We’ve all done it. We’ve set aside time to plan out the content we are going to use to market our business and the blank page stymies us. We’ve diligently read the blogs, newsletters, and trade press associated with our industry and we still draw blanks. As a writer I’ve spent more than my fair share of time staring at blank pages hoping that somehow my need will fill the void with brilliant words. That has never happened.
I’ve learned through discovery and reading all those other blogs and listening to hours upon hours of podcasts a set of strategies to overcome the blank page doldrums. I’ve reformulated these strategies into three broad topics so I could use a title I thought was clever. Let’s keep the fact these strategies didn’t naturally occur in this way a secret between us, okay?
I personally like examples to break away from the abstracts. I’m going to pretend I own a cheese shop (I spell it shoppe because it makes it feel old timey).
At Sean’s Cheese Shoppe we have a very active social media presence sharing tips on how to buy cheese and how to store cheese. My staff and I write blog posts about trends in cheese, sharing our opinions on different types of cheese, and joining in the latest cheese memes (so many cheese memes!). We don’t have an aggressive content calendar – just putting up one to two blog posts a week, creating one significant graphic a week to share on our Pinterest board, Google+ page, and Facebook account, three to four tweets a day, and a monthly e-blast discussing new cheeses that have come into the store, identifying issues and news which affect the cheese eating public, and of course our famous 20% coupon off selected cheeses to bring our email reading customers back into the store.
A year into business, I can tell you that sometimes that well of ideas looks pretty dry. I’ve already weighed in on the White Cheddar Debate, the Fondue Fiasco, and even dabbled in mold. I have interviews with cheesemakers regarding cheesemaking. I have interviews with sommeliers about which wines pair well with different cheeses. Now I have another month of content to create and the blank spots in the calendar are mocking me.
It’s time to implement the Respond, Reuse, and Recycle strategy.
Take a look at your email inbox. Look at forums related to your industry. Go on Reddit, Ask Yahoo, your own blog comments section and take a look at the questions people are asking about your industry, about products related to your industry, and about your company specifically.
The first stop on this journey is the Sean’s Cheese Shoppe customer service desk, email inbox, and blog. What have our customers been asking? Since this is pretend I get to make up some stuff here but I’m going to base it on my own questions. It is summer and people are going to picnics, cookouts, and other special events that require traveling distances in the summer heat. A common question relates to ‘traveling with cheese’ and the kinds of artisanal cheeses which can take a bit of summer heat. Nobody wants to arrive at a friend’s house with a plate of cheese that is oozing oily liquids. This type of question offers the opportunity to highlight the hard cheeses my store carries which make perfect cheeses to take out in the summer heat and still impress friends.
Now onto Reddit.com. Reddit.com/r/askreddit where people ask all sorts of odd and absurd questions. I type in ‘cheese’ to see what kinds of questions people are asking about my favorite dairy product.
Not all the questions ask relate directly to cheese, but there are a few. There seems to be a lot of interest in three key cheese related foods: grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni & cheese, and pizza. It’s a start and it has given me an idea to create cheese blends to sell relating to these specific products. One question in particular caught my eye, though. “Why do smaller pieces of cheese taste better than bigger pieces of cheese?” I think there is potential there but I’m not done.
Now I pop over to Yahoo! Answers and see what people there are asking about cheese.
Questions relating to mold and storage… since I’ve already written about these things it isn’t much help. I can use those previous blog posts to answer the questions while I’m here. I also notice more questions about the best types of cheese for fondues, grilled cheese, and pizzas. I’m penciling in the possibility of writing several posts about cheese blends and what makes a blend good for different recipes.
From these three locations, I have come up with at least four ideas of blog content. If I do the cheese blend posts, I can take pictures, add text identifying the types of cheese, and post those on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook to keep those channels humming with content. I’ll make sure to ask my followers for their favorite blends and acknowledge their contributions. If a blend seems particularly good, I’ll make it and give that follower credit. “Marcy’s Famous Taco Cheese Blend” might not sell a ton but it will make Marcy (and her friends and family) a bit more loyal to Sean’s Cheese Shoppe.
One of the best sources of new content is old content. Insert the sound of a record being scratched here. I am not saying go back to your old content, copy it, and post it as new content. Doing that will create all sorts of issues with duplicate content and all that headache a cheesemonger doesn’t want to think about. No, what I am saying is I’m going to go back through all the blog posts I’ve written and group them by theme. I have several blog posts related to cheddar cheeses. I can pull them all together into one post. The many blog posts I’ve written on cheese debates (Emmentaler vs. Schabziger, Blue vs. Rouquefort, Sheep Milk Cheeses vs. Goat Milk Cheeses) and create one large post reusing the points made in those posts to create a new one.
Reusing content does take finesse. Curating my own content isn’t the easiest of tasks. I’ll need to suppress the urge to rewrite what was already written. I won’t be able to lift the whole post and will need to clearly identify the parts I am reusing, write the proper paragraphs to bridge between the different sections, and write an opening closing framework. Reusing content doesn’t mean giving up on the work.
Wait, isn’t recycling the same as reusing? Sort of. In the strictest sense it would be taking content used one way and making something brand new and different with it. This analogy isn’t easily applied to content and it isn’t what I was thinking. The thought I had under this category was to take the trash of others and use it for your own purpose.
What is the trash of others in this context? I’m going to go to Google and seach for the keywords I’ve set as vital to my store. Cheese making being one of them, obviously. I specifically am going to search for blog posts about cheese, so I will go into the More options and select Blogs. I also want to look at posts written over a year ago, so I will make the date adjustment in the search.
What I’m looking for are topics that can be revisited, revised, and redone. Topics like these…
All of these are research options. I will make sure I identify the original inspiration and link back to it. This is really great for articles about trends, or even reviews of newly released items. I can provide an update of the trend, its current status, and anything new that has developed. If the post was on something like ‘human cheese’ I would take a completely different approach on it, revisiting the topic and seeing what new developments have occurred.
I would never suggest someone copy the words someone else has written. I would, however, strongly suggest to someone to find inspiration in the work of others. I would find new angles on old topics. I can further explore the themes presented by someone else. Building on what other’s have done is exactly how we expand our knowledge.
Yes, I’m harping on this following point a lot but I want to make sure it is clear – don’t copy the work of others. This is not a strategy on how to not do the work of creating content but a strategy on developing content. We still have to do the work or else we aren’t creating the quality content our customers expect from us.
In two or three hours I can assemble ideas for five to seven blog posts and additional status updates for Facebook and Twitter by looking online for people asking questions about my product and industry, by going over all my old posts looking for ways of repurposing all that great content, and by looking over the work others have done to potentially renew what they have done with fresh information.