Trying to come up with an idea isn’t easy. You’re probably familiar with this common scenario:
“I’m hungry. Want to get something to eat?”
“Sure. What do you feel like?”
“I don’t know, what do you feel like?”
“I don’t know, I’ll do whatever. You think of something.”
“I don’t know either. Maybe tacos?”
“Nah I’m not in the mood for tacos.”
“Well, then YOU think of something.”
“I don’t know, I can’t think of anything.”
Feeling defeated and giving up like…
Ideas, much as we wish they did, do not come easily. Content marketing ideas come even less easily.
You may have already thought of a couple. But what other content marketing ideas haven’t you considered?
Spoiler alert: A lot, and we have all the ideas you need. But even more than that awaits you.
To have content marketing, you need content (and more). To use content, you need a good sense of what content marketing will mean (and what makes it hard to do it).
In this post, you get to learn about it all:
- How to come up with killer content marketing ideas – minus the brainstorm headaches
- 16 killer content marketing examples that your content marketing strategy will die for
- The 10 biggest challenges you’ll face in content marketing (no one is immune, but you CAN be prepared)
How do you come up with content marketing ideas?
Good content marketing will result in loyalty and trust from an audience you want. Once you have that, more good content gives you strong customer relationships, increased profits, and an engaged subscriber base.
Content marketing extends past the actual content to cover the content marketing strategy. You have to consider things like:
- Distribution tactics
- Defining your target audience
- Budgeting time, manpower, and money for projects
- Getting the resources to create what you want to create, like editing or design programs
Just to name a few. Content marketing is an equal partnership of content and distribution of that content, all towards a common goal.
Content marketing takes a lot of work, and a huge part of that is coming up with actual content marketing ideas.
So…how the heck do you do that?
As content marketers, we not only have to come up with ideas but keep coming up with them—so here are are 6 things to help you keep the creative rivers flowing:
- Look at your analytics
- Know your audience
- Ask the audience
- Use research tools
- Keep up with marketing trends
- Learn from other content marketing veterans
We’ve written about blog content ideas before—and you’ll see great examples of the first 5 methods in this article.
Right now, I want to call attention to number 6. Because there are some really smart people who can help you come up with great content marketing ideas.
Even Picasso was inspired by others. As he famously said:
“Good artists copy, great artists steal”
Obviously, don’t steal ideas. But DO get inspired by great content marketing.
For example, one thing I struggle with is writing headlines. A great blog headline needs to:
- Be intriguing enough to get someone reading
- Be clear enough (so they know what they’re reading about)
- Be SEO-friendly, and look good to Google
So, a fellow content marketer sent me this COPYHACKERS article.
My thoughts were exactly the same as that microcopy.
At first, my eyes popped out of my head reading the headline (which honestly should have been my first clue at it being a great resource) because WHO DOES THIS?
Geniuses, as it turns out. Because whenever I’m struggling to write a headline, I refer back to this article (it’s now one of my bookmarks) and use it to help bolster my headline creativity. No shame.
Taking notes from other content marketers is a huge help, so let’s give it a shot.
15 great content marketing ideas (with examples)
The world is your content oyster.
And if you think oysters are gross and don’t want to associate them with your content (plus they are REALLY small), then the world is your content pizza. You can any size and type of content pizza you want.
Large content pizza with blogs, videos, and infographics. Hold the mushrooms.
You can create blogs, whitepapers, videos, podcasts, infographics, electronic and print books, online courses, social media, even memes and GIFs and so much more to deliver great content to your audiences.
In this section, we will look at the best-done creative content examples of content pizzas ideas as shown through 5 content categories:
- Social media
- Electronic and print media.
Videos are interactive, entertaining, and easily consumable in today’s content scanner world. Here are a few of the best video content examples around.
Show the inside scoop of your day-to-day (like Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams)
I scream, you scream, we all scream for a great video marketing example!
This is a perfect (and delicious-looking) example of video content done well.
For a smaller business, it’s not always easy to get your hands on expensive, top-notch video equipment or amazing editing.
Jeni’s proves you don’t have to.
- I’m watching this in the middle of January in Chicago.
- A blizzard that has been forecasted for a week started moments into watching this video.
- It’s maybe the last time anyone would want ice cream (20 degrees doesn’t inspire a desire for freezing dessert).
And yet here I am planning my afternoon with the most direct route to the Jeni’s near my apartment. I want that ice cream sandwich, and I want it from Jeni’s.
What makes this video content work isn’t fancy producing, it’s that it’s totally an authentic, day-in-the-life video of the brand – an ice cream sandwich being made at an ice cream shop. Combined with a little catchy music, this content is everything it needs to be.
Have your content show your authentic brand tone.
Make the boring fascinating (like Velcro)
As David Ogilvy once said, “tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.”
This video content deserves all the hype I’m about to give it. The first time I saw these videos from Velcro was a week ago, and I am still thinking about them. They were perfectly done. And hilarious. And I showed them to my family for fun. HYPE.
Velcro made two videos – one about how other companies can’t call their velcro material “Velcro” for their own products because it could cost original Velcro their trademark, and another to tell people what they could say instead (which is hook and loop, if you are curious).
And THEY. NAILED. IT.
Together, these two trademark videos from Velcro accomplish the following:
- They educate you on a topic
- They entertain you
- They make you remember them with an unexpected method of delivery
Now, the great (and totally clever) marketing move that these lawyers (not even marketers!) made is acknowledging that this video is in fact absurd.
But that’s what makes it great and, more importantly, unforgettable.
And you get a fast-tracked lesson about trademarks. Win-win.
Let’s be honest. A lot of people probably still call it “velcro,” not “hook-and-loop,” but you will think more about the brand after getting this catchy content stuck in your head.
I’ll tell you one thing – I’m not forgetting this content anytime soon.
This is great content. Enough said (and shown).
Create an authentic, immersive video experience (like Moz)
Rand Fishkin is a marketing household name, and not just because he founded the SEO company, Moz. He also hosts regular video content on their website.
Ever heard of Whiteboard Friday videos? Now you won’t be able to say no because you’ll probably watch a few more after this.
Rand knows what he’s talking about, but more than that, he makes you care about what he’s talking about. He makes it easy to understand with both visual and verbal information delivered by a real person.
From the video title to the actual video content, he keeps you watching.
Social media ideas
Although social media isn’t as scalable of a content host as other types, it has to be recognized. Nearly 1.5 billion people log onto Facebook every day, which means your target audience is probably part of that. The right content does really well on social.
Pull content personality and language right from your people (like Wayfair)
Wayfair is not only a brand I buy from, but also a social media account I love to follow.
And not just because they really get me on a personal level with Instagram posts like this:
Always aim for achievable goals, guys.
Instagram (and social media in general) is a great way to show brand personality through fun and engaging content, but it’s also useful for converting customers quickly and easily, like this:
Aesthetically pleasing, informative, and simple. Checkout time.
This post featured a scrolling carousel of shoppable images which took you directly to your desired product page for an easy purchase.
This content looks nice, is easy to navigate and comprehend, and ends in a potential purchase conversion for Wayfair. Bravo, Wayfair.
Use influence to spread a powerful message (like Olay)
Olay’s #FaceAnything content marketing campaign was effective for several reasons, but one of the biggest was the use of influencers. Olay enlisted the help of 9 empowering female influencers to talk about overcoming or “facing” their challenges.
Facing skin and the world like a BOSS.
As a company that has long celebrated and targeted a female audience, this content had a big impact in light of stronger female voices speaking out over recent issues and movements like #MeToo.
What was it that Olay did best with this content? Was it where they shared it?
Definitely helped. Given that social media has become a platform for influencers across all industries to create a platform or support a cause, this makes for an extremely effective channel to place content that speaks to an audience in their same voice.
Was is the subtle, but clever play-on-words of “Face Anything” from a facial and skincare wellness brand? That definitely kept it strong.
But that’s still not the key takeaway from this content. The key takeaway isn’t the play-on-words, it’s the play on emotions.
Emotions are like colors. There are defined emotions like happy, sad, or angry, but for the most part, emotions live on a spectrum.
One small change can lead to a different kind of happy, a mixture of sad and angry, or an entirely different emotion or “color.” One color, just like one emotion, can have a variety of shades, which American psychologist Robert Plutchik’s “wheel of emotions” shows:
Targeting emotions is one very powerful way to influence a customer action. When you make a customer feel something, they’ll remember who made them feel it.
This content could make a woman reflect on their own challenges, feel driven to take on new challenges, or make changes (like getting into a regular skin care routine, for starters).
Emotional content packs a punch, and it can be an effective hit when done right.
Bring your brand to life (like ActiveCampaign)
Yeah, we are going to highlight a little of our own content in this post. We are proud of it! And if you’re here reading it you probably think it’s worth the time too. Remember how we mentioned that social media can be a great channel for fun, engaging content?
With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to ActiveCampaign’s mascot, Campy.
They are our favorite.
At any given time on our social media (particularly our ActiveCampaign Instagram), you can see Campy working in the office, interacting with our staff, helping to open new offices in cities like Indianapolis, and basically being the spokesperson (or spokesArrow?) for our brand.
Oh, they also run the front desk from time to time.
They’ve got a great work ethic.
And they’re pretty good at it. Just check out his dance moves.
Guess what? We have a lot of great content, but as far as social media goes, Campy content rates higher for us than any other content.
Why? Because Campy’s a fun brand representative with sweet dance moves.
One key thing to remember about content is that it doesn’t always have to directly lead to a purchase or subscription conversion. Sometimes it’s simply about awareness. Fun and engaging content like Campy can be great to show the personality of a brand.
Much like the Cheetos cheetah or the Chuck-E-Cheez mouse, content for brand awareness is effective when it’s fun.
Think about it: On paper, a person you’re going out on a date with might sound great, but without some real insight into their personality it’s hard to establish trust and a reason to keep getting to know them. Social media content (like Campy) lets you see all the sides of a brand.
Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source of information. Here are a few examples of places to find good ones.
Combine education with personality (like ActiveCampaign)
Of course, we are going to give some props to our ActiveCampaign blog content. I mean you’re reading one right now, aren’t you?
And we’re glad you’re here!
Did you know that 55% of marketers cite blogging as their top content marketing priority? It’s definitely one of ours, and it’s not without good results.
Doubled year-over-year? Nothing but smiles over here.
Blogs can spur growth pretty darn well.
Love that year-over-year growth.
Blogs are probably one of the most common and when done right, effective content marketing ideas out there. Why’s that?
- They are cheap to produce
- They’re informative
- They drive traffic to your website
- They drive traffic to other related content
- They help with your SEO
- They produce long-term effects (take a nice vacation while your blog continues to rank)
- They can establish you as an expert on a subject
- They help with lead generation
And they are fun to read (and write, if you ask me).
One of our best-performing blogs is one about welcome email examples, and how to write a great welcome email.
A good blog can have any number of things to make it good, such as quotes, expert influencer opinions, statistics, relatable stories, images, and more.
(In fact, here’s a blog post on how to write a perfect blog post, for extra help).
Andy Crestodina offers a few of his expert opinions in a lot of our blogs.
Here are a few other ActiveCampaign blogs to help inspire some content marketing ideas.
- What Can I Write a Blog About? 23 Places to Find Unique Blog Content Ideas
- How to Write SEO Friendly Content that Isn’t Stuffed with Keywords
- 7 Content Marketing Examples: Content Strategies of Small Businesses
- 47 Content Marketing Quotes that Will Make You a Better Marketer
- Content Marketing vs Traditional Marketing: What’s the Difference?
Teach more than one idea (like I Will Teach You To Be Rich)
I’ll be honest – the first time I heard the name of this website, I thought it was a scam. It’s not, it’s actually a financial help site with pretty great blog content, courtesy of Ramit Sethi.
You know, there’s a reason why we are constantly warned to be wary of scams: because they tend to have pretty persuasive, enticing copy. “I will teach you to be rich” is pretty enticing.
But one more time, I Will Teach You To Be Rich is NOT a scam. I repeat, not.
They are included among these good blog examples for a reason.
The name of the company alone induced a certain curiosity in me. Upon further examination of their blog, I saw immediately that they write in a personal, first-person voice. One of the best things you can do with content is speaking in the voice you are talking to.
A relatable voice or Voice of Customer means a better chance at relatable content.
Here’s one of their blogs, 19% of resolution-setters don’t even know if they reached their goal last year, that got my attention for several reasons.
- It’s relevant (to something in my life and to the time of year)
- It’s relatable (written in the first-person and with customer viewpoints)
- It uses customer language (a heading is a great place to ask a question, why shouldn’t it be in a customers’ own words?)
- I definitely don’t remember the goals I made last year (whoops)
There’s a lot to take away from this blog, and one major thing is the use of customer language.
Provide the best ‘hacks’ for industry (like COPYHACKERS)
COPYHACKERS is a great content resource, especially for marketers. Earlier, I mentioned an article from copyhackers about a headline writing challenge that contributor Justin Blackman wrote about.
Not only is this a great piece of content that I refer back to, but it’s a popular piece of content that clearly needs to be easily accessible to people.
Right in that first drop-down menu for easy access.
One thing I love about COPYHACKERS content like this article is…wait for it because here it comes again…the use of a relatable voice.
Granted, I have never tried to write an obscene number of headlines in a short period of time but his reaction to this challenge had the exact energy to a reaction I would have in the face of a big challenge
Ok, not EXACTLY, but the stomach and room-spinning for sure.
Content like this takes you along for the ride. IT’s almost as if his experience was my experience and that just came from my reading it. Through relatable language, images, and an engaging story, COPYHACKERS earned themselves my subscription just from reading this one blog.
If you want your blogs to do that, I suggest taking a look at theirs.
Show off your unique expertise with great examples (like Eric Cressey)
Eric Cressey is a great blog example. As a top strength and conditioning coach for all-level athletes, he has incredible (and rare) expertise and he shares great examples of tactical principles through his content.
And it’s explained in a way that anyone can understand.
This is one of the best ways to write blogs people love—showcase rare expertise in a way that makes people feel like they “get it.”
He doesn’t follow all the blogging “best practices,” but the blog does great because not a lot of people can do what he does (and give examples while training professional athletes).
Not only that, but his content is multi-faceted. Interspersed with his blogs are excerpts from his social media accounts (usually including playable media) that give you a well-rounded, engaging content experience.
A blog without images, videos, or some kind of visual component is going to become a donut (glazed over). Cressey, luckily, already has this covered. And the extent of his reach shows that it’s working.
Cressey’s audience is primarily:
- Semi-pro athletes
- Strength and conditioning coaches
- Families of younger, promising athletes.
These are not people looking for basic fitness content. They want to know that they are in the hands of an expert that can keep them moving up.
Cressey’s content delivers on that expectation. He is giving actual, expert fitness advice with specific exercises. Not only that, but the scalability of his content goes beyond a single workout. He delivers a whole content experience by connecting tactics to big-picture thinking and goals.
With his expert content marketing, they will continue to advance their skill.
Sometimes less is more, and that’s a good thing. For an infographic, less words and more visuals can result in more engaging content. Depending on the information you’re trying to get out there, this can be a great creative option.
Give the visual content ‘fix’ (like Fix)
The human brain processes visual data 60,000 times faster than text.
Whoa. But I have to say, I can completely understand that. Sometimes, reading is just plain hard.
New Years may have passed, but Valentines Day and St. Patrick’s Day are both right around the corner. Although these are both days that have actual history behind them, they are probably most notable for the wine and beer hangovers that accompany their days-after.
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do when I’m hungover is read a bunch of words.
Enter: the infographic.
Fix made a great, engaging infographic called How To Avoid a Hangover.
Source: Fix.com Blog
What’s great about an infographic? A few things.
We live in a scanners world. That means that a lot of content consumers are more likely to skim over content than spend time going through all of it. It’s not because it’s bad content, but simply because we all have the attention of a mayfly in the world of smartphones and 30-second social stories.
That’s why visual content, like an infographic, can be great. It captures your attention with visuals that help information retention while providing the main points of a subject.
Did you know that image captions are read 300% more than body copy?
Imagine an infographic as a string of image captions.
It could make for a great content marketing idea.
Prove your high school science class wasn’t wasted (like Econsultancy)
The periodic table. Not exactly a regular resource for a content marketer.
God knows I left science classes in my dust after high school.
But what about the periodic table of content marketing?
Econsultancy made this infographic about the key elements of content marketing in 2014.
And here I thought I’d never need the periodic table as a marketer. Silly me.
It focuses on 8 areas of content marketing.
- Sharing triggers
Along with a familiar visual representation (the periodic table). This infographic also outlines ways to succeed in content marketing that coincide with the contents of the table itself.
Infographics aren’t meant to be long and full of detail the way a long-form blog will. So, it’s true. This infographic doesn’t have everything a content marketer will need to know about content marketing.
But, after reading this infographic, they have a place to start (and maybe a source to keep searching for more content about this subject). Starting is always the hardest part of anything.
Create a memorable show and tell (like Social Media Today)
Another great infographic example is “15 Important Stats About Blogging and Content Marketing” by Irfan Ahmad on Social Media Today
And hey, it even focuses on how awesome blogs can be! Blogs, infographics, videos, oh my! Content is so versatile.
15 Important Stats About Blogging and Content Marketing
One thing that’s great about this infographic is that it’s very simple. Often the biggest mistake someone can make with an infographic is overcrowding it with lengthy copy or an excess of images.
Even in non-infographic content, the best rule of thumb to follow is to keep it simple. Whether it’s a blog, a video, an infographic, or something else, too many bells and whistles will be distracting.
Like this infographic example, stick to the main points, don’t overwhelm the design, and make sure YOU can understand it before you try to make others do the same.
Electronic and print media ideas
Who says print is dead? Declining maybe, with the availability of digital resources, but certainly not dead.
Traditional marketing content like print magazines are still alive and well (and we have proof). Not into the possibility of paper cuts? E-books and digital publications are going strong too.
Create a complete experience (like Casper)
For a company whose business is putting people into a great sleep, Casper has content that seems to do the opposite (and I’m not just talking online content). They go old school too.
It’s a common assumption that more traditional marketing tactics like print media are doornails.
As in, dead as. (The common expression for a dud nail that won’t come out of the wall, if you didn’t know about the origin of that phrase).
This is an incorrect assumption. Although digital marketing is unquestionably the more popular marketing method today, print is not dead.
Casper has a quarterly print magazine publication called “Woolly.”
A little wit, a little comfort, and a LOT of great content.
You might think this is all about sleep, and their ultra-comfy mattresses. But you’d be wrong. This content is way more interesting and interactive than that.
Interactive and colorful content.
With this content, Casper (and their co-creator McSweeny) are giving you more than just a good night’s sleep. They are offering an entire relaxation experience that includes a good night’s sleep.
“Created with the help of our friends at McSweeney’s, this 96 page, full-color volume features a love letter to comfort pants, confessions from your yoga instructor, a non-chronological history of snoring, a skeptic’s guide to crystals, introvert workouts, alternatives to counting sheep, and an adulting coloring book. Emotionally supported by Casper.”
I don’t know about you, but the idea of reading a “love letter to comfy pants” is something I will always be on board with and will want to read immediately. Pretty sure I’m due for a new mattress also….
And the plus about this print publication? Insomniacs have something to do while they wait for sleep. Win-win.
Hint at a secret they can’t miss out on (like LinkedIn)
Time to get sauced….from the best content marketing practices anyway.
The LinkedIn Secret Sauce e-book download is another great example of content.
I want my baby back baby back baby back…content marketing saauucee.
In it, LinkedIn talks about how it uses its own platform for content marketing. Go figure. We spend so much time looking elsewhere for content marketing tips and maybe all we need to do is look inward.
Or, just learn how to use other channels (like LinkedIn), effectively straight from an inside source. You can’t get more expert level than hearing about LinkedIn content marketing from LinkedIn itself.
Prior to your download, they give you an early taste and what to expect from the content.
Always be prepared.
Now you can dive straight into the sauce.
Deepen the understanding of content outside of creativity (like Moz)
Moz is any marketers best friend, and it’s definitely one of this marketer’s best friends. From SEO keyword research help to great content, Moz has a lot of great resources.
One of them is a very helpful e-book: The Beginners Guide to SEO.
This e-book has been read over 3 million times. Not too shabby.
In addition to being a very thorough e-book, it also pulls in some other content elements, like infographic styles and a print media aspect via a download and print option.
Whether you are an SEO newbie or a veteran, an e-book is a more in-depth content option to take on some of the tougher concepts.
Be prepared for these 10 biggest challenges in content marketing
Congratulations, you now have 16 awesome examples of great content marketing ideas that you can follow (or if you aspire to be like Picasso, you can also steal them).
Now the rest of your content marketing journey is easy as pie. All you have to do is create it, share it, and watch the positive results come pouring in.
Come on, you didn’t really believe me when I said that, did you?
NOTHING about content marketing is easy. It is an ever-changing landscape that will never be without its challenges. What works one week might not work as well as something else the next.
Here are the top 10 content marketing challenges you can expect to face throughout your career (always be prepared).
1. Thinking outside the blog
The blog is probably one of the first thoughts when you hear the word content, and that’s not a bad thing. Blogs are awesome, but so are videos, podcasts, social media posts and tons of other content options. Don’t forget them.
2. Lack of resources
It’s true, you may not always have the money or resources to do everything you want to do. But you don’t always need them.Instead of spending tons of money on an expensive design program (and a designer to go with it) consider a cost-effective program like Canva to make all kinds of designs as if you were already a pro.
3. Battling quality over quantity
Take it from someone who’s been there –trying to stick to a regular posting schedule is dumb. There is lots of information about best posting times and days for different content, and there’s no doubt that this is helpful.But these tips are not from the Content Marketing Bible. They are just best practices that might not always apply to everyone (including you).It’s better to have quality content that actually works even if it goes out irregularly than to force yourself to stick to a 3 times per week posting schedule no matter what. Don’t waste your effort or your time like that.
4. Competition never sleeps
Every marketer, like you, is constantly creating content. And it’s not out of the question for someone else’s content to be better than yours. Don’t be sad about it, learn from it. Always be monitoring what your competition is creating. It could be inspirational, or it could be comforting to know that you are working on something that no one else has tried yet. Either way, stay up-to-date on content trends.
5. Harnessing the power of organic content effectively
Organic search is hugely helpful for content marketing, but only when people can actually organically find the content. Keywords will be your savior here, and programs like the Moz Keyword Explorer can be a great help. Learn what other brands are ranking for, consider what subjects and keywords will be most worth your time to try and rank for (remember, it is NOT all about search volume).
6. Unrealistic expectations
This is a biggie. While you’re observing competitor content, you may be compelled to do a bunch of things that they are doing. But what if you don’t actually have the resources to do exactly what they’re doing.Easy. Don’t do it. Set realistic goals and expectations for your content marketing team. Don’t expect mass growth and amazing results for every bit of content. No one is that perfect.
7. Getting burned out
In a sea of repetitive content, how on EARTH are we expected to come up with new stuff ALL THE TIME? It’s hard, no doubt. But creating new content is not your only option. If your new idea brain is in need of a little R&R, consider repurposing or revamping previous content. Do a content audit to see what can be improved, redone, or updated.You don’t always need to try and reinvent the wheel, maybe just add a couple of updates to the car.
8. Providing legitimate value, not just fluff
It’s true, an article about the 10 funniest marketing memes would definitely be an entertaining read. And like I said before, there’s nothing wrong with some fun, engaging content.It just still needs to be relevant to your content strategy, and to your brand. Our ActiveCampaign Campy content on social media is fun but still relevant to things our business does, such as opening a new office.Fluff is cute on a puppy, but less so in your content, if it doesn’t make a difference or provide value in some way.
9. Balancing creative instincts and SEO needs
It’s cute and fun to be creative with things like titles or intros, but remember this mantra: clarity over cleverness.What is funny or philosophical or clever to you might just end up confusing your audience. Don’t dump keywords and a chance to rank higher just to use a clever punchline in a blog. Find the balance.
10. Planning and tracking results
This is maybe one of the hardest challenges to deal with in content marketing. You can hardly plan for results, but you can track them. Still, it is totally disheartening to work your butt off on a piece of content and see it perform just eh.Learn from your metrics, listen to your audience, keep trying new things, and definitely don’t stop tracking. Smart, data-driven decisions are an important part of content marketing.