You sit down at your trusty computer, ready to write a great content piece. You already know your target market, the readers anxious to hear what you have to say. But as you sit there in the warm glow of your monitor, your creativity drifts away like a curling wisp of smoke.
Try as you might, you just can’t seem to settle on a topic for discussion. It’s not that you don’t know your subject; you know it intimately. In fact, you’ve written dozens of content marketing articles on the subject, each one a gem.
But now, you’re literally at a loss for words. You’ve told your readers everything you want them to know. So, what do you do now?
Find out what they want to hear, that’s what.
An Old Sales Adage
There’s a very wise saying in the sales world: Find a need and fill it. It’s the first part – find a need – that will ultimately give birth to your next article.
So don your detective’s overcoat and fedora, grab your magnifying glass, clench your Sherlock Holmes smoking pipe tightly in your teeth and start sleuthing.
Elementary, My Dear Watson!
It’s time to hit the streets, searching for clues. Not clues to a dastardly crime, but clues to content relevancy.
Your quest: To find the hot topics that your readers are talking about. Your quarry: The issues, challenges and concerns that directly affect your target market. “Off the top of your head” writing only gets you so far. Now, you need to go on the hunt.
So, where do you look for content ideas? First stop – the bird cage.
Twitter Topic Searches
Okay, I know that you know all about Twitter. You have 140 characters to make a statement. But are you using this most social of networks for research? Type a keyword phrase into the search box – both with and without the hashtag – and see what you can find.
One of my favorite writing topics is data backup and recovery (can you say “Nerd?”). I could type that into the search and see what comes up. However, I want to dig deeper than that. What concerns or problems do my readers have with data recovery? So I typed in “#datarecoveryproblems.” Here are some of the results:
- Can problems with employees be the downfall of a disaster recovery plan?
- SMBs experiencing problems with data backup & recovery.
- Guidelines for data recovery.
Reading just those three tweeted articles provided tons of ideas. Here’s more info on using Twitter’s search function. Other social media sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn, also suggest good topics for your content marketing.
But wait . . . there’s more!
In-depth Sleuthing on Google
You’ve probably used basic Google search. But have you looked into all the options available? For example, after typing in my search phrase, I was presented with almost 140 million results. Then I clicked Search Tools to narrow the results.
This gives you all kinds of options. You can search by time, location, relevance and more. This allows you to narrow down your results immensely. Some of the options you choose will bring up different search parameters, so play with it and see what you can discover.
For example, you can refine your results to entries made in the past 24 hours and even the last hour. Talk about relevant and up-to date!
And don’t forget the “More” dropdown menu. You can get results from videos, books and blogs. If you really want to get quality results that give you great content ideas, tweak your results.
Another option you have that will keep you in touch with current events is setting your search term as a recurring topic on your Google News Homepage.
For more information on maximizing your search results, study Google’s search help.
The Telephone is Your Fiend
No, that’s not a typo. I really did mean to say fiend, not friend. In detective TV shows, the connotation is always that of an arch rival or evil mastermind. Many writers, particularly new ones, view the phone as their enemy.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary has another definition for fiend: a person remarkably clever at some skill or study. That’s what I’m talking about when I say the telephone is your fiend. A good telephone interview skillfully yields more useful information than almost any other form of communication I know.
Some prefer to use email interviews. It’s non-threatening; and if the recipient responds, you get the answers you’re looking for.
However, you may not be getting the answers you need.
I often send email interview questions as an icebreaker. My email explains what the interview is about and allows the recipient to answer them at that time. However, I still request a phone interview (or personal interview if they’re local). The questions are just to get them thinking about the topic.
If I can get my answers sent to me, why would I subject myself to the horrors of personal contact?
There are several reasons; however, there is one vitally important one. My email questionnaire merely serves as a starting point. Written questions and answers are cut and dried. Questions asked in person, even over the phone, will take the conversation to greater depths.
Of the 20 or so questions that I have planned, I’m lucky to get through 10 of them. Even so, one or two of them will direct me to the topic that I need to write. I’ve used the email message/follow-up phone call technique on everything from press releases to blog articles. It just yields better results.
Remember, you’re writing for your reader
I have a note tacked above my monitor that asks, “Who are you writing for?” It serves as a reminder that I’m not writing for myself. And I’m not writing for my client either. I’m writing for the all-important person who will ultimately be reading the article, post or other content marketing work.
And acting on it.
When you discover what your audience needs to hear – what their current problem, challenges and issues are – you’ll find your next great article topic.
For more inspiration, download these 8 free blog post templates that will help kickstart your content production.
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