Fill Your Content Marketing Calendar Without Really Trying

Content Marketing Ideas: The Only 5 Sources You’ll Ever Need

Stream of content marketing ideas99% of marketers believe a steady flow of content ideas is important for marketing success. To achieve this, you need one new idea per working day on average.

The challenge: Content marketing ideation.

Roughly 50% of marketers have trouble generating enough content marketing ideas to make their marketing successful according to Kapost’s 2015 Content Ideas Survey of 377 B2B marketers.

Deeper examination of Kapost’s research reveals that senior executives believe they have sufficient content marketing ideas while the actual business content creators don’t. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Most senior executives are often removed from tactical day-to-day processes. Content Marketing Ideation

While writers may occasionally hit a dry spell, your content marketing ideation often depends on your business focus. Either you’ve got a steady flow of content ideas because something is always happening in your niche or you’re stuck in a content idea desert of ideas because your category rarely changes.

If you’re in a position to choose your niche, research your content ideation potential. RazorSocial’s Ian Cleary did a great job of this. In the crowded social media category, he laser-focused on tools. He’s always got something new to write about.

5 Tricks to extend your content marketing ideas like a journalist

If you’re stuck for new content marketing ideas due to your business focus, think like a journalist who’ll lose his job if he turns in a blank page to his editor. You must keep your audience engaged and regularly returning for more content.

Where does a journalist turn for new article ideas related to his topic?

  1. Take the “People magazine approach” to your topic. Interview the people and influencers involved in your niche.
  2. Become your topic’s National Enquirer. Follow up on rumors. Everyone wants to know the latest dirt. But don’t manufacture information or you’ll lose your credibility.
  3. Pull back the curtain to give readers an insider’s perspective. Take your readers behind-the-scenes.
  4. Predict what will happen next year. Give your projections on what’s going to happen in your field in the next 6 to 18 months.
  5. Compile the “Best Of” series. Provide a retrospective on a specific area of your topic. This is great way to curate your own content while offering new insights.

Since these journalistic tricks only work to plug the gaps in “real” news, they aren’t sufficient to fill your content marketing editorial calendar with quality content.

The 5 sources of content marketing ideation you’ll ever need

To fill your editorial calendar when you’re facing a content marketing idea desert, here are the only 5 sources you’ll ever need.

Stream of content marketing ideas

1. Provide core business information

Dish out healthy servings of the 5 basic types of content customers need and seek at every step of the purchase process. Don’t forget to incorporate your keywords into each piece to make it findable.

  • Product information. Go beyond the information basics. Enable your audience to see your product as a part of their lives.
  • Customer FAQs. This is the classic Marcus Sheridan, “They ask, you answer” approach. Capture every question your prospects and customers ask your sales and customer service teams.
  • How to’s. Includes product-related education, step-by-step instructions and recipes and patterns. Where possible include links to your product pages to encourage sales. Don’t forget to make them printable so customers can take them to your retail outlets.
  • Styling. This translates to “show me how to wear or use your product.” Often used by clothing, cosmetics and interior designers, at its core, it’s a special version of how to. Use images and videos to demonstrate for your target audience.
  • Ratings and reviews. Customers actively seek input from other customers. They trust the people they know directly, such as family and friends, or strangers in aggregate via reviews.

2. Check your business peers

Don’t assume you know more about what your prospects want than others in your field. Your peers may have found some winning content ideas. Don’t copy them!!! Improvise to create something new.

  • Shadow your competitors. Read everything they publish. Be discrete and avoid using a company email addresses for subscriptions.
  • Monitor the content your suppliers and distributors develop and share. Since these are people with whom you’re working, consider how you can contribute to or extend their efforts (as long as they’re not also working with your competitors.) Assess whether you can re-envision any of their ideas to make them your own.
  • Read the key influencers in your field. What are they talking about that you’re missing? Are there topics that you can embellish or provide examples for? Is there a way you can contribute to their content or that they can contribute to yours?

 3. Watch what’s hot and trending

Understand that many trends may be too short in duration or too off-topic for you to apply to your company’s content. Most businesses may only add an idea a month at most, depending on your content creation cycle and calendar.

  • Follow hot, trending topics. Assess whether you can find a hook in the latest news and trends that you can associate with your topic. The objective is to ride the bigger wave of interest. While you may only get a small amount of this traffic, it comes from a bigger base.
  • Check for unusual holidays and celebrations. These events allow for better advanced planning.
  • Incorporate industry events. Don’t buck the trend, even if you’re not part of the event or a sponsor. For example, here’s what I wrote about Social Media Marketing World 2015.

4. Empower your employees to contribute content ideas

Don’t limit your content creation to a few select people in your marketing, communications, PR or social media departments.

  • Allow everyone in your organization to contribute content ideas. Remember they spend at least 8 hours a day with your business and products. (Here’s how to make blogging a team sport at your firm.)
  • Ask front line employees to blind copy you every time they answer a question. This not only provides the basis for new content, but also it saves time answering the same inquiry multiple times.
  • Treat your technical experts as influencers. Data shows your customers trust them. Ask them to share their ideas and content. Make it easy for them to help you.
  • Compile your employees’ stories and ideas. Chances are that no one ever asked them for their input. Gather their stories to make your content memorable. They also support your brand!

5. Encourage your customers to share their experiences with you.

Remember customers trust other customers in aggregate. They don’t have an agenda to sell them something.

  • Ask customers for their ratings and reviews on your products. Don’t be afraid of what they’ll say. If there’s a problem, take it offline as soon as possible and respond to it before it becomes a bigger issue. Customer reviews can qualify mediocre product, encouraging purchase.
  • Gather customer stories and/or interviews. Tranform your customers into content marketing rockstars. Create content that provides customers with social currency that makes them want to talk about your business.
  • Let customers show their style prowess. Customers like to see how others are using your products. It helps persuade them that your product will make them look good when they buy it.


You need a continual flow of content marketing ideas to ensure that your marketing successfully achieves its objectives.

For many businesses, content marketing ideation can be challenging.

You can augment your existing content marketing with the journalist’s 5 content tricks. But by themselves these aren’t sufficient to fill your content marketing editorial calendar.

To create an on-going flow of content inspiration, use the 5 sources of content marketing ideation: your core business information, your business peers, your hot and trending topics, your employees, and your customers.

Where do you go for content marketing inspiration?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

P.S. This article is dedicated to Ann Handley, the first content marketing rockstar who started out as a journalist.

Photo Credit: Ryan McGuire via

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