Content Ideas for Small Business Marketing
You’ve got to have a steady stream of content for your website or blog. You know that. Consistent content production shows your target audience that you’re a pro—and it shows Google that your site is legitimate and worthy of appearing in SERPs (search engine results pages).
But sometimes the proverbial wellspring of ideas goes dry. If you’re a small business that relies on a content marketing strategy, these dry spells can be tough on your overall efforts. Some businesses never recover from these dry spells, and it results in outdated blog posts, sporadic newsletters, and dead zones on their websites.
Don’t let yourself get there. Writer’s block, or maybe more aptly, creator’s block, is a normal part of every small-business owner’s journey. When it hits, you just need a little nudge to get your ideation sessions (that’s a fancy word for the act of coming up with good ideas) back on track.
First things first: Tips for writing killer content that converts
Content creation has now turned into a competition. It’s not easy to create content that converts. You can create an amazing blog post and spend days doing research. Then a few weeks later, your competition publishes the same blog post and outranks you.
This has led many small businesses to abandon their content marketing efforts. In fact, according to a recent survey, only 35 percent of companies truly believe that content marketing works.
The truth is you don’t have to abandon your marketing strategy just because the competition is strong. You can still beat your competition by writing better content. Here are seven tips that will help you transform ho-hum blog content into stellar content that converts. We’ll use blog posts as our working example, but these tips will work for almost any kind of written content.
1. Write like you talk
“Good writing is good conversation, only more so.” ―Ernest Hemingway If you want to connect with your audience through your content, you need to personalize your blog posts to appeal to that specific reader you’re targeting.
Whether your target audience is college students, stay-at-home moms, or entrepreneurs, you can use your writing style to connect with them on a personal level.
Write like you’re talking to your best friend. If your target audience is more casual in nature, use funny anecdotes, pop-culture references, and real-world examples to make your writing more entertaining. It doesn’t hurt to include a meme or gif, too.
2. Write better spin-off content
If you’re not sure about what type of content you should create for your blog, it’s time you do your own research and figure out what kind of blog posts are most successful on the web.
You can use a tool like Buzzsumo to easily analyze any website, including your competition, or a keyword to find out what kind topics generate the most buzz for that specific category.
For example, “12 Unusual Productivity Hacks to Help You Write Faster” appears to be one of the top performing articles under the keyword “content marketing.” You can research this topic and find even more “hacks” that are relevant to your audience. Make sure you find enough good information to make it worth the readers time and includes a higher number than the original post for added significance.
Which blog post do you think is most likely to get the highest clicks? The one with 12 productivity hacks or your post with 20 or more hacks?
3. Edit brilliantly
“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” —C. J. Cherryh It’s a common practice among writers to consider the first draft of anything as garbage. Editing is the process that polishes up your writing.
While editing ruthlessly is usually a good idea, there are exceptions. Sometimes a few extra words can help connect your thoughts while adding a natural flow to your writing. When editing, treat your work like art. Get rid of the unnecessary parts, but always maintain your voice and follow your gut.
4. Evoke emotions
Storytelling is now a more important part of marketing than it has ever been before. Even the advertisements we see on TV today manage to leave us in tears or cheer in joy. The brands that evoke such emotions in us leave a mark in our memory.
Take the famous Unsung Hero ad created by Thai Life Insurance, for example. The company became known around the world after the powerful message it showed from the viral video that generated over 30 million views.
Or this one from GE that pays tribute to the late Millie Dresselhaus, “the Queen of Carbon,” while promoting the company’s goal of placing 20,000 women in tech roles by 2020.
Studies have found that emotional content and advertising campaigns outperform most other common types of content and make more memorable experiences for the users.
You can use storytelling in your blog posts, too, to deliver your points more effectively. It will make your blog posts more entertaining to read and also add an emotional effect on your blog posts as well.
5. Use calls-to-action effectively
The call-to-action (CTA) is the key element of a blog post that converts a website visitor into a lead. And the exact position of your CTA on will determine how well it converts.
For example, if you were to embed an opt-in form for a free checklist on a blog post, you shouldn’t embed at the beginning of your blog post. Instead, you should make that offer when it’s most likely for a user to opt-in for such a content upgrade. Like at the end of the blog post, when a user is inspired by the content and ready to take the next action step.
Position your content upgrades and lead magnets in the most effective locations within your blog posts to achieve the best results.
6. Analyze content to find high converting posts
Another important step is to measure your best converting posts so you can then create more posts like them.
How do you measure your content ROI? Well, it depends on the goals you want to achieve from your content strategy. You can create an extensive guide to get backlinks, a case study that generates more email subscribers, or a viral blog post to build more social media awareness.
Whatever goal it may be, you should analyze your content periodically to see which posts perform the best. And then you can create more similar content to increase the conversion rates.
7. Illustrate with images
Last, but not least, add plenty of images to make your blog posts more visual.
Reports show that blog posts with images get 94 percent more pageviews than ones without images.
So, use images whenever you can to make your content easier to digest. Use screenshots and infographics to illustrate content. Use charts and graphs to present your data. And you can even use slideshows to summarize your blog posts.
After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
How to find content ideas like a pro content marketer
Regardless of whether you’re a mom-and-pop shop or a Fortune 100 brand, content marketing can transform your organization. Content marketing is all about providing value to the audience through blog posts, videos, articles, case studies, e-books, infographics, etc. It’s about helping, not selling.
But how do you generate the ideas for this great content? It might be easier than you’d expect.
Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Every content marketing strategy needs defined or targeted keywords and phrases. The Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a great place to start when brainstorming awesome content ideas. The Keyword Planner allows anyone to enter multiple keywords and discover related keyword phrases that their audience is likely searching for.
Google even refers to these results as “ideas”—and for good reason. The vast amount of information that comes back can offer tons of great topic ideas for content. For example, a search for San Diego beaches brings up all search terms that include the words San Diego and beaches. You can get hundreds of results for a single term, but you can also enter multiple terms to get variations and even more great content ideas. Adding to the term restaurants changes the results to include related terms to both entries as well as combinations of both, such as beachfront restaurants in San Diego, best restaurants in San Diego, etc.
If I were in the travel industry, all of these variations could be used in my content marketing strategy as possible topics to write an article, create a video, or design an awesome infographic showcasing the sights and sounds around San Diego.
Yahoo! Answers is one of the most widely used answer sites, receiving an incredible number of questions and answers every day. It has a very simple format, where participants submit questions to be answered by the vast community. The user categorizes their question by topic, making it easier to search and easier to answer.
Use your targeted keywords or phrases to sift through and browse questions that are being asked, either within niche categories or as a broad search. For example, after searching for the key phrase Nashville music, more than 400 questions and answers came back. Here are the top three questions at the time of my search:
- Should I move to L.A. or Nashville for music (singing)?
- Best Nashville Music Industry Jobs?
- Is Nashville all about country music?
If I owned a business near Nashville or in the music industry, these questions (and the hundreds that follow) would give me a few ideas about what specifically people are after (and not all the questions are about becoming a famous musician).
Think of common questions your audience is asking related to your business, and use Yahoo! Answers to generate a longer list of ideas that will make a great content piece. Quora is another great place to go content ideas, but this answer site is known to be even better for B2B organizations. Over the years, Quora has become an important player in the Q&A space. It functions much the way Yahoo! Answers does—it’s meant to be a useful knowledge-indexing tool, a database of information provided by users.
Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers because users have the ability to review, edit, flag as useful or not useful, and even organize the site’s Q/A. The creators’ goal was to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question. The community is a bit more credible and the questions tend to be catered more toward B2B-related topics.
Searching for the same phrase, “Nashville music,” in Quora, here are the top three results as of this writing. You can see they’re a bit different from what we found in Yahoo!
- What do you think of the recent collaboration between Nashville Entrepreneur Center and the Nashville Music Council, focused on launching digital media and entertainment startups?
- Why is Nashville known as "Music City?"
- What are the best Nashville summer music events?
Social media gives you the power to reveal your potential customers’ interests in real time. By simply paying attention to the conversations and engagement surrounding the topics related to your industry, you’ll discover trends or patterns in what people are talking about. Before you know it, you’ll become aware of the specific ways your customers phrase searches or questions, what content they respond to and what invites the most user engagement.
When you start to understand the dynamics in these conversations, you can use content to develop great answers to their most pressing questions. These top three social sites can help you answer these questions. But keep in mind that every social media site has its own community, culture, and etiquette.
- Twitter: What #hashtags or trending topics are booming in your industry? What are people talking about and asking for?
- Facebook: What type of content gets the most shares and likes in your industry? Are you posting as much content on Facebook as your competitors?
- LinkedIn: How is your company viewed compared to your peers? Do you contribute or publish content that establishes your brand as a thought leader in the industry?
Be sure to engage with a variety of social networks to keep current with the changing social trends. Companies and content marketers need to take social media seriously and become active in the various social networks related to the audience in their industries. That way, you can engage your potential customers right where they are, acting as an almost instant resource for their needs.
Google Suggest and related searches
Google uses a keyword suggestion feature to help searchers find what they are looking for more efficiently. Google Suggest instantly offers the top related keyword phrases as the searcher types the keyword phrase into the search box. The suggestions can change drastically as the searcher types each letter in the search box.
For example, say an aspiring actress is looking to follow her dreams and move to New York City to pursue a career in entertainment. She’s never been to the Big Apple, so she starts with an online search to find information on nearby studios and attractions to plan her trip to fame.
She starts by simply typing in the keyword phrase New York acting. With every letter she types, the search suggestions become more and more specific. Her opening search is actively refined to help discover the best possible result for her.
At the bottom of the search results, Google offers an additional “Related Search Suggestion” list. This offers even more content ideas for popular search phrases that people are looking for. It is your job to provide valuable content to the audience that offers information or answers for their questions.
If I had a business that benefited at all from entertainers in New York City, such as a music venue, hotel, acting/dance studio, travel agency, restaurant, visitors’ bureau, convention, etc., Google Suggest just gave me awesome ideas for content that would relate directly to my target audience in a matter of seconds.
Ask questions! (a lot of them)
For your brand to generate great content topics, you must start by understanding what your audience is searching for most often. It is your job as a content marketer to provide valuable information or solutions for their questions and challenges.
One of the easiest ways to generate relevant content ideas is to gather your entire staff—including the sales department, human resources, executives in the office, that new guy—and have them write down the questions they get asked all the time.
This is your opportunity as a small business to offer up an answer to these popular questions. After all, if you do not answer these questions or issues, your audience or current customers will find answers somewhere else. Providing answers not only creates effective content, it also provides value to the audience because it offers a solution to their problem and will inevitably build a trusting relationship.
Another good idea is to regularly approach your clients or customers directly and ask them, “What is your biggest challenge or question?” Keep in mind, this question may need to be tweaked depending on the type of business you’re in. But the main point here is to try and keep the question open-ended. With every answer you receive, you can start addressing your customers’ needs by building great content.
15 Mind-blowing ideas for your small-business marketing content
Need even more ideas to keep your content engine running? Here are 15 mind-blowing ideas that can boost your brainstorms to get you developing new content fast:
1. Give tips or answer common questions with your content
You live this stuff. You’ve heard the questions a million times, and you’ve been around the block enough to know the best way to get it done in your industry. Why not share that information? Don’t worry, you’re not giving away the candy store: you’re the expert, and you know what? Once your audience hears you break it down, they’ll realize that they need an expert to help them through the complexity.
Hint: Comments on your blog or social media channels can be great places to search for ideas on this. And don’t forget to look at the comments your competitors are getting, too!
2. Put your own spin on a news story or industry trend
Show the world that you’re always up on the state of the union. You know what’s happening in your industry, and you’re the source that your audience can follow to stay up on it, too. Make sure you provide a little input from your perspective as to how the news is relevant or impacts your industry.
3. Interview an expert in your field
Want to show the world that you’re in the champions’ club? Talk shop with experts. This is great both for video and text content. A video interview shares well, but it might be easier to ask a few questions of an expert via email. Phone interview? Record it and post the audio (just make sure you disclose to the interviewee that you’re recording the session).
4. Celebrate the success of a customer in a profile
Call it a case study, call it a profile, either way, you can highlight your product’s awesomeness by profiling your successful customers. Case studies are a bit formal, so frame it as a profile story to soften the edges a bit and make the success more palatable to a general audience. Pro tip: Long form content works extra hard for your business. Customer success stories as long-form magazine articles can bring out the adventure and drama of their story.
5. Curate content from other sources [i.e. do a roundup]
Not everything you generate has to be original. Curation is kind of like those collages you did in grade school when you cut out photos from a dozen magazines and glued them together onto a single page to get an original piece of art.
Gather cool stuff from around the web, add a little commentary, and boom! New content for your blog. Tie the content together with a theme, maybe content on industry trends, maybe news relative to the work you’re doing, or just neat topics of interest to your audience. This may be a really simple way to get content on your site, but if you overuse it, you could lose credibility for original content. Try a curated roundup once a week.
6. Product reviews
Compare new products, review new tech, talk about how the latest software out there can help the people in your industry be more successful. Do you outfit the outdoorsy types for their big three-day adventures? Maybe you can compare the top five best backpacks for hiking. How about best software applications to support the kind of work you do?
7. Book reviews
One of the best questions to ask of your hero, should you get a chance to meet her or him, is, “What are you reading?” Want to know what makes a person great? Read what they’re reading. Likewise, you can give a quick review of the industry-related, leadership, motivational, or another relevant book you just read and show your audience that you’re top of the class.
8. Be a reporter at an industry event
Conferences and other industry events can be a fantastic opportunity to generate multiple pieces of content: With numerous heavy hitters gathered in one space, all you need is a simple video camera and a little gumption to get quick, 30-second interviews that you can compile into a killer highlight video of the event.
Did you bump into any happy customers? Take that opportunity to interview them about their experience with your product.
You can have a separate blog post recapping your company’s experience at the event.
Take still photos that you can use on your blog, and post on your company’s social media channels.
9. Make a list
Top 5; 44 Best; 101 Greatest. You’ve seen them all over the web, and there’s a reason for that: they’re popular. Everyone seems to love them. Lists make ideas more manageable. Sometimes, people are looking for eight simple ways to approach a problem or six of the best tech things. Whatever your industry, you can find a way to create a list for it.
Keep in mind: The longer the list, the shorter each item should be. Also, think about how the number rings with the idea for the list. Top five is everywhere, but top seventeen might have a little more panache.
10. 10x your message with an infographic
Cue cliché: Pictures are worth a thousand words. Now put words and pictures together, and your message becomes a tasty morsel of shareable content. Of course, quality is critical. Beautiful, interesting infographics grab the viewer’s attention and can even go viral. It’s well worth it to work with a graphic designer.
11. Offer your take on a controversial subject
Few things are juicer than controversy. Find an issue in your niche or industry that people are talking about. If you take a side, you can assert yourself as a thought leader who has the fortitude necessary to a stand. To be valuable, you need to carefully craft a solid argument for your case and avoid disparaging the opposing view.
WARNING: The controversy that we’re talking about here is strictly non-political. Don’t go down that dark road of picking a presidential candidate, or turning your business blog into a news commentary. Instead, be controversial about subjects that matter to your business. For example The Samsung Galaxy is better than the iPhone, and here’s why. Controversial, yes. Political, no.
12. The Crystal Ball approach
Everyone wants to know the future, and they turn to industry experts to interpret the trends. This always makes for a good post in December, when people are looking toward the coming new year. But you could also surprise your followers with a midyear prediction for how the year will end.
13. Make a quiz
People love interactive content. Quizzes are particularly irresistible, especially ones that tell the user something about themselves. You can use tools like qzzr.com or dilogr.com to build the quiz and then embed it on your site.
14. Guest post
You’ve been making connections in your field, and no doubt many of them have blogs of their own. Reach out to them and ask them to write a guest post for your site. Chances are good that they’d love the exposure and the ability to link to back to their own site. They may even ask to do a swap and have you write for their site.
15. Always be ready to repurpose
Repurposing content is essentially a matter of recycling content. Content ideas can often be expressed in numerous ways, why not try them all? Keep the recycling mantra in mind when you develop any piece of content: Reduce: Reduce your effort by making fresh use of your existing ideas and content. The work involved in repurposing content is much less intense than developing new ideas from scratch, and you can reach a broader audience by diversifying your content ideas.
Reuse: Take a good idea and reuse it in a new platform. For example, your blog post could be a column in your monthly newsletter. And vice versa, your newsletter column might make a great blog post.
Recycle: Sift through your content archives and look at some of your successful content. Could it be reworked for a new platform? For example, a white paper could be reworked to become a series of blog posts, or a webinar that included a slideshow can become a SlideShare presentation.
For even more juicy details on repurposing your content, keep reading…
Content repurposing tactics for stretching your small-business marketing ROI
If you aren’t getting the ROI you expect from your content, but you have already published so much blog content that you lost count, repurposing will allow you to slow down your time and money investment without slowing down your content production.
What is repurposing content? It’s where you use the content you have already invested time and money into creating, and leverage it into other content assets to squeeze as much profit potential out of it as you can. Repurposing your content also allows you to refresh older content for a newer audience. Work smarter, not harder. Here are three ways you can re-purpose your existing content:
1. Restore them to their former glory…and make them even better
It may cost you $25,000 to restore a 1954 Cadillac to its heart-stirring former glory, but restoring and improving blog posts only requires a little brain power and about an hour of your time.
Start by gathering your best-performing past posts that focus on a related topic. Then refresh them with a few updates to make them more appealing to your current audience. You can:
- Add updated images and screenshots
- Remove old examples, outdated sites, and refresh with modern examples
- Update any time-specific content (make them evergreen)
- Remove outdated strategies
- Add new, current strategies
- Refresh the style—Your brand has likely changed over the years. Refresh your older posts to reflect your updated brand personality and style.
Once you restore at least three to five posts, get them in front of new eyes by creating one new blog post where you link to all of the restored pieces. To execute this successfully and ensure topic alignment, come up with the main topic for the new post first before you restore the older posts.
2. Transform your blogs into highly shareable infographics
Infographics are highly shareable, especially on sites like Pinterest, and they reach 54 percent more readers than blog posts.
Take some of your highest-performing blog posts and hire a designer to create an infographic for each. The content is already there in your post; simply re-work it and pare it down into smaller segments so it will fit nicely on an infographic.
If you are strapped for cash, use an infographic tool like Venngage where you can create infographics yourself using their professionally-designed templates.
Share your infographic on Pinterest and on resource sites such as Amazing Infographics or Daily Infographic. Include the source code in the blog post so people can easily share your infographic. You can see how Venngage does this here:
3. Create lead-generating content upgrades
If you really want to ramp things up, re-purpose your blog posts into lead-generating content by creating a blog content upgrade. Compile several older blog posts into a separate content asset you can offer as an upgrade.
A content upgrade is free content you provide to your blog readers that enhances the blog post. Provide it via download when the reader opts into your list so you can snag a lead.
Place a CTA within your more recent blog posts and link to that content upgrade. Just make sure the topic of the blog is related to the content upgrade so accessing it will be an easy and logical decision for readers.
For example, let’s say you have a few older blog posts related to increasing social media engagement on popular sites like Twitter and Facebook. Compile these posts into another piece of content like a checklist, resource list, or quickstart guide. Call it something like this: “The Savvy Business’ Quickstart Guide to Increasing Traffic and Engagement on Facebook and Twitter.”
Search for newer blog posts that are related to social media traffic and engagement and add a link to access this content upgrade in those posts.
Below, you can see how Foundr creates content upgrades related to their blogs. In this Instagram-focused post, the brand created a CTA for users to get an Instagram cheat sheet, a logical upgrade for people who are interested in the post:
When clicked, the button generates a pop-up:
The CTAs within the blog post can either generate a pop-up that prompts users to enter their name and email, or they can link to a separate landing page.
Here is another CTA inside a blog post that leads to a content upgrade. This one from the Digital Marketer blog has more design elements and text surrounding it.
It also links to a separate landing page:
An advantage of using a pop-up is that users don’t have to leave the blog to access the upgrade if they want to continue reading the post; it’s a less distracting option. The disadvantage is that there is more room to add content to a landing page, which may help increase conversions.
Content ideas are all around you
There you have it—ideas galore, plus tons of tactics for leveraging your existing content. By now you should see that you can find content ideas almost anywhere.
If you want to keep the ideas flowing, think content all the time. Adopt the mantra, “Could this be content?” You’re launching a new product—could that be content? You just won an industry award—could that be content? You have a happy customer on the phone—could that be content?
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