They were the smooth, glossy pamphlets thick with pretty photos and well-written articles on your favorite topics – Travel! Food! Fashion! Fitness! As a kid growing up in the 90’s, waiting for the inevitable arrival of magazines was like Christmas, every month (okay, I was a little weird). I loved flipping through them carefully, savoring every word and picture two or three times over.
Of course, magazines still exist, but they’re more like an afterthought than anything else. Now, they must contend for attention against a faster, more convenient version of themselves: blog content.
25 years after their advent, blog posts still have a few powerful advantages over their polished, tactile competitors. Blog content is faster, more timely, and can be produced and published by just about anybody at very little cost.
And they are (published, that is). In fact, as of 2019, over 4.4 million blog posts were published every day…many of them by businesses and brands.
Unlike magazines, however, blogs don’t have editorial staffs and teams of journalists running around to ideate and produce engaging content every month. Instead, a blog typically relies on a small handful of people or a single person to churn out content. These poor souls must come up with a never-ending stream of posts they can use to drive traffic to their website, position themselves in their industry, create interest on social media, and more.
The greatest challenge here is to come up with ideas…lots of them.
Blog Content for Business Owners: The Challenge
For businesses, ideation for blog content can be especially difficult. To create ongoing interest, you need highly relevant, regular content. That task becomes all the more difficult when you sell a product that’s super niche-specific, such as a b2b customer satisfaction software for the tech industry, or vegan food for dogs, or a time-tracking application for small business owners.
That being said, you may have had a handful of killer ideas for your first posts. You had an exciting insight to share, or a lengthy blog that summed up all the best points of your product or service. And then, week 3 and week 4 hit, and you weren’t struck with that same first spark of inspiration.
The truth is, coming up with great blog post ideas isn’t usually the result of being inspired by “big magic,” as Elizabeth Gilbert puts it. Coming up with great blog posts is the result of knowing a few formulas and strategies that make your creativity seem effortless.
After generating hundreds of ideas (and posts) for businesses in the b2b tech, marketing, and SaaS industry, I have learned how to apply a few simple approaches to generate a never-ending flow of ideas for blog posts. These are strategies that can be applied to just about any topic to come up with fresh content and new angles–no matter how niche-specific.
Why + Need
Name an action, product, or outcome that’s relevant to your brand, and then let your audience know that they need it. This creates a certain amount of intrigue, especially for prospective readers who are particularly driven. For example, if you sell a budgeting app, one of your blog posts could be on “Why You Need to Check Your Budget Daily.”
To generate plenty of ideas around “why + need,” simply think about what your ideal customers should be doing (or eating, or using, or wearing). For example, if your ideal customer is super committed to fitness, then let her know that she needs to be eating more healthy fats, or using kettle bells three times a week, or sleeping 8+ hours a night. To find out why she needs to be doing those things, she’ll need to read your article.
How + Benefit
The “how + benefit” formula is similar to “why + need,” except for the fact that it doesn’t leave the reader guessing about the benefits of a particular action or product. For the budgeting app post mentioned above, you might say, “How Checking Your Budget Daily Can Help Your Save Money.” Other “How” examples for the same product might include “How a Budgeting App Can Help You Reduce Debt,” or “How Creating Separate Budgets Can Help You Reduce Overall Spending.”
Listicles might be considered click bait-y…but they work. They create curiosity, and are super easy to skim–ideal for the non-committal reader.
A good listicle can’t always be created simply by slapping a number on the front-end of an article title, however. Think about your prospective readers and what would be especially practical or useful for them. “15 Paleo Breakfasts” is going to hold a lot of value for the healthy eater who is struggling to avoid cereal and muffins in the AM, where “6 Ways to Raise Funding for Your Startup” will be particularly valuable for entrepreneurs.
I’m not suggesting you actually use “X for Dummies.” This might be a copyright infringement, and makes you sound pretty cheesy (and dated). That being said, breaking down basic topics that are innate for you, complex for others, never fails to provide great value. If your product or service is more niche-specific, all the better.
For example, if you’re selling a SaaS product focused on customer satisfaction, then write a blog post that breaks down a particular metric. Or, if you’re a real estate professional, write a blog post that explains the basics of buying a home. In any case, you’re providing valuable knowledge that also positions you as an expert in your industry.
Think about your target reader’s most pressing problems. Are they worried about turnover of talented employees at their tech company? Are they frustrated by the challenge of preparing healthy, quick meals at home? Are they interested in recession-proofing their small business?
Name a problem your audience has and offer a solution, such as “How to Cook Healthy Meals at Home in 15 Minutes or Less” for the time-strapped reader who struggles to know what to do in the kitchen. Or name a problem and offer a method of prevention, such as “How to Prevent Your Most Talented Employees from Churning” for the business owner who is worried about losing valuable team members.
The Provocative Question
Finally, think of a question that your readers would want to see answered. If you sell NPS software, asking “Is Net Promoter Score worth the effort?” offers to provide the pros and cons of a contested customer satisfaction metric.
Or, if you sell a weight loss coaching program, ask “Can Intermittent Fasting Help You Lose Weight?” Then, provide an authentic, well-researched answer. Being honest about downsides related to your product or service doesn’t discredit your brand; it helps your audience to know you’re providing real, valuable information. Just make sure you end on a high note that helps readers to see the benefits of using your product or service.
Finally, Consider Your Audience
Ultimately, all great ideas for blog posts have one common theme: They speak to the needs and desires of your particular audience. Remember that your blog is not a sounding board for your personal musings and interests. It’s about providing value to your prospective readers (and customers). Think through your ideal customer, and what they would want to read about, and I think you’ll find blog post ideas are not so difficult to come by. Good luck!