It’s no secret that creativity and innovation are two key ingredients in a highly effective content marketing strategy.
And yet, consistently coming up with new, imaginative content ideas for your business or brand can seem utterly vexing at times.
We all want to have better ideas, but it isn’t always as simple as just putting on our “better idea” caps.
That’s why successful content marketers often have methods that help them produce remarkable content on a regular basis.
Let’s look at one such method.
A little innovation can go a long way
In the book The Art of Innovation, author Tom Kelley describes the creative process of the global design and innovation firm IDEO (taken from the word ideology).
Over the years, he’s watched the company grow from a small group of fun-loving designers into a firm of more than 600 professionals.
David Kelley, his brother and IDEO founder, helped Steve Jobs develop the Lisa computer and worked on Apple’s famous mouse design.
IDEO is ranked number 10 on Fast Company’s list of the Top 25 Most Innovative Companies and is the winner of 38 Red Dot awards, 28 iF Hannover awards, and more IDEA awards than any other design firm.
Reinventing the wheel … every day
IDEO has redesigned everything from children’s toys to high-tech medical equipment.
In a vintage spot on ABC’s Nightline in 1999 called “The Deep Dive: One Company’s Secret Weapon for Innovation,” IDEO became well-known when a team at the company applied a modern redesign to the classic shopping cart in just five days.
Their process was inspiring and encapsulated their mantra:
Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of a lone genius.
Kelley points out that Thomas Edison’s legendary innovation followed this philosophy.
Edison ambitiously filed more than 1,000 patents and — more importantly — developed influential technology, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the lightbulb (the Steve Jobs of his era, to say the least).
We think of him as just one man — The Genius — but he employed a large creative team that stood on the shoulders of important creatives that came before them.
Much like Edison, the team at IDEO are a group of innovative people working in a kind of “focused chaos,” but Kelley outlines their deceptively simple methodology.
IDEO’s method in 5 simple steps
- Understand the market, the client, the technology, and any constraints that are perceived for the problem at hand. Content marketers need to research who their audiences and prospects will be in order to make an educated guess as a starting point.
- Observe real people — in real-life situations, using real language — to find out what makes them tick. Once you start publishing content and growing a small, loyal audience, you can tune in to their fears, hopes, and desires to help steer your course.
- Visualize groundbreaking concepts and the customers who’ll use them — a brainstorm-intensive process that imagines the customer experience. Discover your prospects’ concerns so that you can speak to their needs.
- Evaluate and refine to create quick, iterative prototypes that build on each other incrementally with the understanding that “no idea is so good it can’t be improved.” You must learn from your mistakes and optimize your cornerstone content.
- Implement the new concept for commercialization and business. This is the longest and most technically challenging phase. In content marketing, this is what Seth Godin refers to as being prepared to “get rich slow.” Successful content marketers take the time to earn attention, build trust, and turn it into a profit.
These steps certainly resemble agile content marketing.
Innovative content marketers, start here …
Content marketers are constantly tasked with building authority and getting people to talk about and share their content.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that creativity can’t be bought.
Producing abundant and engaging content requires a great deal of focused intention, a fair amount of passion, and a lot of elbow grease:
- Start with an educated guess for your content strategy.
- Create and release content knowing it’s likely to be a bit flawed.
- Optimize it often, based on audience feedback.
Repeating this process over time enables you to create the best content for your audience.
You’ll also need some creative teamwork and a network of fans and customers who will share your content.
When we tap into our creative sides, we must embrace risk and not fear the occasional setback.
One final, important innovation mantra
Fail often to succeed sooner.
No one (in their right mind) says content marketing is easy, but having a solid starting place is a huge step ahead of the competition.
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on November 6, 2012.
Reader Comments (33)
The last phrase is so true.
Ali Zia says
I sent out my guest post on the same topic “innovation” on a well known blog but I was declined…The only reason to that was I wasn’t innovative enough. Really, creativity can’t be bought…
Nick Stamoulis says
“using real language to find out what makes them tick.”
It’s so important to not get caught up in the jargon. You have to talk to people they way they actually talk, not how you want them to. Keep it simple and conversational.
Demian Farnworth says
The iterative process (always be testing) is like a Swiss Army Knife–it’s applications are endless. And now we have a new minimum viable: MVCMS….
Minimum Viable Content Marketing Strategy.
Doesn’t roll off the tongue like MVP or MVA. 😀
Kelton Reid says
Thank you Demian. We’re like kids with a chemistry set.
Mia Sherwood Landau says
Courage. Having courage is a necessary ingredient, first and foundational on any to-do list, especially these three points for content marketing. We just have to get out there and do it, no matter what happens. And we learn and we improve. That’s it.
Kelton Reid says
Absolutely Mia. Without it, innovation would cease to exist.
Joseph Putnam says
This ABC video on IDEO looks awesome. I can’t wait to watch it.
Kelton Reid says
It’s pretty inspiring. I posted the short version, but I think there is a 3-part longer version floating around on YouTube also. Enjoy.
Hello Kelton Reid!
This article is really MAGICAL! It reminds me the power of the quality articles and the viral nature of internet! If you think it a bit you will understand that even 1 EXTRAORDINARY article can build trust, can go viral, can skyrocket your profits. You know guys its all about the reliability and the quality you provide to your readers (customers)..
Malinda Johnson says
My best tip for finding new ideas is to take the real life conversations you have about your business and turn them into online content. The people you talk to in the actual world are some of the same ones who are in your target audience online.
Ricardo Bueno says
Re: “Create and release content knowing it’s likely to be a bit flawed.”
This used to be a big hurdle for me. I’d wait until it was absolutely perfect. Only to realize, perfection doesn’t exist. And chasing it, is a waste of time.
What I was really fighting, was the inner critic. Telling me it wasn’t good enough. I’ve learned to shut him up for the most part. Every now and then he peaks his head in, but I try to shut him out so I can focus on creating and adapting to fit my audiences’ needs.
Kelton Reid says
I think we go through what most ‘creatives’ go through. It’s like looking at the very early works of famous artists.
You can see the progression of genius in the iterations and subtle changes to the work over time.
I too have had that same problem Ricardo and agree with Kelton that it’s a creative mentality to want things to be perfect.
It is difficult to overcome but you only have to look at major companies to see how they constantly put out flawed products into the market then refine them as they go along. Not advocating what major companies do entirely but if you trace things back to their beginnings then that can give you a bit more assurance.
Thando Vuzane says
I couldn’t agree with you more Shola. Well said 🙂
Greg Peters says
Geez, just…geez. I love this hardcore. As I get more and more into more traditional forms of marketing this is the type of stuff I need to be working on. Its awesome.
Thando Vuzane says
The biggest issue that I have come across is “writer’s block”. When you just hit that blank spot of creativity, and nothing flows at all out of you. I guess we all need to find that method of constant inspiration over time to keep us going. But I’ve found constant reading of my favourite blogs in the morning very helpful in inspiring new relevant content.
I really enjoyed this article and the comments. Great insight
Jon P says
The best content idea here is ‘Observe real people’. Or, to restate it slightly, figure out who your ideal customers are, and observe them. If you do it with a purpose, identifying their gut feelings through personal interviews, then you’ll have an endless source of innovative content because they’ll never grow tired of learning how to alleviate their fears, and live their dreams.
Dean Saliba says
I think not being creative enough is why I’m not as success at my job as I can be, I am always relying on what other blogs are writing about to come up with ideas. 🙂
Great post, exactly what I was looking, but I should have known this was the answer.
The post follows the lean philosophy of finding out exactly what your market or audience is looking for, and then delivering content that they want, in the format they want.
I believe a lot of us(ME) spend a lot of time implementing something without even talking to anyone to see if they are actually interested in it. I believe people have fear of someone “stealing” their idea, or trying to beat them to the finish line, it ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy because the idea isn’t something people truly want.
The Content Marketing Strategy is like the product development process of a business, but typically the content is free, but you are still trying to “sell” it by getting people interested in it(ie. getting followers, subscribers, regular readers, fans, etc).
Prompt Communications says
Constantly creating interesting, engaging content is a challenge many businesses face, and these steps are a must read for anyone looking to improve their content marketing. However, while creativity is an obvious (and sometimes enviable) benefit, we’ve found that planning for great content is equally as important as writing it. One example of that is optimizing your ‘push out’ plan – if brilliant content isn’t getting read, it goes to waste. We’ve found that sending out test runs (let’s say three posts across Facebook at noon, another three in the early evening) provides a great opportunity to analyze visibility and capitalize on when you audience is absorbing content. Truly brilliant content is created and acted upon!
Lewis Saka says
Important point – you have to talk to people using their own language and phrases. You gain empathy and better undersand of them if you do this
Joe Lee says
Often one enjoyed success after hearing what the market wants. Few months back I launched a new workshop, Procrastination Buster Workshop because of market feedback. Then launched a Public Presentation Mastery because if market feedback as well. I’m launching a manual about planning ad execution because of market feedback again.
Those programs that I launched without researching from the market flop. It’s really important to listen to the market.
Michael Shook says
Producing content consistently can be challenging, especially in the same market. The best part though, is that there is a wealth of vantage points from which to create. Understanding that has really helped me.
Charles Atkins says
I agree with Nick above that “you have to talk to people they way they actually talk, not how you want them to.” And like you said, to do so, we need to research and understand our audience.
Although every content writer has his or her favorite tools and apps, however, when I am researching for my target audience, I find “Quora” and “Buzzsumo” very helpful.
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