5 ways to develop content ideas for any industry

You have your content marketing strategy pulled together, and you know what goals you want to meet and when you want them met. Now comes the fun part – creating the content to help you get there. But for many companies, this isn’t the fun part at all. This is the excruciating part where you may feel uncreative, out of touch, and unsure of what to create that would be useful and relevant to your current and potential customers.

I’m here to tell you it isn’t as hard as you think. Content development can be quick and painless if you understand there are tools and processes out there to help you along the way. Here are 5 methods that will work for any industry, and help you move forward and start creating great content.

1. Ask your team

One of the most important facts you should know about content generation is that content ideas are all around you. From the account managers to the marketing team and design specialists, each person in your team has a wealth of knowledge about your company or product, and can be utilized in your content ideation process.

One simple prompt I encourage you to send to your staff is: “List 5 questions you get asked about our company.” Maybe those questions come from clients, or maybe it is just something they get from colleagues or wonder about themselves. These questions are perfect vehicles to come up with topic ideas for your content. For example, a question we get all the time is “How do I come up with ideas for content?” That question is exactly how this post you’re reading was created, and how we could come up with seemingly endless other variations of the same topic for niche industries who want something more specific. Even if you have a small team of 10, that will give you 50 ideas – more than enough to last you awhile.

Key Takeaway: Mine the minds of your team and open your content up to fresh perspectives.

 

2. Creative Group Brainstorming MindmapKeunn

Whether you’re aiming to create ideas for blog posts, resource articles, infographics or free guides, a creative brainstorming session can be a powerful way to spark the whole process. Gather some of your team from multiple departments into the same room, and see what happens. By pulling in people with different specialties, you’ll get different perspectives that can lead in a multitude of directions. Always remember to have a leader steering the discussion though, as creative brainstorming sessions have the tendency to go on for a long time without some type of structure.

Some of the best brainstorming tools involve prompts and free flow of ideas using processes like:

  • Mind Mapping
  • Trigger Method
  • Right Braining
  • Brain Writing
  • Pessimist vs. Optimist
  • Online Mapping Tools

We’ve gone more into depth about these process on content brainstorming video on our website.

Key Takeaway: A little creative brainstorming can go a long way. Keep it structured, but let the ideas flow when they come.

 

3. Google it!

Google gives you so much information, accessible right at your fingertips. Don’t neglect using this powerful tool in your content generation stage. This process not only gives you tons of ideas to work with, it helps legitimize your topics for search engines before you move on to content production.

Let’s take for example that you own an Italian restaurant in Downtown Phoenix, with close proximity to many attractions – the ballpark, convention center, public transport, etc. Start searching for phrases like “Pizza in Downtown Phoenix” or “Restaurant near Phoenix Convention Center” and see what shows up. Is there an article by a local restaurant with that in the title, or is there a content hole for that keyword phrase? Utilize the opportunity and write an article with that phrase in the topic and see how you rank after just a few weeks.

Don’t forget to take note of the automatic keyword suggestions that Google gives you. That is what happens when you start typing in your search phrase, and multiple options drop down to show you what people are already searching for. That’s a great place to discover more ideas, in addition to looking for the Related Searches near the bottom of the results page.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 6.34.03 PM

Key Takeaway: Google is a great research tool – use it intentionally and find content holes to fill in.

 

4. Web Sleuthing

Google isn’t the only digital outlet that can help you generate content ideas fast.

People are asking questions all the time about your industry or service; you just need to know where to find them. I’ve found great success on sites like:

  • Yahoo! Answers
  • Quora
  • Youtube related searches
  • UberSuggest (keyword suggestion tool)
  • LinkedIn Discussions
  • Open Site Explorer

These take a little more work to delve into, but if you have a few phrases you’re researching at a time, it’s very manageable. Any questions on sites like Yahoo! Answers and Quora are potential content opportunities so I recommend writing the question down in one column and converting it to multiple topics in another so you can track what topic ideas came from what question.

 

5. User Generation

Why do all the work when you get can get a hand from your fans and followers? If you have fans or an active online customer base, create initiatives that facilitate content being delivered to you by them. Not only does this provide content that’s out of the box of what you may have come up with – it engages your user base and has high branding value.

  • Run a contest where fans submit their photos relevant to your business and the promotion you’re running
  • Create a campaign that encourages people to submit their content that is in line with your brand and messaging
  • Allow your followers to suggest content topics they want to see covered on your content outlets
  • Get questions from your customers that they need answered and create informative content around it
  • Own a hashtag that surrounds your campaign or contest so everything is easily trackable and has branding value

TwitterNewBelgiumAs an example, New Belgium Brewing ran a contest on their social media outlets where they asked for fan’s stories about riding and enjoying their bikes. They collected thousands of stories, had a huge increase in followers across social media outlets, and were able to use the user-generated stories on marketing pieces, packaging, and other materials.

Key Takeaway: User-generated content can be extremely valuable to you as a brand – just remember to keep it engaging and interesting for your customer base.

 

I hope these 5 methods of content generation help you along in your process. If you get stuck, return to the drawing board and make sure your content development process is grounded with goals, strategy, and a structured content calendar.

How to Create and Execute a Winning Conversion Optimization Strategy

AZIMA’s January event speaker is Chris Goward, the founder WiderFunnel with the belief that digital agencies should prove their value. He’s developed conversion optimization programs for clients like Google, Electronic Arts, SAP, and Magento. His new book, “You Should Test That,” redefines CRO and shows how to create dramatic business improvements.

This event is scheduled for January 16th, 2014 at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort starting at 6pm.

LaneTerralever hosts Arizona’s second annual Operation #SocialSanta

Tempe based digital marketing agency, LaneTerralever teams up with Operation: Social Santa to do a little good with social media this holiday season.

This will be LaneTerralever‘s second year hosting the annual Operation: Social Santa happy hour and toy drive, which will be held Thursday, Dec. 5. at Handlebar and Grill in Tempe from 5 to 8 p.m. and will benefit the Arizona Toys for Tots Foundation

SocialSantaImageUsing the power of social media to generate awareness through Social Santa, LT will bring the public together to network and celebrate the holidays for a good cause.

Founded in 2010, by student and social entrepreneur Harrison Kratz, the toy drive was designed for social communities to join in a collaborative effort to make a difference while sharing their experience on social media.

Cost of entry to the Social Santa event is a new, unwrapped toy with a suggested value of $20. Each toy donation will be exchanged for a raffle ticket for a variety of prizes throughout the evening.

“Our goal is to donate 300 toys to Toys for Tots,” said Chris Johnson, president of LaneTerralever. “Giving back to our community is core to LaneTerralever and we are thrilled to be able to help brighten the holidays for local children in need.”

The U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program collected toys during the 2012 Operation Social Santa, also at the Handlebar.

The U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program collected donations during the 2012 Operation Social Santa. Photo: Adam Nollmeyer

LaneTerralever hosted Arizona’s first Operation: Social Santa in 2012 with the idea that social media can also be used for social good. Rallying members of the social media and digital community through posts and shares online, LaneTerralever raised more than $5,000 and donated more than 140 toys to Toys for Tots last year.

Guests are encouraged to use #SocialSanta on social platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to help spread the word, and to RSVP by joining the event on Facebook: Operation Social Santa 2013.

Originally called Tweet Drive and now formally Operation: Social Santa, the campaign is comprised of one-night holiday parties organized by volunteers where community members can celebrate the holidays and collect toys of local children.

Why a smartphone is the true mobile device. Sorry, tablets.

By Jonathan Scolero

What’s an example of a “mobile device”?

If you said a “smartphone”, correct!

If you said a “tablet”, WRONG!

Everyone knows that mobile devices have become the premier marketing communication platform nowadays.  However, few companies seem to know how to effectively use them to reach customers … let alone correctly identify what a “mobile device” even is.

According to Jonathan Salem Baskin, guest speaker at this month’s AZIMA event, research illustrates clear distinctions between smartphone and tablet use.  Tablet use predominantly takes place within the home as a means of reading publications or watching videos.

Jonathan Salem Baskin. Photo: Mark Goldstein

Jonathan Salem Baskin. Photo: Mark Goldstein

Smartphones, in contrast, accompany the user about their day-to-day tasks and thereby merit the title of true “mobile devices.”  As such, they serve as tools for users to “get things done”, like price check products, find a mechanic, pick a good restaurant, or google a definition.  At first glance, distinguishing smartphones as task-oriented devices may seem inconsequential, but the marketing implications are enormous.

In order to effectively connect with customers during their day-to-day activities, companies must release mobile apps that assist customers in their quest to “get things done”.  For instance, rather than McDonald’s neglecting the obvious fact that its food makes you gain weight, why not release an app that allows customers to mix and match meal items to easily choose the combination with the ideal number of calories?  When fans can’t find a hockey game on TV because Comcast renumbered it’s cable stations, why not create an app that allows users to share where their favorite TV shows have migrated?

Smartphones are functionalOr when you board an American Airlines flight, why not check your smartphone to see if anyone with a marketing background is also onboard and benefit from the networking opportunity?

Baskin backed his assessment of current smartphone trends with survey data collected locally by Republic Media.  The results, which will be posted on the AZIMA website, indicate that Smartphones are largely ineffective as a means of pushing advertisements to consumers. Rather, companies should view them as tools that provide genuine utility to valued customers.

Jonathan Salem Baskin is a thought leader on brands and marketing with 30 years of experience.  His work experience includes leading the PR agency for Apple’s first iMac launch, as well as working with Limited Brands, Nissan, and Blockbuster, among others.  Baskin has published six books, and writes regularly for Advertising Age and Forbes.   

New Rules for 2014 from Jonathan Salem Baskin

Jonathan Salem Baskin

Jonathan Salem Baskin performed research for his Arizona audience.

Thanks to everyone who came out to meet Jonathan Salem Baskin at our November event.

Jonathan flew in to Arizona to talk about mobile devices and branding and to share recent research performed for the Phoenix area market.

Bottom line, Jonathan spoke about ‘Why the Mobile Singularity will be the effective model for marketing in 2014.

You can read more about that as Jonathan rolls out his thoughts in Advertising Age, Forbes and on his own platforms.  He gathers those posts here at BaskinBrand.

And I will leave you with his own final thoughts on Thursday night:

New Rules for 2014.

1) Contribute to the conversation, don’t try to own it.

2) Customer advocacy has never been more important.

3) Search is based on relationships, not technology.

4) You can’t outsmart a Smart Network, but it’s ultimately accountable to reality.

And PHOTOS from Thursday night.

Timing just may be everything in social media

Social media success isn’t just about what you say, but when you say it.

BestTimetoTweet

Let’s take this example:
In terms of specific days and times to post on Facebook, engagement rates are 18{2bbd478b6aadf2a9bb5e10dcf35d17c0d0772390afbaf5ac8145fb1096668903} higher on Thursdays and Fridays.  

Why?  Well, as this Buddymedia study put it, “the less people want to be at work, the more they are on Facebook!”   Makes perfect sense when you put it that way, but there is more to it. There’s a lot of data available to help you track the ROI of social.

Belle Beth Cooper, who calls herself a content crafter at Buffer, breaks down the science of timing in this post that originally ran on Buffer’s blog:

A Scientific Guide to Maximizing Your Impact on Twitter, Facebook, and other Digital Media 

Cooper’s piece made the rounds this weekend after it was resuscitated with a little Twitter love from Fast Company.


 

FastCompany.com has a knack for finding interesting blogs on smaller sites and giving them a little extra life by sharing them with their own massive audience. (Wanna see how big that is?  Take a look at Fast Company’s Media Kit. (PDF) )

So, thanks, Fast Company, a great resource for smart content.  

You also should head to the source and take a look at Buffer’s blog.  It’s full of tips and strategy for making the most of social media and keeping customers happy.

 

Intern with AZIMA and Grow

internsCollege graduates within each major have one thing in common: educational experience from an accredited learning institution. What really stands out to employers and makes a candidate more marketable is the amount of work experience a student has in his or her field. This is one of largest benefits to holding an internship. Internships also allow students to make connections in the industry and develop their skills outside of the classroom.

Arizona Interactive Marketing Association (AZIMA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps Arizona agencies, businesses, educational institutions and students improve their understanding and application of interactive marketing best practices.

AZIMA is offering an Academics & Marketing Intern position. The intern will help with administrative, marketing and academics research for AZIMA. AZIMA is made up of people from a range of interactive marketing disciplines: Internet search, design, mobile, video, social media, analytics and more.

 

Benefits:

  • This internship offers the opportunity to network with these professionals
  • Learn how to be an active part of the professional space
  • Gain real world experience in the field: blogging, assisting with social media marketing, performing online market research, copy writing and editing, assist in scheduling speakers and more.
  • Free attendance to all AZIMA events, including training sessions taught by world-class experts and social networking events with informative and entertaining speakers.
  • School Credit as applicable

 

The internship would require 5 to 20 hours per week and is unpaid. The intern would work from full-service marketing firm LaneTerralever’s offices in Tempe and Downtown Phoenix, when not on location at AZIMA events usually scheduled at the Scottsdale Hilton.

 

Those who are interested, please send a cover letter and resume to Elise Gould at [email protected]

What marketers need to know about website engagement

healthcaregovBeing part of AZIMA I’m always impressed by the level of intelligence of our membership. But at times, I know that we all come across those clients who are so set on a path of implementation of a project that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

Truly understanding the needs of your audience over the desires of the information overload is a key takeaway from the Healthcare.gov website debacle.

Read my latest blog post – Healthcare.gov and CFI: WTF. – and let me know what you think and how you would have handled it differently if you have been given the assignment and a couple of hundred million dollars.

 

 

Thanksgiving takes a bite out of Christmas shopping

guy on phone in mall

Sometimes the best Black Friday deals are found outside of the store. Photo: Steve Rhodes

Thanksgiving is late this year and make sure you’re ready, because Christmas is about to follow it really quickly.

The stars and calendar have aligned to force the main shopping days this holiday season into a smaller -than-usual window.

Thanksgiving is, as usual, on the fourth Thursday of the month. But since November began on a Friday in 2013, the holiday feels pretty late.

That means there will be only 25 shopping days this year between Black Friday, Nov. 29, and Christmas day — that’s compared to 31 days in 2012.

And unlike last year, there are only four, not five, weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So, all-in-all, retailers have a reduced window of time to capture peak holiday spending. And shoppers are about to feel the full-on push of marketers trying to make the most of that smaller window of opportunity.TargetBlackFriday

Nevertheless, several retail research firms are predicting that this year will see double-digit grown in U.S. online sales. Websites and Facebook pages are already giving fans a sneak peek at Black Friday deals. Target has created a Facebook-based interactive memory game  which reveals deals as a user plays. And Macy’s has created games related to the Thanksgiving Day Parade… and shopping after the parade.

And in-person sales are set to begin before Black Friday this season, with 35 million shoppers expected to head out on Thanksgiving Day itself. According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers have convinced many retailers that they would rather shop at night after dinner and football than set an early alarm and brave the cold morning deals on Friday.

And according to a survey of 212 marketing executives by Experian Marketing Services, 70{2bbd478b6aadf2a9bb5e10dcf35d17c0d0772390afbaf5ac8145fb1096668903} of retailers plan promotional offers this season including:

  • 39{2bbd478b6aadf2a9bb5e10dcf35d17c0d0772390afbaf5ac8145fb1096668903} will offer free shipping,
  • 28{2bbd478b6aadf2a9bb5e10dcf35d17c0d0772390afbaf5ac8145fb1096668903} will offer a deal of the day,
  • 21{2bbd478b6aadf2a9bb5e10dcf35d17c0d0772390afbaf5ac8145fb1096668903} will offer online coupons and
  • 3{2bbd478b6aadf2a9bb5e10dcf35d17c0d0772390afbaf5ac8145fb1096668903} will offer layaway.

More studies and stories on what is expected this holiday season:

More on the Experian Marketing Services study.
Top holiday email predictions for 2013.
Deloitte Christmas Retailer’s Survey 2013.
The Washington Post: Short holiday season could cost retailers $1.5 billion
The National Retail Federation: Thanksgiving turkey with a side of shopping
TheBlackFriday.com Black Friday ads leaked or published all in one place.

 

 

Getting jazzed about November’s event speaker Jonathan Salem Baskin

JonathanSalemBaskinWhat do Forbes, Advertising Age, Apple’s iMac, Nissan …  and now AZIMA … have in common?

Answer:  November’s speaker Jonathan Salem Baskin, president of marketing consultants Baskin Associates and a global brand strategist.  Baskin has 30 years of professional experience helping clients large and small deliver better, sustainable, and more reliable marketing and brand value.

Baskin is scheduled to speak on Nov. 21 at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas. More details about that and to purchase tickets here: The Mobile Singularity: New Rules for Marketing to Smart Networks?

His credentials alone should convince you to be there. Yet there’s another treat in store for Baskin’s Arizona audience.  Baskin will focus on the impact of digital and the changing role of branding, while sharing  new ideas based on research conducted for this visit.

Baskin talks in this video about how excited he, too, is about coming to Arizona.

You can find a lot of Baskin’s thoughts on marketing and branding here:  Answers: Branding.    He also writes daily (well, sometimes hourly) on Twitter: @JonathanSalem.

Here’s a short video from earlier this year. Speaking at JUMP New York, he stressed the importance of daring to stand for something, daring to have a point of view.

“The world needs more people with strong substantiated points of view not just opinions,” Baskin said. We’re ready to hear Baskin’s point of view … and opinions … on Nov. 21.