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
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.
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.