By Dianna Huff published September 30, 2010

Look to Your Customers for Fresh Content Ideas

At a recent presentation I gave, a gentleman in the audience asked how he could develop content for his business website. A plumber by trade, he and his partner had already optimized and “tricked out” their site for Google Places.

I began rattling off ideas . . . but it wasn’t until a few days later that I realized that people don’t need help with understanding the type of content to create (e.g., guides, e-books, white papers, etc.). Instead, people need help with generating the ideas in the first place.

Top 10 mistakes reports

As a small business owner or marketer, you probably see people make the same mistakes on a regular basis. In fact, a few years after starting my business, I created the Top 10 Marketing Mistakes report, which went “viral” before the term “viral marketing” existed.

A plumber, for example, probably sees the same mistakes by weekend Do-It-Yourselfers. For instance, the former owner of my house installed a garbage disposal – a big no-no as we’re on a septic system (the two don’t play well together).

Along these lines, the plumber could develop a really fun report, The Top Ten Mistakes DIYers Make . . . And How to Avoid Them. The report could include the mistakes along with humorous job-related stories to illustrate them, animated graphics and information on how to avoid making the mistakes.

He could then add this report to the company’s website and e-newsletter or blog, have a few dozen printed and left with prospective customers, or send out a postcard to select zip codes letting people know they can download it.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know the standard questions people ask about your company and its products / services.

While it’s always good to answer these questions as they occur (i.e., during the sales process), it’s also a great idea to include the questions and their answers as FAQ pages on your website. How you generate your list of FAQs depends on the size of your company. If you’re small, simply ask those who interact with customers or prospects on a daily basis what questions people ask.

If you’re a larger company, talk to your sales and customer service people. In fact, arrange to go on sales calls, spend time on the phone or tag along on service calls, if appropriate.

How-to tips

Small business owners are often hesitant about giving out their “secret sauce” for fear that potential customers then won’t call because they can implement a solution themselves.

Yes, this outcome does happen. By going online, I’ve figured out how to make all kinds of minor repairs around my home. But you know what? I don’t want to repair the big scary stuff (like a burst pipe) . . . nor do a lot of other people like me.

So instead of holding information close to your chest, give your website visitors information they can use to solve minor problems.

A plumber, for example, could create a Learning Center and stock it full of how-to tips – both text and video. Then, once this information is created, the plumber could repurpose it into a report. As with the Top 10 Mistakes report, the plumber could add this to his website as a “take-away” or use it in an email or direct mail lead generation campaign.

Coming up with ideas for new content is easy if you look to your customers and prospects for ideas. Analyze the types of mistakes you see regularly, the problems you’re most frequently called upon to solve, and the questions you get asked repeatedly. Then, turn this raw data into fun content. You’ll not only answer people’s questions before they even ask them, but you’ll also help them decide to do business with you.

Author: Dianna Huff

The founder and president of Huff Industrial Marketing, Inc., Dianna Huff creates and implements thoughtful marketing strategies that help small, family-run industrial manufacturers grow and succeed. She's also the co-author, with Rachel Cunliffe of Cre8d Design, of 101 Ways to Market Your Website, a guide for small business owners, consultants, freelancers -- anyone with a website. You can follow Dianna on Twitter @diannahuff.

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