Environment
Your physical (and psychic) environment has a huge affect 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.
We might go to a coffee shop off-site, sit outdoors, or even take a brainstorm walk. (Studies have actually shown walking to be tremendously beneficial for creative thinking.)
2) Practice Methods of Obtaining Ideas to Make Use of Them Later
There’s nothing more frustrating than coming up with a great idea during a brainstorm (or even the seed of a brainstorm) and realizing that nobody wrote it down. To ensure that no idea goes wasted, it helps to assign a point-person for brainstorms, someone who can run the agenda, document ideas, organize, and store them for later.
3) Vet Your Ideas Through Different Types of Cognitive Thinkers
If you find your communication breaking down during brainstorms and your team getting frustrated with one another, we guarantee you haven’t researched creative thinking. One of the most fascinating insights we’ve ever discovered was the four types of creative thinkers.
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.
(FYI, we also know that different people absorb information differently. Thus, we also distilled these brainstorming tips into the motion graphic below for those audio/visual learners on your team.)
4) Continue the Pursuit (No Matter How Often You Fail)
Failure is a given in creative work. But learning to persevere, improve, and maintain resilience is vital to cultivate creative confidence. (That’s also why one of our core values is “Experiment Often.”). For every failure you have, you can learn from your mistakes and set yourself up for better success next time. Even better, you can also help others by sharing what you’ve learned from your creative failures.
5) Deconstruct Ideas That Worked
The same way you deconstruct your creative failures, you should also look for common threads in your successes. 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.
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.
- Know your goals. It’s easier to ideate within parameters. Before you dive into content brainstorms, document your content strategy to ensure your ideas help your brand’s long-term vision.
- Set yourself up for success. Follow these 10 tips to brainstorm more efficiently. (Pro tip: Ditch your cellphones during the meeting.)
- Keep communication open. If there are frustrations, concerns, or tips to improve things as you go, encourage dialogue and provide an avenue to do so.
- Vet every idea. Don’t green light anything before you’ve asked yourself these 5 questions to know if your content idea will work. (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 try these 5 ideas 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.