The art of content ideation: How to identify topics that drive results

“The more traffic we get, the better”. All too often that’s the mindset when marketers prioritize high-volume keywords for content creation. But sometimes when your post starts to rank and gets a lot of traffic, the content barely converts. 

Sound familiar?

The biggest determinant of whether a blog post will convert is not the call-to-action (CTA) that you place inside of a post, but rather the idea behind the blog post itself.

What really matters is how well you understand your customers’ needs and desires. Delivering useful, actionable content targeted to their pain points is a surefire way to win their trust and keep them engaged.

So, how exactly do you do that? And how do you go beyond your basic keywords and develop truly interesting ideas?

In this article we’ll reveal some of the expert tactics we use to create authentic content that converts. We’ll look at how you can use an “outside-in” approach to uncover what your customers really want to hear, including using customer-facing teams in your organization as well as external resources like online communities and industry influencers. 

1. Get customer input from your team

Marketers often don’t have direct contact with customers (sorry, but we’re finding that to be true). We don’t want filtered or “best guess” info. We want it straight from the people who talk to customers every day.

That’s why we often facilitate a quarterly session with our clients where we bring in people from various departments that talk directly with clients: sales, delivery and support. This enables us to find out what our target audience really wants. 

Questions to ask your sales team:

  • Which questions do your prospects ask most often? 
  • What are the main challenge/s your prospect are trying to solve?
  • What objections do your prospects raise about your product or service?
  • What do your prospects say about your competitors?

Questions to ask your delivery or support team:

  • What part of the service are your clients most happy with?
  • What are the most common questions your clients ask?
  • What advice did you give most often?
  • What are the most common use cases that clients use your service for?

The next step is to take notes on all of the answers to these questions, brainstorm, and look for commonalities and disconnects in the responses. When we have disconnects from different departments, we push them to see why they think differently than others in the company.

We translate the most common use cases, questions, and problems that customers are trying to solve into great content ideas. Getting this information directly from our customers helps us be more accurate and targeted with our content.

2. Monitor industry influencers, expert blogs, and competitors

As well as talking to customers, don’t forget to look at what others in your industry are doing. Monitoring influencers and industry blogs can help you identify which topics are trending because they are genuinely resonating with your target audience. You can then look for gaps that might not have been covered, or an interesting or controversial take on an existing topic that’s popular.

Monitor your industry with BuzzSumo

One invaluable tool all marketers should know about to monitor your industry is BuzzSumo. We use this platform to discover top trending topics, new keywords, as well as the kinds of questions our clients’ customers are asking. 

BuzzSumo crawls 8 billion online articles to identify the most popular topics for a particular niche. This makes it easy to discover viral topics as well as perennial ideas that could be approached in a new way. We then use this “outside-in” approach to craft genuinely interesting topics that we know our target audience will want to read.

Track industry influencers on LinkedIn

We find that monitoring industry influencers is best done on LinkedIn. When they post anything, they often get a lot of engagement and a whole thread with questions or discussions emerge from these posts. This can be a goldmine to exploit with fresh ideas that you might not have come up with on your own. 

3. Utilize communities where your client hangs out

Another powerful “outside-in” approach is to explore what your customers are saying in the online communities where they hang out. Members often use these groups as a place to get help with a particular issue they are facing or share their experiences with solutions. This makes them an invaluable resource for marketers who want to understand their customers’ pain points. 

Useful communities to explore include:

  • Industry-specific LinkedIn and Facebook groups
  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Paid communities or roundtables

When we are creating a content strategy for clients we look at what is being said in these communities. Topics that have a lot of engagement are usually a good place to start. This type of data puts us directly in touch with our target audience and helps us generate cutting-edge ideas or unusual angles on existing topics. 

Bringing the data together for maximum impact

Once you’ve worked through the steps above, the final task is to look at all of your data and identify the strongest ideas. We usually work on a quarterly basis for content strategy since it allows us to be flexible when new trends emerge while also laying a solid foundation for the next few months. 

By this point you probably have a long list of possible topics. Here are some useful questions to help you prioritize and choose the best ideas to take forward:

  • Influence: Will this article convince your target audience that your company is worth their attention and trust?
  • Unique: Is there a unique, or perhaps even controversial, angle you can take on a particular topic? How will your article add to what has already been written on this topic? 
  • Trending: Is this a timely topic that needs to be shared right away? 
  • Validity: Are you convinced that you can make a strong argument on this topic? Do you have access to experts who can give you the proof or information you need?
  • Alignment: Is this topic or idea aligned with your company values and product or service offering?

An outside-in approach for topics that actually convert

Gone are the days of generic SEO content that make your readers run away faster than Forrest Gump. In a crowded tech market, your content has to work hard to stand out. It needs powerful insights, original ideas, and hyper-relevance to your reader. Adopting an outside-in approach to your content ideation ensures that you’re producing customer-centric content that your audience loves to read. 

Niels van Melick

Niels van Melick

Niels is the founder of LeadWave, a specialist content agency for B2B tech brands.

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