According to Hubspot, companies with blogs gather 68% more leads than companies without blogs. Blogging is a powerful marketing strategy that can drive traffic, build authority and generate new leads.
But having to come up with a steady supply of blog topics week after week can be a real drag. It’s not just a question of finding something to write about. The challenge is to find interesting topics to write about. And to be able to do it consistently.
Now if you’re in a “sexy” industry like travel, food or fashion, you’re going to have loads of intereresting things to write about. If your industry not quite so titillating, like… erm…. finance, insurance or software, you could find yourself struggling.
Technology writer Farhad Manjoo commissioned a study by Chartbeat that revealed that most readers stop reading after getting 60% of the way through a typical blog post. They simply weren’t sufficiently interested to keep reading till the end.
So how do you keep your readers interested?
Topics which are not interesting
Topics which are all about your company are not likely to be interesting to your average reader. For example: company updates, media mentions and promotional material.
Instead, your blog should be targeted at the casual reader who might have a problem that your company could solve. Speak to that reader’s needs and you could have a future client.
How to come up with topics that are interesting
The key principle is this: always address the needs of your readers.
Educate your readers
Your reader has likely stumbled upon your company blog because they’ve an interest in your industry. Well here’s your chance to shine by educating your reader. Provide them with valuable information, and they’ll see you as an authority. You’ll build trust and credibility in their eyes. When it’s time to do business you will be the one they’ll want to get in touch with.
The best way of educating your readers is to answer the classic questions: “who”, “what”, “when”, “why” and “how”.
Pick topics that your readers are most interested in. The topics you cover must be relevant to your audience, but do not necessarily have to be directly related to your product.
This is a key point which opens up many creative possibilities.
Take When I Work, an employee scheduling company serving small business owners. Now churning out post after post about scheduling practices would get boring very quickly.
Instead, their blog covers topics such as how to boost productivity, when to ask for customer feedback, and where to find the best employees . These are all topics that are interesting and valuable to small business owners. Once they’re engaged with this content, it’s easy to introduce them to the company’s scheduling software.
Solve a problem
If your reader is having a persistent problem, helping them solve it is always going to be interesting. It doesn’t matter how boring the topic is. If your kitchen sink is blocked, you’ll have a sudden interest in plumbing.
Your employees working in services, support and sales are in regular contact with your customers. Ask them to document any problems that your customers are regularly experiencing. Go to Q&A sites like Quora and Yahoo! Answers and type in your industry keywords. You’ll see a list of questions related to your niche concerning problems people are facing.
Any of these problems can provide a great starting point for a blog topic. If you can suggest a solution that’s helpful to your reader, you’ll open the door to establishing a business relationship.
Bear in mind, you don’t have to give away all your know-how for free. A good tactic is to hold something back. Then invite your reader to get in touch to find out more.
Marketing expert Neil Patel describes being hired by Life Insure to help them promote their life insurance products. Now previous marketers used by Life Insure wrote about safe, sensible topics relating to life insurance.
Neil wanted to produce something that was buzzworthy, with the potential to go viral. He decided that he wasn’t going to create much of a buzz writing about insurance. He realised that people buy insurance because of their fear of death. So he came up with an article entitled “19 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Death”. The article gives fascinating facts including the fact that 100 people are killed every year by choking on a ballpoint pen.
The article generated hundreds of links and propelled Life Insure to the 3rd spot in Google’s search results for the keyword “life insurance”.
Tell a story
People are learning to filter out obvious marketing messages. But they still love to read stories. If you can craft a story that relates to your brand you can increase your readers’ emotional involvement with your company and increase customer engagement. It’s important that your stories are full of personality and you have characters that your audience will root for.
Copywriter Ben Settle loves using stories to sell. He cites the hit movie “Top Gun” as a great example. Now Top Gun was a film about hotshot pilots starring Tom Cruise. But it also acted as a compelling sales pitch for the Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses that Tom Cruise wore. After the film was released, sales of Ray-Bans jumped 40%.
Greek philosopher Aristotle laid out the classic three-act story structure and this structure has been successfully used in numerous popular stories including “Lord of the Rings”, “Star Wars” and “Casablanca”. This structure works great for brand stories and is recommended by case study expert Casey Hibbard in her book “Stories That Sell”.
It goes like this:
- Setup. Introduce the characters and the setting.
- Conflict. Describe the challenge faced by the characters.
- Resolution. Describe how the characters overcome the challenge.
Of course in your story, the characters overcome the challenge using your amazing products and services. But try to be subtle about it.
Also, you don’t need to start with “Once upon a time…”
Discuss industry news
News stories are always a big draw. Will Corry of The Marketingblog reported that in a survey of Twitter users, 73% ranked news as the “best kind of tweets”.
Are there interesting news stories in your industry that you readers will care about? Newsworthy events might be: new regulations, a technological breakthrough, or a major conference.
If so, you can draw in readers who want to learn more about news related topics. Don’t just give them the news, give them your take on it. And once you’ve got your attention you can introduce them to your brand.
If there’s lots of developments in your industry, news stories can provide you with a never-ending stream of blog topics. You could even create a special “Industry News” section on your website.
Is there an influencer in your industry that would capture your readers’ interest? Influencers are a select group of people who have a substantial following. If you can feature them in your blog in some way it could give you massive exposure to a new audience.
The best way to approach influencers is to connect before you reach out to them. If they have a blog, leave well thought out comments after their posts. Then share their posts on Twitter, making sure you mention them in your tweet so they’ll be notified.
Once you’ve got on their radar, send them an email to ask if they would be happy to be interviewed for your blog. Before you email them, look for a small connection that you can use to break the ice. Maybe you both have a passion for Shih Tzu puppies or playing the ukulele.
Whatever your industry, there’s likely an abundance of data about preferences, behaviours, and trends. This data could be very helpful to your readers. If only someone could make sense of it all.
Well, that someone could be you. Try analysing industry data and setting out your findings in blog posts and reports. Through sharing your insights with your audience you can position yourself as an authority in your niche.
This strategy has worked very well for OkCupid, who ran a popular blog on dating research called OkTrends. In their blog post We Experiment on Human Beings! they discuss the relative influence of daters’ profile photo and profile text on their response rates. The post has accumulated over 10k shares on facebook and over 1,200 comments.
Now this strategy will work equally well in a drier, more technical industry. The leading marketing blog Smart Insights is noted for their data driven articles. Their blog post Mobile Marketing Statistics examines user behaviour on mobile platforms from a marketing perspective. The post has generated over 1k shares on LinkedIn and over 80 comments from marketing professionals.
But if you can’t find the data you need for your article, just gather your own. Send out some customer surveys to your audience via your website or mailing list.
Is there already lots of content published in your industry? If so, much of it will be covering the same old points again and again. How can you avoid this trap?
Writing controversial blog posts is a great way of separating you from the pack. Being controversial takes courage and will convey your conviction, uniqueness, and authority. Controversy is inherently interesting and will spark discussions in the comments and drive social shares.
Having said this, you need to be careful. As research from Wharton Business School has confirmed, creating controversy around sensitive topics (like politics and religion) can alienate your audience.
Ideally you want to create a “soft controversy”. A controversy which generates engagement without causing offence.
Now, which way up do you orientate your toilet roll in the toilet roll holder? Is it with the toilet paper feeding out from over the roll or from under the roll? I’m sure you’re wondering what toilet roll has to do with anything.
Well, according to Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist Ann Landers the toilet roll orientation issue was the most controversial topic in her column’s history, generating 15,000 reader letters. If you’re dying to find out more, there’s actually a 9,000 word Wikipedia article on the matter.
Marketer Mark Schaefer took the controversial approach and ran with it for his blog post “Content Shock – Why Content Marketing is Not a Sustainable Strategy.” His post generated over 700 shares on LinkedIn, 400 comments, and prompted impassioned responses from top marketers including Barry Feldman, Joe Pulizzi and Sonia Simone.
Be interesting, be relevant
Content marketing is a constant battle for the attention of your readers. If you can consistently come up with interesting topics to write about, you’ll remain relevant to your readers.
They’ll stick around for a while.
And as long as they do, you’ve a chance to make that sale.
Extra bonus: I’ve created a handy “Find Interesting Topics to Write About Reference Sheet” so you’ll never run out topic ideas again. To download it now, click here.