Three strategies for brainstorming content ideas
To keep your pipeline supplied with a stream of qualified prospects, creating a stream of attractive content is a must. Selling yourself and your services by concretely showing prospects that you understand who they are, the challenges that keep them up at night and how to solve those problems is an approach that resonates with today’s selective audiences.
In order to succeed, you need content that is interesting, relevant and continuous. Achieving this content nirvana isn’t easy, but it’s very possible if you’re organized and consistent.
Content must be interesting to both you and your prospect. If it isn’t interesting to you, you won’t write it. If it isn’t interesting to your prospects, they won’t read it.
Relevant content focuses on what’s interesting to your prospect, which means you need to really understand who you’re trying to attract. Miss the mark, and that prospect will move on, maybe permanently.
Finally, your content must be continuous. Few people read one piece of content and are immediately driven to pick up the phone or schedule an appointment. Face it, you’re in a business that has a long sales cycle. That means you need to interact with your prospects multiple times before they will make the move to actually speak with you.
Fortunately, the brainstorming process is easy because you engage with it every day already when you talk to clients and prospects about their problems and offer solutions for those challenges. Engaging in a three-step process of visualizing your ideal reader, describing their challenges and solving their problems will yield a rich harvest of ideas that you can then use to create articles, blog posts, videos and other types of content.
Strategy 1: Visualize your ideal reader
The process starts with visualizing your idea reader or prospect. This group of people should be in the area of your practice that you most want to grow. If you’ve already done this work – great. Just make sure that it still aligns with where you want to go.
If you haven’t, take a few minutes to think about or write down the key attributes of your ideal reader/prospect:
- Marital status
- Investable assets
Major concerns of your ideal reader might be:
- Do I have enough money to retire?
- Have I saved enough?
- Where will my income come from in retirement?
- Can I afford to have kids?
- How can I pay for college?
The more specific you are in this endeavor, the better. In a future article, I’ll describe how you can dive more deeply into this avatar, but for now, anything is better than nothing.
I’d encourage you to align this vision of your ideal reader or prospect with the clients who delight you currently in your practice. You want more of those and fewer of the ones who make you wish that you’d picked a different line of work.
Strategy 2: Describe their challenges
If anyone knows what keeps your clients and prospects up at night, that would be you. It’s what you hear when the phone is ringing off the hook on the morning after a riot at the capital or when the market tanks.
Describing these challenges in terms of questions – like I just did in Strategy 1 -- is a great idea because it frames the problem from the reader’s point of view.
When you hit the nail on the head with these challenges, you go a long way to cutting the trust curve. If your ideal reader feels understood, they will read on and be more likely to engage with your content in the future.
Break down those concerns that you listed in Step 1. Here’s how you might break down the “Do I have enough money to retire?” questions:
- How long of a retirement do I need to plan for?
- Longevity risk
- Longevity factors
- What expenses will I encounter in retirement?
- How do I make sure I have enough consistent income to match my expenses with my income?
- What are my sources of retirement savings?
- How much more should I save before I retire?
In just these few questions there is plenty more room to break down topics even further. That’s important, because your topic must fit the length that you have available to write within.
When I was teaching college students, I always cautioned my students against trying to boil the ocean in their papers. All too often they wanted to choose topics suitable for a book or a set of encyclopedias rather than a 10-page paper. Your task is to fit your topics into 800 or 1,000 word article or blog formats or videos or whatever media you’re working with.
Strategy 3: Solve their problems
When you offer solutions, you show that you are committed to helping your idea readers/prospects solve their problems. However, you need to be skillful because when it comes to articles and blog posts, there is usually not enough room to completely describe a problem and the solution.
This is where I recommend offering part of the solution and/or linking related articles that discuss the solution so that they can keep reading what you’re writing.
I’m a big fan of complete disclosure of what I’ve got in the way of solutions for my target audience not only because it builds trust, but it also converts prospects more quickly because they understand exactly what you’re offering and how it will help them.
Here’s where you might be thinking “Well, what if the prospect doesn’t like or agree with my solution? I don’t want to turn anyone off.”
Well, you actually do. You want to turn off those prospects who aren’t a good fit. You know, the clients who make you wish you had decided on a different line of work. Let those prospects disqualify themselves so you’re not wasting your time in meetings that won’t go anywhere or will drive you crazy.
In future articles in this series, I will help you determine your idea reader persona, turn your brainstorming list into content titles, create a content calendar, leverage an article/blog template to write more quickly and distribute your content to capture your ideal reader’s attention.