Great ideas are the foundation for great content. Sure, you may have specific topics or trends you know you want to speak to, but that’s only half the battle. To successfully reach and engage buyers with content, you need to figure out what story you should tell and how you should tell it.
Conjuring up compelling content topics is still a daunting challenge for many B2B brands. A whopping 89% of B2B brands use content marketing, but some marketers said they were stagnant (28%) in their success. The main reasons why their success was about the same as a year ago were that they don’t have enough time to devote to content marketing (52%) and they face content creation challenges (49%).
When B2B marketers embrace the art of ideation, they can address these issues successfully. A content ideation is a culmination of a brand’s campaign goals, target audience and campaign messaging. You can develop a vast list of content ideas that align with a specific audience or solution group, or you can brainstorm ideas that are designed to address a specific buyer stage.
Regardless of whether you’re developing a comprehensive campaign or filling gaps in your library, the ideation process mitigates — even extinguishes — some common content creation issues. When you take the time to brainstorm and flesh out ideas, the content creation process is more turnkey. Additionally, the end product is on brand and fully aligned with target buyers and their information needs.
But of course, there are some steps you need to take to ensure you’re ideating successfully. Here are some quick questions you need to ask to perfect your process:
- Who’s your target audience? You can’t tell a great, relevant story unless you know who you’re speaking to. If you have personas or profiles for the people you’re trying to reach, that’s great. If not, don’t panic! Simple insights — like the company they work for, its size and industry, their job roles and titles — are helpful. Then, think of what these executives typically do on a day-to-day basis and what their goals and challenges are.
- What’s your demand type? Is your solution a completely new idea that isn’t widely known? Or are you trying to stand out in an extremely entrenched and competitive market? Knowing demand type, or where your brand and technology are in the big picture of a particular industry, can help guide your tone and voice. It can also help you determine whether you can or should experiment with unique storytelling approaches or content formats to stand out. For example, a point-of-sale provider targeting large retailers and restaurants may need to be more creative in its approach so it differentiates from other players.
- Is your messaging done? Messaging is critical to successful ideation. It’s the connecting point between the information you have about your buyers and the content you create. During this process, you drill down into your target audience’s challenges and pain points, buying triggers and how they align with your solution. Then, you create your “keystone” message, or foundational message that is in your buyer’s tone of voice. It voices his/her goals, aspirations and ultimately, their challenges and inhibitors. To create highly tailored ideation, you must refine this messaging so it aligns with all stages of the buyer’s journey. (Note: If you want to learn more about the messaging process, you can download our guide and workbook, which walks through our recommended three-step process.)
- What content preferences do you need to take into account? Of course, you don’t need to finalize your format decisions before you start the ideation process, but having this insight is extremely helpful as you try to brainstorm different topics and ways you can reach and engage your audience. Is your audience generally tech-savvy, or are they slow adopters? Do they primarily access your content via their mobile devices or desktops? Do they devote a lot of time to reading content, or is it difficult to capture their attention? Answering these questions, you can come up with quick-hitting topics and design ideas that will draw them in.
- What are the creative limits? This, of course, can vary depending on your brand and your target audience. Some brands have a lot of room to have fun with their content. They can be quirky, reference pop culture and use colorful language. If you’re in an industry like healthcare or finance, though, you may need to be a bit more professional. This will guide your ideation, tone and approach for your content.
- Whose brains can you pick? Your fellow marketing team members, internal subject matter experts, sales reps, executives, customers…the list goes on and on. Heck, you can even tap into your social networks and influencers. Ask them questions or pitch potential ideas. See what they think of preliminary ideas, content formats or themes before you make final decisions. That way, you can be sure the content you create is of interest and will resonate with your industry.
When it comes to ideation, the sky’s the limit. You can always revisit your ideas, refine them and build upon them, so it’s an opportune time for you to go buck wild and find new ways to tell your brand’s story. Whether it’s through a creative narrative or a new content format, you need to discover new ways to spark relationships with your buyers.
Does your marketing team go through an ideation process before creating content? We’d love to hear your experiences and best practices! Tell us how you create, share and refine ideation in the comments section below.