How to Brainstorm Great Content for Your Marketing Plan Behind every good marketing plan is a great brainstorming session.

By Wendy Keller

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The following excerpt is from Wendy Keller's book Ultimate Guide to Platform Building. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Smart content creation is a way of choosing what material has the best chance of getting into the minds of your prospects and that provides enough value to make them want to take the next step with you. Whatever form or format you want to put it in, you'll need to have content. Content fills blogs, ebooks, audio programs, marketing campaigns, podcasts, webinars and workshops.

The first guiding principle of content creation is this: You must provide valuable, consistent, organized content. People want the security of getting what they came for when they approach your content. When you consistently deliver that, you become a valuable resource in their lives.

Related: 4 Tips for Growing a Sustainable Business

Your job as a content creator is to find out what people want and give it to them. The better you do that, the faster you'll build your platform and the more customers you'll attract. That's all there is to it.

An article titled, "Five Ways to Save Money on Your Electric Bill" would be a disappointment if most of it ended up being an anecdote about the writer's trip to Home Depot to buy insulation, or a diatribe about why saving on utilities will help the planet stay green, or if it accidentally only offers three methods when it promised five. Content must be organized and deliver on its promise.

People do business with people they like and trust. Your words should always convey that you are reliable, trustworthy and likeable, and that you have the solution they're seeking. Trust is built by giving people what they expect from you, consistently and of high value, as promised.

The next component is that the content must be valuable in alignment with what your audience wants and needs from you and your content.

These are three ways to gather content:

  1. Generate original content yourself.
  2. Become an aggregator of content created by others.
  3. Pay others to create content for you.

How to brainstorm content ideas

Brainstorming a lot of ideas all at once will allow you to pick and choose what content matches your brand, which to develop and how to spark new ideas going forward.

The intended outcome of the brainstorming methods below is to help you come up with as many ideas as fast as possible. Some of them won't seem like good ideas tomorrow. Others will. Some will foster even more and better ideas later. Your goal is just to get as many ideas as quickly and efficiently as you can. You can sort them out later.

10-Step Group Brainstorming

If you have a few other people who really know your subject matter and care about your success, try group brainstorming. Include every person on your team, from the lowest-paid to the highest, then follow these steps:

1. Set aside 30 to 60 minutes at a time of day when you're at your mental best. (You're the emcee, so choose what works best for you. Your positive energy will have a good effect on the others.)

2. Choose a quiet, comfortable place where you won't be disturbed.

3. Invite your people.

4. Bring a recording device -- the one on your smartphone may work just fine. You want all ideas to be recorded.

5. Provide everyone with a notepad and a pen so each of you can jot things down.

6. Turn off all cell phones (unless you're using one to record), tell others not to disturb you and then prepare to hunker down. Everyone should have gone to the bathroom, gotten coffee, etc.

7. Set the rules at the beginning. Rule #1: There's no judgment of any idea pre­sented. No scowls, no head shaking, no verbal retorts. Do not stop, scorn, deride or insult, compliment, encourage or expound any ideas that come up. The goal is to expand and freely explore new and innovative ideas. Going off the rails will happen and is desirable.

8. Encourage everyone to bring up ideas, as many ideas as they can, in any order, no matter who's speaking. Don't let anyone monopolize the conversation. Since going from person to person might inhibit flow, it's usually advisable to let the eager ones speak first, but then ask each of the quieter people if they have anything to add.

9. When the session is over, send the recording to (or a comparable transcription website) to get it transcribed quickly.

10. Send a copy of the transcript to all participants. Ask each participant to pri­vately review the transcript and highlight any ideas that still seem like good ones. Ask for feedback or votes.

Solo Brainstorming

Brainstorming by yourself is easiest if you take the following steps:

1. Choose a time and place where you won't be disturbed or distracted. My per­sonal preference is in whatever hotel room I find myself in when I'm on the road speaking. The fact that I'm in an unfamiliar yet safe environment seems to trigger my brain to think outside the ruts it has created.

2. Prior to the brainstorming session, do something physical for five to 10 minutes that gets you breathing deeply. This could be a brisk walk; some conscious, quick deep breathing; some yoga asanas; or even a dozen jumping jacks. Oxygen empowers your brain.

3. Sit down with a recording device (and a notepad and pen if that's your style). Set a timer for 30 minutes.

4. Solemnly commit to creating the best content ideas you can in the time allotted; ones that grow your business, build your brand and serve your public at the highest level possible.

5. Speak and/or write as many ideas you can, without self-criticism or judgment, as they pour out of your brain. If the word "orthodontist" slips off your tongue while you're brainstorming and you remember you need to make an appointment for your teen, just keep on going. Everything is being recorded. Ignore your inner critic. You can sort and develop the good ones later.

6. When the timer dings, quickly decide if you're on a roll and whether or not you want to keep going.

7. If you've recorded your ideas aloud, get them transcribed and highlight the ones you like best. Develop and implement the ones that have the most promise.

How to know if your content is good

How will you know if your content is any good and which ideas to develop? In a lifetime of content creation, I've deduced there are two ways: what comes together naturally and what elicits the intended response from the intended audience.

Related: Highly Effective Strategies to Build Your Business Brand

"Comes together naturally" means the idea you created for the article, the blog, the script for the web video or whatever it is -- fits together. You can easily help the reader move from point A to point B in a logical flow. The reader should get value from the time they invest in consuming your content in any form or format.

Remember this: someone engaging with your content is investing their energy -- a limited supply -- in your message. Grow your business by giving them what they want. How do you know what content will elicit the best response from your audience?

Take the general theme, the point, the goal of your content. Sketch out six ways you can split it into sub-points, steps or details. Break each of those into two parts and write content and/or create video content on each of them. Using your social media platform, execute a test on each of the 12 pieces. Post each at the same time of day on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Do what's called "boosting a post" on Facebook. On any public page, they'll allow you to put just a little money on any post and they'll promote it to a set number of people. Then watch what people respond to best. Take the one or two best ideas and replicate a marketing test on social media using just those ideas with the same budget. Is there a clear winner when you've run 1,000 people past both of them? That's what the world wants from you.

If you see that one gets 15 responses and the others only get one or two, create another piece of content similar to the one that got the 15 responses and see if it was a fluke or if it happens again. The world will point you to the direction it wants you to go. People vote with their comments (even the nasty ones!) and with their like buttons.

Related: 5 Unique Ways to Build Your Brand Like the Big Companies Do

So how do you know if your content has achieved your goal? By the response you get. Are more people coming toward you? Are they buying, engaging and interacting how you want? If not, what are your options? When you give people lots of good stuff (stuff they want) you become their preferred provider and they become your fans, your customers and your followers.

Give the people more of exactly what they want.

Wavy Line
Wendy Keller

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

CEO and Founder of Keller Media, Inc.

Wendy Keller is an award-winning former journalist, a respected literary agent, an author, speaker, acclaimed book marketing consultant, and branding expert. She is the author of Ultimate Guide to Platform Building (Entrepreneur Press®, 2016) and got her first job as a newspaper reporter as a 16-year-old college freshman. Since then, Wendy worked for PR Newswire; the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain; as managing editor of Dateline magazine; and as associate publisher of Los Angeles’ then-second-largest Spanish language weekly, La Gaceta. She works with authors, speakers and business experts to help them build and promote their brands. She founded Keller Media, Inc. in 1989.

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