The third most common question I’m asked by consultants of all stripes from all types of firms is, “Where do you get the ideas for your articles week after week?” I keep hoping that will be followed up with, “May I donate a new Tesla to your collection?” but no one’s popped that question. Yet. While I’m waiting, let’s talk about where you can find inspiration for your content.
Consultants who want to heighten their visibility often make a list of the topics they want to write and speak about. Topping their lists are their viewpoints (“Why Everyone Should Eat Chocolate by the Pound”) and the solutions they offer (“How Chocolate Will Save Your Marriage”).
Alas, asking yourself, “What do I want to say?” is a misguided starting point for your topic list.
- It’s upside down thinking—it makes the article about you rather than you reader, and that’s dull.
- It’s easy to run out of ideas about what you want to say.
A better starting point for developing your content is asking yourself this:
“What questions do my prospects have?”
Your prospects ask tons of questions every day. Every one of those questions is fodder for an article, a blog post, a white paper, a webinar, a podcast, or even an entire book.
This may lead you to wonder, “How do I find out my clients’ questions?”
I quickly cobbled together a catalog of about 40 sources of questions that’ll stock your topic cupboard. For now, though, let’s start with a shorter lineup and see if any readers (ahem, that would be you) contribute more ideas.
10 Sources of Endless Inspiration for Your Articles, Blogs, and Speeches
Questions posed by clients are my favorite and, virtually inexhaustible resource. Since I talk with consultants (and corporate clients) in a wide variety of situations and firms every day, and I always ask “How else can I be of service?” I’m treated to new questions daily.
Clients make mistakes all the time. That’s why they need you. Of course, for every 10 mistakes you observe your clients making, you’re only hired to help resolve or prevent one. What about the other nine? Clients are implicitly wondering how they avoid those mistakes too. And that’s where you get the idea for, “How to Avoid Mistakenly Shipping Your Inventory to Idaho.”
Other Consultant’s Blogs, Forums and Speeches
There must be dozens of consultants, large and small, who offer the same service to the same prospects as you. What are they writing about? What questions are they answering?
Quora and Other Open Forums
For example, I typed “Lean” into Quora. That instantly produced over 1,000 questions related to the Lean methodology. Lean consultants, there’s probably 300+ blog post ideas sitting on Quora for you.
I bet you can find at least a dozen groups related to your area of expertise. I arbitrarily typed “potato” into the search bar on LinkedIn and up popped a potato farming group with 3,800 members. If you’re a potato consultant, there’s 3,800 souls asking starchy questions.
The super-specific magazines your target audience reads (like, Toothbrush Today and Left-Handed Electrical Tape News) are filled with articles that are answering questions.
HARO, PR Leads, etc.
This is like looking at trade magazines, but getting the inside scoop before the articles are even published. Journalists pose questions for experts to answer. You could (and should) respond to the journalist. Also you could (and should) write your own article or speech on the question the journalist posed.
Similar to trade magazines, but in this case look at the topics that other folks are speaking about. Why was “10 Steps to Better Pea Soup” chosen by the meeting organizer? Because it’s answering questions attendees are asking.
You’re constantly talking to other experts in your field to improve your own capabilities. (You’re doing that, right?) Ask them what questions other folks pose to them. Voila, a dozen juicy topics will be handed to you.
Google’s Search Box
Google uses magic to finish your thought when you’re typing. I keyed in “How are bottles” and Google suggested, “made,” “recycled,” “corked,” and “vacuum sealed.” Presumably those suggestions are based on questions other people have asked.
As I said, I just scratched the surface on ideas. Where else do you get ideas for content?
Text and images are © 2021 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.