Run out of Content Ideas?

What to Do When You Run Out of Content Ideas?

Quick question.

What sets the masters of content marketing apart from the dabblers?

Do you think it’s talent?

Well, that certainly helps.

But the real differentiator is consistency.

Imagine if your favorite weekly magazine was issued on the same haphazard “schedule” as we see with a lot of blogs or social media channels.

As a reader of this magazine, you’d see a few months go by with no content, and then suddenly you might get three issues in just a few days. You’d get another one in a few weeks, and then the publication would suddenly go dark again.

I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous for a magazine to do this, because it’s a professional publication, but that’s the point! Professionals are consistent, and yet there are countless content publishers online who don’t practice regular writing or posting of content.

Rather than follow an editorial calendar, they rely on a Muse or a spark of inspiration for their next article idea before they get down to the hard work of writing. Rather than setting them up for success, this approach will only lead to disappointing results.

Content Ideas Don’t Grow on Trees

It sounds so sexy and fun… You in your pajamas, watching TV, when a brilliant idea hits you like a thunderbolt! You leap off the couch to grab your laptop and crank out the most brilliant article ever conceived of in just fifteen minutes flat!

To be honest, this isn’t totally far-fetched. You could experience an occasional lightbulb moment. The problem is, you can’t predict or control when great ideas will randomly occur to you. All you can do is set aside regular time to give writing your best shot. You’re making a huge mistake if you wait for great content ideas to just come to you.

The 20th century American author Jack London once wrote, “Set yourself a stint, and see that you do that stint each day.” London became a prolific and highly respected author, but it wasn’t just raw talent that vaulted him to success. He developed a rigid routine and consistency that set him apart. You should do the same by showing up every day — or once every week — at the same time, ready to write your blogs, white papers, social media posts, and articles.

Thinking up New Ideas

It’s all well and good to say you shouldn’t wait for ideas, but how does that work in practice? Sometimes, you’re sitting at the computer with a blank screen and nothing to talk about.

When the creative well runs dry, it’s time to get a little help. Never feel like you have to reinvent the wheel or create totally original stuff that’s unlike anything anyone’s ever made before. Almost all great content — just like the best products and services — will borrow from others.

One way to get inspiration is with a swipe file, either electronic or in a physical folder. The term is rather back-dated but the sentiment still holds value (and the process is still effective).

A swipe file is a collection of reading material from different sources that can help you go after inspiration with a club. The content in a swipe file isn’t necessarily related to your industry. It can hold fascinating topics from parallel niches. And even unrelated areas.

The potpourri gives “food for thought” to your subconscious. It helps create spontaneous connections so that when you do sit down to brainstorm and write, what rises to the surface is worth working with.

This is the best way to clear the track for great new ideas to strike you.

New Formats and Types of Posts

To help get you started, keep on hand a list of all the various popular types of posts you can write. You can mix and match formats with types of posts.

For example, you could do a podcast (a content format) and use a listicle (post type) to structure it. Podcasts are generally free flowing! But having it as a concise discussion of “value points” may be more appealing to those who are on a tight schedule and are looking to catch some wisdom on the drive to the grocery store.

Re-purposing Content

Think you have already exhausted a topic by producing the beautiful long form guidebook? Think again. Most of your prospects are busy and those who aren’t invested in your brand will likely not spare 30 minutes to digest a guide or a whitepaper.

So go ahead and repurpose it. Chunk noteworthy stats and quotes out into a series of tweets and Facebook posts.

Convert the main content into a slide deck that goes on Slideshare and follow it up with a webinar.

Content you create generally speaks to one stage of the buyer’s journey. It is targeted to:

  • Raise awareness about a product
  • Help prospects consider solutions
  • Help buyers decide on a brand

A great way to bypass the idea blockage and hit the ground running is to tweak the piece to cover the stages you haven’t really spoken to with the content.

Headline Generators

Last but not least, there are plenty of headline generators online that can get the creative juices flowing by spitting out some titles for you. Simply enter a topic or a keyword and you’ll magically have a headline or two you can work with. The options might seem far fetched. But they spur mental connections. Take a headline like “5 Things Miley Cyrus can Teach you About Business” and create a mind map around it. See what you can come up with.

Here, try this headline generator.

And if Mind Mapping is something you are unfamiliar with, this video will help.


Frequently Asked Questions 

Don’t ignore this option. Either you can use a tool like StoryBase to check up oft asked questions about your keyword(s) as gauged from search engine data. Or just ring up your sales and customer service departments. These pros are interacting with your ideal buyers every day. They possess insights to fill up your content pipeline for weeks.

By creating pieces based on their suggestions you not only overcome the idea drought, you also add value to the funnel and may play a critical role in convincing prospects to convert or customers to stick around.

By setting aside time to write on a consistent basis, it won’t matter whether you’re overflowing with ideas. Simply sit down and get cracking at the scheduled time. Whenever you find yourself scratching your head, go hunt down similar content, headline generators, and lists of viable content formats to get the ball rolling.

With these tips in mind, it won’t be long before you have more content ideas than time to write them all!

Featured Image Attribution: “Light Bulb Brainstorming” by zirconicusso

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