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Oct

The Road to Recognition with Personal Branding [Content Matters Episode 30]

Content Matters 30

If you’re a professional, you’re a brand. In this episode of Content Matters, Andy and Barry discuss Barry’s book, The Road to Recognition, and highlight many of its lessons on developing your personal brand in the age of digital media. 

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Oct

SaaS Websites: Content, Copy & Design Ideas for the Homepage

SaaS websites

Do you sell SaaS?

I suspect you relentlessly challenge your instincts about how to present content on your homepage.

I’m with you. I’m a soldier in the SaaS wars. Helping create SaaS websites and building stronger digital marketing arsenals to back them up is my “wheelhouse.”

It’s hard to say what’s the ideal way to stack-up the content on your homepage. In an effort to help you consider the best options and make smart calls, I’m going to share with you content, copy and design ideas to plan the next iteration of your homepage.

A hero shot goes first

Your SaaS homepage begins with a hero shot (or header). Companies make a variety of choices here, but I submit sliders and carousels are out. They’re not yet extinct, but they are old school.

This is the scrolling age. It’s naïve to think a visitor will wait patiently as your slide show plays. You’ll be far better off to identify your most important message and get to it.

Proof hero shot

I love what Proof does. No motion. No stock photography—such as the predictably deadly desktop with a neatly arranged computer, plant, coffee cup and notepad. No screenshot. No innocuous wallpaper or shenanigans of any kind.

They hit you fast with the benefit of using their product, in four words. A tidy subtitle drills down into the who, what, and how. The call-to-action isn’t a selection and it doesn’t diddle around. It says “Try it for free.” And if you should fear doing so might be complex, Proof assures you it’s a simple 5-minute setup.

Evernote hero shot

Welcome to the top of the Evernote homepage. There’s actually is a bit of animation here. The headline rotates. But it does so quickly and is impossible to ignore. The sequence reads…

  1. Remember everything.
  2. Get organized.
  3. Succeed together.
  4. Meet Evernote, your second brain.

I love that. And… bam… Signup form, with two choices: sign up with Google or enter an email and password. Everything about the homepage is clear, simple and deliberately unfussy. A great lesson in minimalism. A+ for its homepage copy. (more…)

Oct

Simple Ways to Get Started with Content Marketing Metrics [Content Matters Episode 29]

Content Matters episode 29

Are you avoiding measuring your content marketing efforts for fear of its complexity? In this episode of the Content Matters podcast, Andy and Barry present simple ways to get started with content marketing metrics.

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Aug

B2B SaaS Marketing Strategy: 27 Smart Marketing Tools and Tactics

 

SaaS Marketing Strategy (1)

SaaS companies come and SaaS companies go.

I watch closely. Sometimes from the outside. Sometimes from within.

The death rate of SaaS companies can be discouraging, but on the other hand, the long and growing list of mega-success stories in the software subscription business is downright inspiring. The continued growth of the industry is too…

SaaS Growth

Source: Trends in SaaS for Enterprise IT

The overall SaaS market will reach $164.29 billion by 2022.

Source: Transparency Market Research

So what’s the difference between the movers and shakers of the cloud wars and the dearly departed? Well, I sit (virtually, that is) in their marketing departments, so from my point of view, the answer is the marketing tools they choose and the tactics they use.

Most of my clients are SaaS companies. Most offer B2B platforms. Staying on top of effective B2B SaaS marketing strategy is critical to my business. If you can say the same, this post’s for you. (more…)

Jul

5 Social Media Marketing Trends in the Age of Mobile

5 social media marketing trends

When I repost an article I read elsewhere, which I rarely do, it means I found it important and insightful. This is one of those occasions. Check out this amazing piece highlighting five undeniable social media marketing trends, from Marcus Andrews of HubSpot… 

The Future of Social Media Is Here: These Are the Trends You Need to Know

It’s time we talked about how you’re using social media. That’s right, this is an intervention.

We’re concerned about what you’re doing, and more importantly what you’re not doing. Your lack of adoption of new channels. Your total disrespect of mobile first users. Your reluctance to try video. Your fear of spending money on social ads. Your results. We’re concerned.

We bring up these concerns out of love for you and modern marketing. You see, social media marketing has changed, but most social media marketers haven’t. A modern social strategy is light-years away from the definition we used in 2012 and it’s time to adapt. Adapt to a mobile first, video obsessed audience. Adapt to new tactics that take advantage of new tools. Adapt how we measure success and what we’re trying to achieve.

This isn’t a matter of making tweaks, we need to start over.

We know this because it’s something our own marketing team has gone through here at HubSpot. Over the last few years we’ve had to constantly reinvent ourselves. We’ve learned the hard way so you don’t have have to.

Why do we need a new start?

Things have changed—and that all starts with Facebook.

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Jul

How to Lose Friends and Not Influence People [Content Matters Episode 28]

Episode 28 Content Matters

As a digital marketer, you’ll often aim to contribute content to other blogs in an effort to increase your reach and influence. There are effective—and ineffective—ways to conduct your outreach. In this episode, we’ll explore blogger outreach do’s and dont’s.

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Jul

7 User-Generated Content Ideas to Create a Trusted Brand

UGCAdvertising’s not quite dead, but it seldom pays off like it did in decades past. In fact, it tends to turn off the new app-happy generation.

Suffice to say if you aim to claim the attention and admiration of the smartphone clan, it’s smarter—and more lucrative—to try different approaches.

Obviously, content marketing is the approach most brands are moving to. And most strive to write, design, shoot, record, and publish helpful content. The “teach, not preach” approach has proven to help create brand affinity, and often, generate sales.

But c’mon now, the truth is phone fanatics aren’t always keen on embracing old standbys such as “how to” articles and list posts. They’re far more inclined to spend their time Gramming, Snapping, Tweeting and Tubing.

So let’s talk about the approach today’s most trusted brands use to operate more effectively in age of the small screen…


You can’t go it alone to get user-generated content produced. You need happy customers to pull it off. They vouch for, and rave, about your product. Viewers are more inclined to buy the message—and subsequently—the product.

Ipsos ingrographic UGC

An infographic from Ipsos MediaCT focused on how millennials love user-generated content (UGC). As you see above, it makes the point that peer reviews are highly trustworthy. It also states:

  • 30% of the millennials media time is spent consuming UGC.
  • It’s getting much easier for customers to create content.
  • UGC is 35% more memorable than other media.
  • UGC is 20% more influential on purchase decisions than all other media types.

It works. People trust their peers most. It’s that simple.

7 benefits of user-generated content

UGC offers a number of benefits:

  • Increased awareness
    More people talk up your brand via social media and blogs, giving you more exposure.
  • Better understanding of your audience
    You gain more insights into what services potential customers are looking for and how they experience your brand.
  • More engagement
    UGC allows you to enhance your relationship with consumers online.
  • Stronger community
    Fostering conversation allows your consumers to connect with each other.
  • Search results
    More content produces more search engine indexing giving your website enhanced visibility around target key phrases.
  • Trustworthy content
    As noted above, the majority of consumers trust their peers. When satisfied customers tell others about their experience, it provides social proof that supports the credibility of your brand.
  • Sales
    Increased buyer engagement and purchases are among the most direct benefits of user-generated content.

To create this post I dove into the various types of user-generated content promoted on social media channels to:

  • Showcase seven user-generated content ideas you can use to garner interest and generate sales.
  • Share some of the best user-generated content campaigns I found.

Let’s dig in.

1. Contests

Contests work in consumer and B2B marketing. To create them, you need (1) a fun idea, of course, and (2) contestants. Put the two together and you have user-generated content that can benefit both your brand and its fans.

Conceive a prize. It can be cash, merchandise, free service or even just some form of recognition.

Conceive a tactic that produces content, preferably visual content.

TourDeSun contest
ShortStack is a user-generated content platform—and then some. In this example,
TourDeSun used the versatile ShortStack platform to setup a simple Instagram contest asking entrants to submit vacation selfies with the hashtag #vacationfortwo.

Lays contest
Lays dangles a large pile of cash to entice entries for its “Do us a Flavor” contest, which has been going for years now because it produces tremendous social buzz.

Commarts contest
Here’s a thing of beauty: an award-winning design from a typography competition conducted annually by Commarts (CA). Their contest page claims, “CA’s Award of Excellence is one of the most-coveted awards in the industry. If chosen, winning places you in the highest ranks of your profession.”

2. Hashtag campaigns

You can engage your customers on an ongoing basis with #hashtag campaigns. This tactic is especially popular on Instagram where hashtagged images from customers essentially serve as word-of-mouth advertising.

While you could offer incentives and go with the contest approach, often the opportunity to be featured on your Instagram account is all it takes.

Earth Rated hashtag campaign
I love how Earth Rated, makers of biodegradable dog poop bags, perpetually inspires the enthusiastic dog lovers who use their product to post hashtagged images.

3. Customer events

You can create authentic and persuasive content by creating customer events, online and off, and give customers starring roles in whatever you create.

I love this idea from John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing: the video appreciation party. John writes, “Once a year or so hold a client appreciation event to say thanks and create a networking event for your clients and prospects. Hire a video crew for the event and, after a few bottles of wine have been emptied, ask some of your clients to talk about their experience with your firm on camera. Then also let them record a five minute commercial for their own use too.”

Here are some more ideas for customer events where creating content is among the goals:

  • Twitter chats
  • Webinars—Invite customers to speak
  • Promotions at trade shows
  • Meetups or seminars

4. Surveys

If there’s a great strategy in this post for killing multiple birds with one stone, this is surely it. Do research with your customers.

First and foremost, you’ll create a form of content that consistently delivers tremendous results for earning links and shares. Research by Buzzsumo identifies five content types that perform best including “content that provides original research and insights.”

Next, obviously, you’ll learn more about your customers’ needs.

And… research as a content type is amazingly repurposable. It can easily be developed as a report, post, microsite, infographic, slide deck, and more.

INSync webinar
Just a minute ago, in my inbox was an invitation to attend a “virtual session,” a webinar, I suppose, where brand new research will be revealed. Smart.

Emma ebook
Research projects such as this industry report from email service provider Emma is great for all of the reasons described above and, if gated with an opt-in form, provides a strong lead magnet for earning new email subscribers.

5. Video testimonials

Testimonials have persevered for ages across any and all media for good reason. Prospects want to know… How have you used this product or service? What did you accomplish?

You’ll find user-generated video content is a major trust builder.

Zoom video testimonials
Zoom, an online conferencing platform I use and love, offers short video testimonials on its home page drawing viewers into highly compelling stories, such as the one above featuring Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

6. Customer stories

Customer stories (which may go by their more formal moniker, case studies) can be user-generated. Hi, I’m Diane and I like my software because it saved me time.

Not a bad approach by any stretch of the imagination, especially if they’re authentic. Social media and smartphones make this sort of thing oh-so-easy. But ultimately, these confessions of undying loyalty serve you and you alone.

What if some of those brand-loving volunteers of yours who get wealthier, healthier, happier or somehow better than they were before could be invited to share their stories in a way that serves them? A line could form.

I’ll use a really smart example from Kajabi to clarify. The company, which offers a platform for launching, hosting and selling educational courses, developed an ongoing series of customer stories called the #KajabiHero program.

Kajabi heroes

It’s basic, brilliant and a bona fide revenue generator. You see, those customers above clad in their sharp, black, 100% cotton tees, screen-printed with hashtags hovering above their hearts, don’t just give their testimony.

They’re rewarded with website traffic for playing along. Yep. Look at those links above. They don’t go to Kajabi pages; they go to sites from Lena, Jordan, Gidget and Diane.

Smart stuff, this mutual backscratching society results in authentic stories, credible content, and new customers.

7. Collaborations

We’ll call this final one the “Etcetera File” because, really, you could say every idea I’ve presented thus far is a collaborative effort of sorts. However, the sky’s the limit when it comes to ways to work with customers to create content.

Here are a few more:

  • Incorporate product/service reviews in your content.
  • Collect idea submissions for just about anything: recipes, tips, hacks, favorites, etc.
  • Create a section of your website, of the forum variety, where customers help each other.
  • Collect customer questions for FAQs.
  • Create roundup posts with contributions from your customers.
  • Co-present with a customer.
  • Co-develop and co-brand an eBook or infographic.
  • Record consultations and offer them as audio and/or video.

It pays to collaborate with customers

It’s time to ask users to generate content and collaborate with you.

When users become your marketers, your communications becomes more credible and prospects feel more confident about buying.

With a little thought and creativity you can use the user-generated content ideas I’ve offered in your marketing mix. And more thing…

Besides making you money, these approaches will often save you money. A lot of these user-generated content ideas are easy, fun and inexpensive—or even free.

If you liked this post, please share it with the click-to-tweet link below or leave a comment.

 

Jun

Examining Effective Processes for Creating Content [Content Matters Episode 27]

Episode 27

Do you have a workflow for creating content? Is it working for you? The process of creating and collaborating on content differs from company to company. In this episode, Andy and Barry explore tools, systems, and processes for getting your content together.

The episode includes:

  • The many tools and systems Andy and Barry use to collect ideas… Evernote, Trello, swipe files, notebooks, Google docs spreadsheets, iPhone Notes, WordPress, Dropbox 
  • Ideas for planning and outlining your content—featuring Orbit’s (Feldman-endorsed) web content template – link below
  • Editing and workflow tools including DivvyHQ, PowerPost, and some enterprise level systems for content management
  • Using screenshots to snag this and that for safekeeping
  • Andy’s almighty spreadsheet system for, well, everything content related—including his clever “Focus” tab for ongoing SEO progress
  • Tools, tools, and more cool tools… List.ly, Upwork, Yoast

In the cheese & mousetrap segment:

  • Barry details his frequently used process for creating great content from expert interviews
  • Andy speaks to the importance of collaborating with the sales team to develop content for the “sales enablement” process

Resources mentioned in this epsidode:

Coming in the show’s next episode:
A rant on how poorly content marketers invade your inbox with lame requests (and advice for doing it effectively)

Jun

Entrepreneur Pekka Koskinen Shares Effective SaaS Marketing Tactics

Effective SaaS Marketing Tactics

Want to pick-up some marketing tactics and tips from a battle-tested pro?

Pekka Koskinen is a serial software entrepreneur in B2B SaaS space who calls Helsinki, Finland home. His latest venture, Leadfeeder, is Pekka’s fourth.

Since so many of my clients are forever in search of the most effective tactics for marketing and selling SaaS platforms, I asked Pekka to do an interview for this blog. I wanted I’d ask Pekka about the various strategies he believes can accelerate the success of startup SaaS companies and share them with you.

Meet Pekka

Barry: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Leadfeeder to get started?

Pekka: Leadfeeder is an online tool, which helps generate leads for your sales team. We offer B2B companies knowledge about which companies have visited their website and what they’ve done there.

The problem we’re solving: only 2% of the website visitors leave their contact details. But based on their IP address we can tell which companies the rest of the visitors are from.

By connecting that information with your CRM information you’re able to see how your existing customers, your ongoing deals, and new prospects visit your website and what they do there. You generate more intelligence and effectiveness to the sales team.

Barry: You still are invested in and advise other software companies, so tell our viewers a little bit about some of these other initiatives.

Pekka: This is in fact my second startup in the web analytics space. I founded my first startup in 2004. It was a web analytics company called Snoobi. At the time, there wasn’t yet Google Analytics. That tool just told you how many people you have on your website, what do they do there, where do they come from, and typical web analytics stuff.

I ran that company for eight years. We became one of the fastest growing tech companies in Europe. In 2012, I ended up selling that company and by then it was around 60 people working there. Since I knew the web analytics space and I knew what was missing, I found this opportunity with Leadfeeder to build a sales tool on top of Google Analytics.

Barry: In your bio it says you are a Startup Sauna coach. That’s an interesting description of whatever it actually is. What is it?

Pekka: In Finland, all of the big business deals are made inside saunas.

Barry: Saunas?

Pekka: Yeah, I was just kidding… Startup Sauna is a startup acceleration program in Helsinki. It’s a six-week program for 15 teams selected from 1,000 applicants all around Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. They come to Finland and we coach them for six weeks. So I’m very involved with helping them with everything related to building a business from scratch: marketing, sales, business model, pricing, and product.

Analytics are all-important 

Barry: You’re a mentor and you’ve got yourself quite a bit of momentum with Leadfeeder, so you must be doing something right. If you look back or even if you look at other companies, are they doing something wrong? Do B2B SaaS companies often make the same mistakes?

Pekka: I try to do things in a really pragmatic order. So in the beginning, when you don’t have anything, the only way you can drive traffic to your website is basically to buy AdWords or Facebook marketing.

What I see many times is that people are not putting enough effort in analytics. So how we did it is that we started from the beginning to really track what is the cost for conversion that we are getting and then when we were adding other traffic sources we already had the tracking in place.

I would say that putting the tracking in place in the early phase and then making sure that all the traffic sources are tagged (with UTM tags, for example) so you can identify the sources, it’s really important.

For me, this is the only way to do this, but I still see many B2B companies not using analytics when they are doing marketing and I cannot understand how you can manage your Internet marketing without knowing what’s happening.

Barry: Right. And Leadfeeder itself is a tool for that, helping you understand who came to your website.

Pekka: Kind of, yeah, but Leadfeeder is for sales guys. It’s for identifying who was there. But then if we talk about how to drive greater traffic to the website, then Google Analytics probably is the most important tool there.

But what I see many times is that companies have installed Google Analytics on their website, but it’s not configured well. You need to have goals and funnels in place. We’re using a lot of custom segments in Google Analytics to analyze how our existing customers are using our website compared to the new people that we are getting to the website.

Generating traffic with partner programs 

Barry: So it all starts with traffic and you talked about paying for it with AdWords and Facebook—obviously two places with massive audiences and well-known advertising programs. But those cost money, and so you want to do something organically to keep the budget in check. So what could you do to create organic traffic as a B2B SaaS startup?

Pekka: That’s true, when you go forward with the paid advertising it’s going to be really costly. What we wanted to do is to have others market us.

So we generated this partner program, for example, that enables digital marketing agencies to recommend us to their clients. If we can get traffic and trials through those channels then we give kickback commissions to the agency. And what that has done is that the agencies are speaking about us quite a lot to their customers. Some of creates direct traffic from their website.

But most people just Google “Leadfeeder” and come to our website, so we’ve been seeing quite a big increase in organic traffic in those areas where we have most active partners.

Then there’s search engine optimization—definitely a really important thing for how we can get traffic affordably from Google. What that in in practice means is generating good quality content on our blog and getting links from other websites to our website, and that way increase the domain authority.

Generating traffic with quality blog content

Barry: Now you’re talking my business here, content marketing. We’re talking about blogging. Have you been a proponent for using a blog to generate search-based traffic for a while now and for your various companies?

Pekka: In Leadfeeder we’ve been doing this now for a year more actively. In my other companies we haven’t been doing that so much. I think the whole content marketing tactics became important in the last maybe three years. Definitely, at Leadfeeder, that’s our most important way to do marketing.

Generating traffic with digital PR 

Barry: I see on your homepage, and I’ve scrolled partially down, social proof, which is testimonials and client logos. So let’s assume that’s a tactic everybody wants and should have.

But then I see the probably not-so-easy-to-achieve “As seen in.” These are big media brands. Here it says Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fox, Mashable, and Social Media Examiner, and I’m sure there’s more. Those are definitely highly coveted websites. How did that happen? That sounds like an unpaid promotional plan.

Pekka: Yeah. It’s kind of like a combination of unpaid and paid. We are a using a PR agency to hook us up with journalists from these media and that’s how these have happened. We haven’t had the connections, so that’s where the PR agency helped us the most. But then the content is partly done by us and then partly done with the assistance of the PR agency.

Barry: Obviously you’re a proponent of knowing where your traffic comes from. Is appearing on websites like Mashable one of the better traffic generators?

Pekka: It really depends on the article. For example, in Social Media Examiner, there was a really great article about us that got shared 2,000 times, or something like that. That really generated a lot of quality traffic for us and lots of people signed up for Leadfeeder from that traffic.

But it really depends. Now we’ve been getting really good traffic from Entrepreneur.com. But from analytics we can only the fraction of the benefits. So we can see the direct traffic, but then we’re also seeing that once there is a big PR piece, there is also an increase in organic traffic from Google.

Barry: That’s the idea. I certainly advise my clients to play the guest blogging game, because when you put a website together very few people are on it, whether you have a blog or not.

Leadfeeder partners with Google

I was reading just this morning, and I guess this is relatively new news, your product works with Google Analytics. Sounds like you have some pretty exciting announcement about a partnership with Google.

Pekka: Our product is built on top of Google Analytics API, so we are a pretty heavy user of their API. We have a really good relationship with their marketing team and their product team and last month we were in their headquarters recording a video about how to generate leads using Google Analytics and Leadfeeder. You can see that on Google Analytics YouTube channel. It was a pretty good place to be, to be promoted by Google.

Barry: I would think so. Is there more to come or is that a one-off?

Pekka: There is more to come. We are also doing a cooperation with MailChimp and Pipedrive and these other players, but of course Google is the biggest of our partners.

Google Analytics is a great tool for marketing people, but then if sales people want to know what’s happening on the website, then Leadfeeder makes the Google Analytics information valuable for the sales guys. So that’s how we are complementing each other.

Leadfeeder’s conversion strategies  

Barry: We’ve talked quite a bit about partnerships, public relations, paid advertising, things that bring people to your website.

This little formula is almost “no duh” it’s so obvious, but I’ve heard it from my friend Andy Crestodina who says…

Traffic x Conversion = Results (or outcomes)

So let’s talk about conversion. How do you get people to do what you want them to do, and what is that thing that you want them to do when they’re on the Leadfeeder website?

Pekka: The first thing is the landing page. Most of the people come to our front page, so we want to make sure that the message comes fast. There is also a video to explain what Leadfeeder is about. So that’s the most typical way people come to our website.

But then if there are some special channels—for example, Pipedrive’s blo—they’re linking to our blog post about how we integrate with them. So we have created source-specific landing pages that kind of tie together our message and the message of the site where the traffic comes from.

So if you come from Salesforce’s website, you land to our Salesforce page, which explains what this is. That has been really important in order to engage people further, because if you just push everybody to the front page they are not going to convert.

Barry: I’ve read a lot about that, the source-specific landing page. Great idea… great tactic… What’s next? What’s offered to them when they land on a source-specific landing page?

Pekka: The first thing is to try to give them value. So we understand that they are the users of some other tool or they just read some other article. So first we need to connect with that. So we create some value and explain how we could help them.

We’ve seen that if we try too much to push people from the blog post to our signup, that doesn’t really work. For example, if we write about “best tools for social media marketing,” people come to our website, but they are not necessarily yet ready to sign up for our tool.

So what we try to have them do is to go to our product page. We’ll offer some video and we are tracking that as a conversion for that traffic. I was telling you about the importance of tracking, but you need to track the right things. So if you always track everything based on how many signup conversions you are having, you might go wrong. So you need to have the micro-conversations also set up in the analytics.

Leadfeeder’s conversion strategies

Barry: Are you also trying to capture their email address?

Pekka: We decided not to do that actively. On the blog we have a place where you can subscribe to our blog posts, but we‘ve tried to encourage people to sign up for the tool, because it’s so easy to try. You just need to connect your Google Analytics and that’s it.

Barry: I suppose in the B2B SaaS business it’s more important to get them to touch and feel the product and you said there is no steep slope to get there with Leadfeeder, so they can do it quickly.

So even though you’re talking about soft selling, or not coming on too strong, when they get to a landing page that’s specific to something they just read, you are indeed giving them a button to push if they want to try the product or see a demo, right?

Pekka: Yeah, exactly. We have this product videos for demos on the website, that’s one thing. We also have a chat on the website so people can engage through that, but really we’ve tried to make signing up for the actual product as easy as possible. No credit card is needed. You have a 30 day free trial. It’s a one-minute signup process. So that’s what we want them to do.

Barry: That’s good stuff. Marketers call that reducing friction. Well, that’s Pekka Koskinen coming to us from Helsinki where he helps people in the sauna.

Pekka: Yeah, it’s so cold here, so you need to be in the sauna all the time.

 

 

Jun

33 Dependable Sources to Get Content Marketing Ideas

Content marketing ideas

You’ll find a ton of blog posts and resources intended to help give you content marketing ideas. Most of them present various angles marketers are using now. You know… how-to’s, lists, comparisons, newsjackers, customer stories, etc.

I’ve written plenty of content in this vein, including posts (and infographics) to help you generate video marketing ideas, infographics, and lead magnets, such as eBooks.

In this post, rather than GIVE you content marketing ideas, I’m going to tell you how (or where) to GET them.

Mostly, you “steal” them. But as I hope you know, I don’t mean you plagiarize the content other brands publish. That’ll get you nowhere. What I mean is marketing ideas are inspired by a myriad of resources—online and off.

The long list that follows explains exactly what I mean. I rely on these resources and you should too.

1. Search

Begin a search in Google or Bing. You’re not only going to find a quick little surplus of ideas, but ideas people actually search for. Because…

Google Auto Complete

The search engine will attempt to guess what you’re searching for. As it detects your intention, it will suggest ideas. This is called Google Autocomplete.

People also ask

Somewhere on the page, often at the top, you may see common questions (“People also ask”) and answers, a feature that appears as an increasingly common response when searches are phrased as questions.

Of course, the search results themselves may give you ideas.

Searches related to

And for most searches, at the bottom of the page, you’ll see “Searches related to….” More ideas.

2. Competitors’ blogs and FAQs

If you’re not eyeing the content your competitors create, you should. You might even want to setup Google Alerts or any media monitoring tool to keep tabs on your competitors and your industry at large.

 

Google Alerts

Check out their blogs and content hubs. You’re likely to find topics you can cover better, or differently. The same goes for the FAQ. Perhaps your answer to what a competitor claims is a frequently asked question merits developing an article or some form of content. Perhaps your big muscular answer makes theirs look weak.

3. Books

Say hello to Amazon, a haven of content ideas. What do people write books about in your industry?

Look inside book

“Look inside” a relevant book (a feature most Amazon books offer). Whoa… the preview feature shows you the book’s table of contents, which may contain all kinds of content marketing ideas.

4. eBooks

Ebooks, of the freebie variety, are offered on Amazon, Scribd, SlideShare, and well, everywhere. The companies you compete with certainly market them. Searching for eBooks on a specific topic will present them to you.

Mine them for ideas. Or take one you like and do something different with it.

I’ve written numerous successful blog posts based on an eBook, or a collection of them. They often contain quotes, statistics, research, examples, and other components that make it easier to include highly credible citations and links.

5. Magazines

Remember magazines? I don’t buy as many as I once did, but I haven’t forgotten them. I subscribe to several in the digital marketing realm. Most of them are free.

I don’t read them cover-to-cover. In fact, sometimes I don’t get to them at all. But often, they become my reading material at the gym or for late night reading (is that sad?). In any case, they give me ideas.

I don’t mean to rail on any publisher in particular, but I’ll tell you most of the magazines I get about my field—digital marketing—feature fairly lightweight articles. Magazines do that.

However, the topics often have potential, so they inspire ideas for me to create posts, eBooks, infographics, slide decks, videos, etc.

6. Research

Research rocks content marketing, that is, published research reports. Join the mailing list of leaders in your industry and pay special attention when they publish research. It’s gold.

Next, use parts of it in your content. Or mine it for ideas.

Social media tactics

One of my most popular posts, What Social Media Tactics Are Most Effective?, literally plucks the idea from Social Media Examiner’s annual industry research report. They listed the most common questions their readers ask. I decided to answer the top one. I did so simply by researching and rounding up the best content on the topic based on reading the posts that came up on the first page of search.

7. Courses

Udemy curriculum
Online courses are everywhere and aggregated, for your convenience, on services such as Udemy, Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda). Much like books, they are chapterized, so a quick review of the course outline (a table of contents) is bound to be full of ideas.

8. Conferences

Here’s one of those online and off resources. Offline, or in the real world, you can attend conferences (and probably should for networking purposes). When you do, you’ll have the chance to experience several helpful keynotes, sessions and workshops.

You’ll also be given a program. Keep that thing and refer to it when seeking a content marketing idea.

Even if you can’t make it to a conference, the agendas of conferences past and future are published online.

Conference organizers will carefully vet ideas for sessions submitted by potential speakers. They tend to select the ones they believe will draw the most interest. Now there’s a cool shortcut. Someone else—probably a committee of experts—did the research for you.

Virtual summits have all kinds of models, but are essentially conferences as well, so if your industry offers them, the same strategy can be applied.

9. Podcasts

You may be producing podcasts, listening to them, or ignoring the podcasting revolution. But understand: podcasting also presents a place and resource for mining content marketing ideas.

podcast episodes

Can’t find the time? You need not listen. I must admit, though I have a podcast, I seldom listen to them. What I’m suggesting is that you simply peruse the titles of the podcasts for ideas.

10. TV

Are there television stations and networks broadcasting programs related to your industry? You can use your remote control to peruse the programs by doing a search. Or you can use the web.

There’s no doubt in my mind television programming pros are not producing shows on topics no one cares about. For me, talk shows and demonstration shows come to mind. For instance, folks like Dr. Oz and Rachel Ray are creating shows, or program segments, about topics the viewers appreciate. Thanks to the proliferation of stations, examples of highly specific programs about highly specific topics are nearly endless.

11. YouTube

Internet TV applies here too. What’s Maria Forleo up to? What are vloggers like Jenna Marbles doing? Which shows are killing it for views in your field?

YouTube

Do a search on YouTube and gather all kinds of ideas.

12. Buzzsumo

You may serve a highly specific niche and benefit from content whether or not it reached a lot of eyeballs and earned a lot of mentions.

However, learning what has indeed earned substantial social media shares and links will be helpful in your quest to discover effective content marketing ideas.

Use Buzzsumo to search by topic, URL or author. You’ll get an instant report on posts and pages that performed best.

buzzsumo

I often search Buzzsumo to see the results leaders in my field get from their content. The big winners often spark ideas worthy of content development.

13. Quora

The popular Q&A website Quora is a forum for just about everything. The questions there, and answers, will give you ideas.

Quora related questions

Be sure to check out the related questions.

14. Wikipedia

Wikipedia is like the world’s HQ for finding tables of contents or related ideas. Seriously, search anything. Bam! You could find:

  • Detailed posts
  • Links galore
  • A table of contents to inspire a crazy number of ideas
  • A “See also” section with even more ideas
  • Notes (footnotes), references, further reading, external links
  • And more

Wikipedia

For most inquiries or topics, Wikipedia is so rich with content marketing ideas, you may not even need another source.

15. News aggregators

I got this idea (and hundreds more) from Andy Crestodina on his blog at Orbit Media. (I’m a contributor there.) Andy explains news aggregators pull blog feeds and newsletters together and can therefore be a rich source of ideas.

AllTop

Andy recommends Feedly and Alltop and writes they are “…great for both research and organization.” He says, “Search for your topic and scan through the headlines with your next post in mind. Within minutes, you should spot a few themes and memes that you can repurpose on your blog.”

16. Blog comments

You have a blog, right? It’s the main reason you’re reading this long list post about where to get content ideas.

Does your blog welcome comments and questions from readers? The truth is bloggers feature comment sections less than they used to, which is probably because readers chime in less than they used to.

Still, whether it be on your blog or elsewhere, blog comments are easy to find and capture cool things such as:

  • Questions and challenges readers have
  • Objections readers have
  • Links to related resources
  • And potentially, ideas for expanding your content regarding topics readers have shown interest in

17. Email

For better or worse, I subscribe to a ton of email newsletters and updates from marketers, influencers, and relevant industry publishers. I suspect you do too.

I must admit, my morning routine generally consists of zapping 95% of them—and from time to time I go on an opt-out rampage—however, I read the subject and from lines and click-through at least a few times everyday. And that inspires ideas.

You absolutely must monitor what’s being published in your niche and, when you’re shopping for ideas, email will help feed them to you.

18. Phone calls and conversations

This may be the most under-appreciated or least mined source on the list I’m presenting. However, you’re having conversations with prospects, customers, and various types of associates daily, right?

These conversations inevitably invoke questions. Your challenge is to pay close enough attention to record them for posterity. The questions people ask you and the issues they face—especially when they care enough to take the time to ask you in conversation—are likely the most important topics you need to tackle with your content.

19. Idea generators

If you’re main game is marketing, you’re probably aware other marketers (with the required resources) create free idea generation tools. If you moonlight as a marketer, now you know.

There are quite a few worth trying…

Answer the Public

  • Answer the Public is quite handy for generating a mindmap of related ideas and questions.

Portent's Idea Generator

20. Keyword tools

Keyword tools are everywhere, free and paid. Of course, if you’re a serious SEO researcher, you’ll want to consider the paid tools and identify the feature sets and fees that work best for you. Here, for the simple purpose of hunting for content marketing ideas, I’ll present three you’re likely to find helpful and easy to use.

  • Google AdWords Keyword Planner—The free tool from Google was created to help marketers plan pay-per-click ad campaigns. However, whether you buy ads or not, the tool will generate lists of related keywords based on the terms you enter and broadly estimate search volume, making it a good starting point for content marketing ideas.
  • Ubersuggest
  • Keyword Tool.io

Ubersuggest and KeywordTool are similar and focus on generating a long list of related search terms, largely of the long tail variety, in an alphabetical format. Search volume is not indicated with the free versions. There is, to a limited degree, a variety of ways to stratify searches (by search engines and search types). Ubersuggest includes a word cloud display option, but it’s probably more of a toy than a tool.

21. SlideShare

SlideShare, a LinkedIn company, is a massive content hub, where presentations, documents, and infographics are uploaded. The service doesn’t appear to thrive to the degree it once did, however, LinkedIn claims to have 18 million uploads in 40 content categories.

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.47.25 AMChances are, a little searching and clicking around on SlideShare will help stir up some ideas. I’ve used it as a research tool for years and occasionally base content on what I find there, cite it as a source, or even embed the content when it’s helpful.

22. Pinterest

Today, Pinterest is one of the top 60-70ish websites in the world (Alexa rank of 63). Though it’s known to skew toward a female audience, believe me, there is no subject you can search for on Pinterest that won’t return an amazing amount of content.

Pinterest also sends you amazing emails based on your interests.

Pinterest personal branding

Warning: Pinterest is highly addictive.

23. Google Alerts

Google Alerts basically brings search results to you. Free. At whatever interval you choose. A free service, Google Alerts sends you emails when it finds web pages, newspaper articles, blogs, or research that match the search terms you sign up for.

Google Alerts personal branding

I love it. I use it to monitor my name, website, books, the areas of interest I write about in digital marketing, and the categories/topics my clients do business in. If you’re monitoring (and swiping ideas) for something specific, you definitely want Google Alerts in your arsenal.

24. Social media channels

I’ll say it again: social media is the greatest market research tool ever. The almighty hashtag… lists… groups… communities… lists… chats… discussions… analytics…

Slice it how you will, but understand the conversation about whatever it is you’re looking to have a conversation about is taking place on the popular social media channels.

And, in my mind, what makes it so great as a research tool for finding content marketing ideas, is it’s “au naturel.” What I mean by that is it’s not masked by editors. Consumers create the content. How can social media not provide important clues about what people care about?

25. Forums

I have to admit, I’m not much of a forums guy. But I’m not trying to market to me. And though it may be “old school” Internet, there are forums about everything. And you know what takes place there? People search for the answers and advice they seek.

forums for dog obedience

Find a forum in your niche simply by including the word “forum” in a search and you’ll see what I mean. When you find the right one (or more), you may never need another source of content marketing ideas.

26. Groups

I believe LinkedIn was the trailblazer of social media groups, but Facebook appears to the reigning king. Your call as to which groups sound more appealing or deliver more insights for your niche.

The point is, like forums, there are groups about everything. Unlike forums, on social channels, they are often moderated by an organizer who decides how “open” the group is or isn’t.

In any case, by becoming a member in a LinkedIn or Facebook group, you’ll be in the company of like-minded people who ask smart questions, deliver personal insights regarding them, and offer valuable resources. You’ll gather ideas, I promise.

Of course, you can also start your own group, as I have done (with my co-author) to support my new book, The Road to Recognition. Conversations there are often about book promotion.

27. Sales people

Perhaps it should be more obvious: the people who field questions from prospects are the most likely to know what questions need to be answered. Treat them as a resource.

  • Ask your sales people to record and share the questions prospects ask.
  • Ask them to mine their email and presentations to determine worthwhile topics.
  • Ask them if they run into dead-ends when trying to source content for specific customer challenges.

28. Customer service people

Here again, we’re looking at the people in your company with customer-facing roles. Those manning the chats, taking support calls, conducting training, solving technical problems, or providing any type of post-sale service should be intimately familiar with topics that need tending to.

29. Staff

Sure, the sales and support people should be your first couple of stops, but if everyone in the company is pulling their weight, everyone in the company could contribute to the content ideation party.

Hit up your people for ideas. What are they seeing streaming across social media? What do they hear? A content ideation pizza party or happy hour might be fruitful and fun.

30. Help section

If your company’s site has a help or support section on its site, dig into it. Wander your way into your competitor’s help sections too. What topics could use more informed answers? What ideas could be expanded?

Help section

You might find help requests where the only response was a written answer or customer comments. Would a video, diagram, screenshot or downloadable asset make for a better response? Maybe the reverse is the case: a video provides help, but a blog post or guide does not.

31. Onsite search

onsite search

Does your website and/or blog have a search mechanism? The data it captures is bound to tell you exactly what people are looking for, which is exactly what you need to create content about.

32. Interviews

Interviews are everywhere in every media. And pertinent questions, insights, and ideas pour forth from the mouths of both the interviewers and interviewees. You can read interviews, watch and listen to them, or conduct them and you’re bound to discover content marketing ideas.

33. Your friends and family

It’s possible this final idea of mine has never occurred to you. Conduct conversations with your friends and family about what you do. They’re very likely to respond with questions you can use.

They may bring you that “outsider” perspective you never could have, but should have discovered, otherwise.

Sometimes it just makes for a great story. I remember once, I read something that expressed the idea that the best content marketers are the essentially great teachers. I decided to do a post about the qualities of a great teacher.

So I asked my kids over dinner: Who are your best teachers? Why do you like them best? Their answers were pure, unadulterated, gold. I began taking furious notes and created a wonderful post soon after.

Useful content marketing ideas are everywhere

Want to turn searchers into visitors? Visitors into leads? Leads into customers?

Tune into some new sources, heed what you hear, and turn out some inspired stuff that’ll be helpful.