By Megan Totka
Content marketing is still the king of the digital marketing arena. But content is a very broad term, covering a range of forms from social media, articles, and blog posts to images, infographics, video, and webinars, contests, polls, interviews, and more. For a small business, content marketing can be especially valuable—it’s cheap to create, and the return on the investment is often substantial.
One area where many small business content marketers struggle is coming up with ideas for content. It’s important to keep feeding the content machine, from both an audience and a search engine perspective—but it’s challenging to generate a constant stream of fresh content ideas.
If you find yourself stuck for content, consider these four commonly overlooked sources of inspiration and material.
1. Speaking engagements and events
Most small businesses have a representative or two who attend trade shows and conferences, host webinars, give talks at various events, or otherwise make presentations—generally in the interests of increasing the company’s visibility and authority. All of these events offer a variety of ways to spin off several different types of content for your marketing efforts.
Some examples of content you can derive from events and speaking engagements include:
Video: Get into the habit of recording all of your company’s speaking engagements (you can also do this with select portions of conferences and trade shows). When the events wrap up, do any necessary editing and display the videos on your website, or through your content channels, to boost your brand visibility and reinforce subject expertise.
Live blogging / tweeting: Tweeting or blogging live from a conference or trade show on a regular basis is popular among both companies and their audiences. Whenever your company reps attend an event, choose someone to send out regular updates on what’s happening through your marketing channels. Your audience will love hearing about the latest industry news as it’s unfolding.
Transcriptions: For keynote speeches and other speaking engagements, you can create a full transcription of the talk, either by transcribing it yourself or using a service. Read through and edit the written document, and then use it as valuable and engaging content for your website, small business blog, or email newsletter.
Short blog post: Write a summary of the main talking points from a speaking engagement, or the main takeaways from a conference or industry event, and post it to your blog. You can also link to or embed your video content here.
Article: Use the event or speaking engagement to spin off a more in-depth article or series of articles that explores the topics further, and provides additional details and resources.
2. Brainstorming sessions
While this content resource takes a bit of time and effort to set up, it’s worth the trouble when you end up with weeks or months of engaging, usable content. This strategy is fast and cheap, and it’s fairly easy to put together.
With brainstorming sessions, also called roundtable discussions, the idea is to simply invite a small group of experts to get together and encourage conversation on a topic that’s important and relevant to your business. Choose the topic ahead of time, and have a series of open-ended questions ready that revolve around typical customer concerns.
Of course, the most important thing is to make sure you record the session, so you can refer back to it later. One great thing about these types of discussions is that you don’t have to make it a physical meeting. You can schedule a webinar or online conference (which is easy to record) and make the experience convenient for all participants.
The recorded session will then serve as a rich, multi-topic resource for creating a long stream of content, from blog posts to articles to infographics and more.
3. Customer surveys
Most small businesses know that surveys are a great way to get inside the minds of your customers and find out what makes them happy, what turns them off, what they want—and what they’ll pay money for. In addition to highly effective market research, customer surveys can also provide you with high quality content ideas.
If your company has done customer surveys in the recent past, look back at them and source any content you can. You might post survey results as a fun blog post, focus on customer problems as a starting point for an informative article, or spin off survey questions to create informal polls you can use on social media channels.
You can also develop customer surveys for the express purpose of finding out what kind of content your customers want the most from you. This can help you identify high-performing topics and the best content formats for your blog, newsletter, or other regular content streams.
What are some unusual sources you turn to for content ideas? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Megan Totka is the chief editor for ChamberofCommerce.com which helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Contact Megan at email@example.com and follow her at @MeganTotka.