Coming up with B2B blog post ideas can’t happen in a void. Even if you use an idea generator (like this one from Hubspot) you’ll still need to come up with the actual content that goes into your articles — which often results in a lot of window-gazing, pacing, and in my case, a sudden and voracious attentiveness to household chores.
If you’re new to B2B content marketing, here’s some good news. Business-to-business blog posts aren’t really that different from the ones you read for fun as a regular person in your downtime. Check it out.
All of the following are true for both B2B and B2C blogs:
They’re written for people — real, human people.
These people are usually facing some sort of challenge.
These people are interested in specific topics.
These people are searching for answers online, whether actively (they found your post through a search engine) or passively (so they clicked your post in a social feed or email link).
How do you brainstorm ideas for B2B blog content for your inbound marketing campaigns? Don’t show up to your brainstorming session empty-handed. Here are three different methods that I use regularly to create content that people love, and I’m so excited to share them with you.
Method #1: Setting an Intention
This is the most primitive method, yet the one that tends to yield the most surprising and genuine results. Even though we’re focusing on B2B content here, I’ll give you an example back from my lifestyle blogging days.
When I was a contributor at Mommyish, my daughter was the primary source of my content. I would write about the parenting methods I chose, my personal and professional struggles, and my successes in the early years of first-time parenthood. But all of these stories had to come from my own life, so I learned to look at my life through the lens of how my experiences might help or entertain other people.
I kept a notebook with me at all times in case an idea came while driving my daughter to daycare or walking her in the stroller.
It’s no different for B2B content. Keep a notebook handy, and make it a practice to observe your industry through the eyes of your customers. What can they learn from you and only you? What might they find entertaining or amusing? Can you show your human side?
Consult your notebook whenever you’re stuck for blog ideas, and I guarantee you’ll be able to create something (although I’ll warn you: I’ve found that this daily practice of “setting my intention” almost always ignites my urge to write immediately, so these ideas don’t tend to sit stagnantly in a notebook for long.)
Method #2: Cold, Hard Research
You could call this the antithesis to method #1, but it’s a life saver when you’re not feeling inspired or your audience needs a very specific answer to a question you may not be an expert in.
Even the gurus and industry thought leaders rely heavily on research to come up with topic ideas. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, read hundreds of books and articles, conducted interviews, and even hired a researcher to spend one and a half years scouring libraries to write this now-renowned tome.
Cold, hard research comes in lots of forms. Here are some of the ones I use:
I use SEMrush to discover keyphrases that my target audience might be searching for, and then I Google those terms myself to divine user intent. Here’s what I mean. If my audience is looking for “B2B content examples,” I might assume they want a rundown of the different types of content you can create (articles, whitepapers, case studies, etc.). However, a quick Google search shows me that the top results feature real-life examples from B2B brands. With this new information, I can structure my own post to provide alternative, or better, real-life examples in order to outrank the top spot.
Interestingly, content creators and marketers are often so wrapped up in big-picture blog research techniques that we completely neglect to get information straight from the source: our customers.
Your customers’ behavior online can give you massive clues as to what they’re most interested in. Spend a little time browsing your prospects’ newsfeeds on LinkedIn. What are they sharing and commenting on? What do they yearn to know more about?
If you’ve created buyer personas for your business, let these inspire you. Not only can a clear picture of your target market help your marketing overall, it can highlight things your customers are interested in that you may have never considered.
And why not ask your customers directly? Ask them: what do you want to learn more about? What do you like about doing business with us? Pose questions on social media, in emails, or phone calls. Feature a customer interview or video in a blog post, curate a list of industry advice from your customers (people love to be featured in others’ blogs. It’s free publicity for them and free content for you).
I’ll admit I don’t use this as often, because I don’t like to have other writers’ voices in my head when I’m working. However, if you can take some time to study your competitors’ blogs when you aren’t right about to craft a post, it’ll work wonders.
A quick note on plagiarism: it’s fair game to generate ideas for blog posts by looking at competitors, but hugely not cool to “spin” anybody else’s article into your own by rearranging the words. Fortunately, Google is a badass and they’re already doing an awesome job of penalizing these offenders.
The right way to do competitive research? Use your competitors as inspiration. What kinds of ledes are they using to grab attention? Are they experimenting with different types of blog posts, like interactive content? What are they doing with graphics, and how often are they posting? These can all serve as helpful guidelines — or sources of differentiation — if you have no idea where to start.
Talk to Your Sales Team
Your sales team is on the front lines of your business, and they’re more than cozy with all of the questions and objections your customers have. Create helpful pieces of content that answers these questions before your customers even ask them. Your sales team will appreciate working with more informed prospects, and your customers will be primed and ready to make a purchase.
Method #3: Filling My Well
This might be my favorite method, because it’s both intuitive like #1 and scientific like #2. It’s also so much more fun than conducting keyword research, and yields results that actually help me grow as a person and a business owner.
“Filling my well” means regularly taking time to read, watch, or listen to content created by leaders in my industry. But you don’t have to limit this to your industry. In fact, it’s good for your brain to branch out, because you can’t possibly have new ideas when you’re absorbed in the same industry lingo and platitudes and jargon all day long.
So queue up some podcast episodes to bring along on your next walk. Discover the YouTube channels of those you admire (lately I’ve been really digging Marie Forleo’s channel for small business owners while I knit). Watch TED talks, attend webinars, check out a fat stack of books from the library. Whatever you consume, consume it because you want to — and great ideas will start gushing.