“…ideas are bulletproof” – Alan Moore
I felt exhausted.
The blank sheet of paper dreaded me.
“All the ideas in the universe have probably become extinct,” I thought.
I knew I was wrong.
I looked at them and wondered
They had ideas, I didn’t.
I just sat in front of my laptop and wondered.
All the people online, who posted on twitter or hit ‘publish’ on their blogs seemed to have drank some sort of magic potion. Or maybe, they were wizards.
I don’t know.
But they were doing better than me. They had that magical thing no one can succeed without – ideas.
I didn’t have them.
I silently wished to be better.
But I didn’t know how to do it.
Everyone gets better
That’s the good part.
The bad thing is that everyone needs to repeat the same cycle of making blunders. If you’re smart, you wouldn’t make the same mistakes as everyone else.
I wasn’t smart.
I was merely a beginner. I sucked, and I was making lots of mistakes. Mistakes that embarrass me today and have wasted a lot of my hard work.
But they made me gooder (I wish this word existed) than I was. I don’t say I’m flawless. Deep within, I fear whether people will vomit on their laptops reading my posts.
Hopefully, they don’t.
Or maybe they did and then their laptops died. My fault.
That was 3 years ago.
Today looks good.
I don’t run out of ideas.
Sometimes I do, but I come up with new ones. I’ve learned how to do it, like everyone else does.
Nail art and lipstick
I got paid for ideas.
I wasn’t sure people would pay me for that. I threw a gig on Fiverr saying I would suggest 10 blog post ideas for $5.
I got my first gig.
A person asked me for blog post ideas for women wanting to try make-up and start a business related to it.
I knew less about make-up. I did it anyway.
- 5 Ways to Create Beautiful Nail Art Everyone Would Notice
- 15 Lipstick Colors Which Go With Anything You Wear
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Mascara Like a Pro
I wrote 24 ideas instead of 10, along with 2000+ words of explanations, suggestions and tips.
That felt odd.
Me, writing about make-up – I hadn’t imagined that. The person left a 5 star review.
That taught me something.
People are craving for new ideas. They’re hungry. And, they’re even prepared to pay for some.
Update: I’ve turned my content marketing ideas into an eBook which contains sort of every guideline you’ll need when finding ideas. You can download it below and use it for reference.
Ideas are what you’re paid for
Who are you?
An inbound marketer, a writer, a graphics artist … James Cameron? Doesn’t matter.
There’s one thing everyone expects from you – a steady and undying stream of ideas.
You can’t afford to be blank.
You can’t run out of ideas.
If this goes on for too long, this might mean dead end of your job. Over. No progress. No results.
If that bothers your boss – fired.
*sobs and cries*
If you’re an entrepreneur mumbling “… but no one can fire me!” then remember that you’re in a greater need for ideas.
You have customers and audience – they’re watching you, and always demanding more.
How do you think you’ll serve them better?
How to never run out of content marketing ideas (and stockpile a ton of them)
Ideas aren’t like the coins you find on pavements, or the fruits you can pick from trees.
You bring them to existence out of thin air, after a lot thoughtful imagination.
But what should you do when your creative-nerves freeze and your imagination turns rusty?
Well, here are some ideas to make you produce more ideas.
Who knows, they might soon turn you into an idea lord. I hope they do.
Try this underrated skill called observation
Gaze at what everyone else is doing.
Did you find your muse?
Maybe browse some webpages, or memes, and look at the masterpieces created by others, if that gives you your next idea.
Do whatever feeds your brain, and heart, until you find a precious idea.
Observation is underrated.
Your observation can help you penetrate into deeper topics and come up with some hidden gems.
Take a shower
Or go for a walk nearby.
You already know that most ideas strike you at random moments, when you aren’t expecting them – possibly, when you’re eating, driving or … taking a shower.
“Eureka! Eureka!” shouted Archimedes, and ran naked out of his bathtub.
Don’t run naked.
Though, pay attention to the ideas that strike you anytime.
Catch your ideas the moment you get them. Else, they’ll disappear the next moment and leave you baffled about their existence.
“What was it I was thinking?” you’d strain your memory, but even that won’t work.
So how do catch your ideas?
- Keep a notepad
- Jot them in your phone
Or here’s a better option …
Keep a scribbling paper
Ideas are volatile.
They fly away – like a hummingbird.
Even if you swear to yourself that you’ll remember what you have in your mind, you don’t.
The only way to actually not forget your ideas is to pen them down immediately. Not after finishing your chore or completing the task at hand … Immediately.
I have a paper that sits on my table. I use it for everything. Ideas, plans, future tasks … everything.
Later, I organize those random pieces of words as per my needs.
I put blog ideas in an ideas list, note down plans separately, and cross out the to-dos.
Then, I trash the old paper and replace it with a fresh one.
A simple thing as scribbling paper or notepad can prevent your ideas from getting lost in the maze of forgetfulness.
Think through various perspectives
Everyone isn’t the same as you are.
That’s a good thing.
All minds are different. It makes the world less boring. It creates enough space for new ideas.
Your mind has limits, even if they’re intangible. Your outlook is always restricted by several cultural beliefs, choices, preferences, lifestyle, etc.
Altogether they act like a glass wall to your imagination. They keep you trapped. You stick to what’s in your head and deny accepting anything else.
Break your inner resistance and let your mind wander. Think what you haven’t thought. Accept various perspectives.
Be everything – and think, without being biased.
Did you see something you hadn’t before changing your perspective? That’s your box of ideas. You’ve found it though shifting your perspective.
Consider the existing problems
“I wish there someone to help me fix this.”
“Why doesn’t this thing work like it should?!”
Can you hear that?
The echoes calling out for help amid the hollows?
The world is trying hard to get rid of its problems. Often, it feels helpless.
It can’t always find a solution for itself. That’s why interdependence exists. People need some trailblazers to light up their way.
You can be one – a trailblazer.
Or a person with an idea that helps people help themselves.
Look around, there are enough problems. But the same problems are opportunities for finding solutions.
Have you got a solution to something? That’s your idea.
Visualize Bob’s life
Bob is a customer, like millions of people out there. Bob has a life.
He eats his favorite chocolate-cake, goes to the sci-fi movies, cares about his family and does things most humans do.
What’s so different about Bob? That he’s your customer.
If you want to be a better marketer, or even better, a humanistic creator, then walk into the shoes of your customers and those you create for.
Pretend to be what your consumers are – think how they think, criticize your own products as they would do, wish for better options, and be impartial to yourself.
Did you learn something? Good.
All customers, like Bob, wish to be understood.
There are thousands of people like Bob who feel neglected – you can be the one to serve them and prove that they’re being listened.
Not every customer will yell at you or send a complaint email for your bad services, but it’s your responsibility to understand what’s unsaid.
Come up with better ideas to serve people.
Branch out topics
No topic exists alone.
Every topic has several nodes.
A single subject breaks itself into multiple dimensions and aspects to branch out.
Disintegrate subjects and classify them into minor topics. Use them to produce more ideas. Call it dissection of ideas if you wish.
Such ideas are audience-friendly, as they present broad topics as consumable chunks of information.
No one expects a fat encyclopedia at once from you. People usually expect easy content. Short and sweet.
Segment the solutions into various categories
You have an impressive solution to some problem? Good.
You can start generating a stream of ideas from the sub-topics and related categories.
Here’s a quick stepwise plan to do it:
- Understand your fundamental problem (what problem are you solving?)
- Consider various aspects related to each part (what are the different aspects of your problem?)
- Suggest a solution for every part of your problem (Assign solutions to all considerable parts)
Multiply your topics to the amount of categories and you’ll have another stack of ideas ready.
Look at the problems people are discussing on forums
Searching for what? Watch and you’ll know.
People are seeking the end to their sufferings – they’re having a hard time dealing with what they cannot do.
Sometimes they’re merely asking for a helping hand. Other times, they do not know what they should do, so they ask for others’ opinions.
Forums are where people go to scream out, instead of shouting at void valleys.
Look at Quora – people are whining there anonymously.
Or Stack Overflow, which might as well be the second home to innumerable programmers.
Be there for them.
Use your mind.
Find an idea.
Sure, not all people are stuck. Some users visit forums for other purposes – fun, knowledge, sharing.
But ultimately, everything that exists on forums can give you enough inspiration for new ideas.
All that people express via forums is precious, and more valuable than any data or survey.
People speak their heart out and express their greatest discontent and opinions there.
Find the topics of relevant blogs in your industry
It’s not cheating or stealing – ahem, let’s call it borrowing.
Explore what the people in your industry are doing to trigger your own imagination.
Boom! Then comes a thunderstorm of ideas.
Your mind overflows. You step out of your limits. You find new arenas to think about.
It’s simple – learn what others like you are doing, and then find a way to inculcate those practices in your work.
For instance, a designer can use the tags and topics from Creative Bloq for inspiration and finding clues about creating something new.
Similarly, an inbound marketer can use HubSpot for new ideas.
A writer can refer the popular blogs in the writing niche.
Watch out for the terms people google
What are they searching?
Use SERP tools to find the keywords people search for.
Pay heed to related queries and auto-complete sentences.
Even better, focus on the frequent obstacles faced by people while doing certain tasks, and then create content based on the scenario.
There, you have another long list of ideas.
Where are your stories?
I haven’t heard them, yet.
Neither have others.
You have a goldmine of stories within you. Reveal it. Expose it to the world.
Share the day you failed and lost hope, what earning your first penny taught you, and how you stood up after falling over and over.
Say what you’ve been hiding – it’s time to express. It has always been.
As you grow, you keep getting new stories. You have enough of them, even if you think you don’t.
Here’s are some quick points to get started with storytelling:
- Share what you’ve learned
- Talk about the experiences you’ve gained over time
- Express your thoughts and inner feelings
- Be opinionated and say your views about something
- Narrate the events from past in a relevant and engaging way
Finally, practice it more until you keep getting better.
Changes breed new content
This cycle goes on.
Till the end of eternity.
Orkut was cool. Everyone began talking about Orkut. Then Orkut died.
That’s how it goes – people discuss the present, until it gets replaced by something else. Then comes another thing to replace the new one.
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – you don’t know what’ll live, or die.
Focus on the current scenario. Live in the present. Give people what they’re asking for – ideas for the present.
There’s always something people don’t know about. They need to be taught.
Someone needs to take the responsibility of teaching and showing what’s right for the masses in the present circumstances.
Can you do that? If yes, then find your ideas and back them up with your skill set.
For example, look at how suddenly everyone has starting talking about trending and hot topics such as the rise of AI and machine learning.
Think as you read
Don’t just read.
Do a critical review of the content you consume. There’s always something missing.
Gaps which can be filled. Imperfections that can be fixed. Further enhancements that can be done.
You can find great ideas by thinking over the existing content and finding a way to expand a topic.
You can ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s this content missing?
- How can it be improved?
- Which parts aren’t explained well?
- How can it be presented better?
- Can it be simplified further?
- Which supporting topics could be discussed?
Once you find the loopholes you can fix, you get another set of ideas to work on.
Brainstorm at once
Rain a hailstorm of ideas.
Do a thinking session before you proceed anything.
Brainstorming might mean imagining wildly, planning until your become baffled, or writing uninteresting junk.
Don’t worry, you can cut-out the awful parts later.
For now, concentrate on ideas and jot down as many as you can. Fill that paper.
Also, save the ideas which don’t seem relevant to you. You might need them in near future.
The best practice to do this is to maintain a document solely for collecting ideas. Write down as many ideas as you can in it.
Questions breed ideas.
“Is it possible for humans to fly?” someone questioned, and airplanes were invented.
“Why did the apple fall?” Newton questioned. He found gravity.
You’ll find your ideas and answers. But before that, question.
Not sure how? Pick up a random context and start adding a question mark to its various sides.
For instance, take this sentence – I renovated my office.
- What did I do to renovate my office?
- Why did I renovate the office?
- Who have helped me out in doing it?
- How did it affect my business?
- Where did I meet my clients during renovation?
- When did I decide to do it?
But those should be enough to tell you how it works. It works, doesn’t it? Always.
A strong base of content marketing consists of resolving the queries people have – through answering questions, you do exactly the same.
Would you be able to write an essay about basketball?
Not unless you know something about basketball.
So what do you do when you know nothing about something? You learn. The more you learn, the more ideas you get.
Call it ‘expansion of your mental boundaries.’ Learning is the way to getting smarter.
- Read regularly
- Explore different subjects
- Subscribe to the blogs in your niche
- Take some courses if needed
Come up with diverse ways of relating things, and teach people what they don’t know.
Content marketing can be quite diverse, so some sort of specialization helps.
For instance, a chemical engineer who has switched to marketing can serve a relevant company better through his experience.
Analyze the existing market around you
You don’t need to stress about how you should be executing things. Not always.
The fact is, the research you need to execute your plans, and the knowledge you need is all around you.
Look at how people behave, ask for their opinions, see how the market works naturally – this would be enough to give you more creative ideas.
- Notice the demands of people
- See how they’re interacting with your business
- Find out what changes they wish for
- Learn why they choose your competitors over you
Once you begin studying and analyzing the existing market, you become capable of creating an ideal environment for your customers through your ideas.
For example, if you have a real estate blog, then instead of researching real estate topics for hours, you can simply ask your acquaintances about the problems they face frequently and want a solution for.
This helps you create content that’s closer to the real world scenario, and more likely to engage the audience.
Listen to your instincts
Most people, including me, create something because they want to.
What does your heart say? Listen. Follow the voice within you. Act on it. That’s the first place to seek and start.
All other ways are secondary.
How do you get your ideas?
I suppose it’s the same process we all follow.
Yet, I want to hear from you.
Let me know in the comments.