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5 Ideation Strategies for Content Teams

As a digital or content marketer, you and your team will be tasked with creating social media posts, blogs, websites, advertisements, videos, and more. The task of ideating and executing on content can be an exhausting one, especially if you have to start from square one every single time, without a strategy to help you get going. Luckily, we’re here to help you with the strategy component.

Marketing in many ways is theater–it’s a big show, designed to entertain, educate, and drive sales. The best types of marketing do all three. It’s always helpful to start with a reminder of why marketing is cool. Here’s one of our favorite videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUG9qYTJMsI

 

If that doesn’t make you want to a razor subscription box, we don’t know what will. Now, let’s dive into how you and your team can work better together to brainstorm and ideate compelling content for your clients, while also not boring yourself to tears in the process.

 

1. The bottom up approach

A common and traditional approach. Like Drake, we start from the bottom (and hopefully, now we here). You lay the foundations for what types of content you want to create, what the big idea is, and you start building pieces on top of this until you have a finished, cohesive final product.

So, how do you start from the bottom? First, the content strategist brings a list of keywords that your client can potentially compete for. Let’s say you’re trying to help an artisanal basket weaver become the top basket weaver in his area (at least in the SRPs). Your strategy guy brings in this list:

  • Basket weaving for fun and profit
  • Basket artisans
  • Baskets for bread
  • Baskets for blankets

From here, we can create a link between all four of these things. For instance, a blog post that highlights the differences between baskets for holding food and baskets for holding household goods, while also highlighting the different artisanal styles that different basket weavers take, and what separates a cheap basket from an expensive, well made one.

A silly example, but it’s a good one for thinking about how you can start thinking about a base and building from it.

2. The top down approach

An equally valuable strategy for ideation is starting with what the final product should look like. What’s the mood, feeling, or theme that you want your content to have? This method is very helpful when you already have a product or service ready to go. Go ahead and mine that product for information. What is it called? What does it do? How does it look? Any answer to one of those questions can give you a top of the pyramid idea to work towards.

For example, if we’re selling a new type of bird seed called Munch, we have 18 different top-level things that we can work towards and emphasize. There’s the sound of the name, which can create all sorts of content ideas. Or, we can go bird-heavy, with lots of imagery. Once we know what we want to do, or what the product is, there’s all sorts of ways we can build toward that, with text, graphic design, and clever product placement.

3. Who is our audience?

It never hurts a content team to think about who their content is in service of. Many marketing folks miss this, in the constant hustle to hit the moving target that Facebook and Google are setting for them. Content is meant to bring value into the life of the customer it is targeting, through education and information. Marketing is linking customers with services and products that they will find fascinating or useful.

So, your team should ask–who is this product for, and how does that person think and feel? It’s an exercise in empathy. When you know who your audience is, there’s many different tools and strategies that you can use to ideate content. On a very simple level, for example, if you know that your audience doesn’t respond well to animated GIFs, don’t use animated GIFs!

4. Why this product or service?

A great strategy and one that folks often miss pivots around a crucial question: why our product over our competitors’? Let’s say you’re one of 10 million lifestyle coaches out there. What do you offer to clients that nobody else does? And, if you’re like a lot of other lifestyle coaches, how can you distinguish yourself.

Your ideation team shouldn’t look at this as a challenge to justify your product. That can lead down an unproductive road. Instead, focus on thinking about what makes your product or service great, and lead with ideas for content that emphasize and draw attention to that positivity. That’s the path to success.

5. Rules of the road

Every good content strategy session starts with some rules. Many ideation sessions can get mired in gridlock or analysis paralysis because someone doesn’t take the time to lay down some ground rules. You always need to take this sort of thing with a grain of salt, but many studies have found that how brainstorming happens is often more important than who is doing the brainstorming. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to have someone with institutional knowledge and organizational skill set up some guardrails beforehand. Style guides can be enormously helpful in this regard.

Building a helpful structure to help people stay on track and decide what kind of content needs to be created is enormously valuable. Here’s a few questions to answer before jumping into an ideation session with your team:

  • What’s our budget–what are we reasonably able to afford and, therefore, achieve?
  • What kind of content did we like in the past? Can we iterate?
  • What types of content will not be used in this project (this can be a helpful focusing tool)?
  • Are there projects/products/ideas that we want to emulate? What parts of those things were successful, and are they transferable to our current project.

For most people, ideation is either the most fun or the least fun part of a project. But remember, this can be serious business. Moz says it best:

Putting time and energy into a bad idea is a waste of your resources and has the potential to turn your audience off. Plus, if your decision maker sees too many resources invested in too many ideas that fail, you could lose credibility, autonomy, and—worst case scenario—your job.

 

Utilizing these strategies will help you get going on a new project and can serve as a consistent and reliable method of brainstorming new marketing magic going forward. Good luck! And, get in touch with us if you’d rather we handle the tough stuff for you.

Struggling to bring your team together and brainstorm new exciting content? Read on to discover some of the best methods for content ideation.

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