By Jennifer Watson published September 8, 2010

4 Good Places to Find Content (Where You Might Not Think to Look)

When building an editorial schedule, you naturally look to your roster of subject matter experts for ideas. Even so, you may find that the well soon runs dry. Before it does, dig a little deeper into sources that you may not (yet) have mined, and you might uncover not only a mother lode of great content, but some added benefits as well.

Proposal Departments: Generating Great Content On The Fly

Does your organization have a proposal department? This is where the company’s unique value proposition, product and service descriptions, case studies and outcome metrics are developed (usually on the fly and beneath the radar of “approved corporate marketing speak”). Proposal language evolves rapidly and in response to buyer demands for information, so it’s an ideal place to look for audience-relevant content.

Proposal writers often create original case studies, client testimonials, success stories and customized product descriptions. But, they rarely have time to do anything with this content beyond getting it on the page and out the door for a specific sales opportunity.

As a content marketer, you can offer an extra set of hands to compile and polish the stories that bring a proposal to life while also tapping a rich vein of material for repurposing. You’ll make fast friends who have their fingers on the pulse of what buyers are asking for and the answers that have resonated with them.

Added Benefits to the Organization:

  • Using proposal language for broader marketing purposes aligns messages across the organization and reduces the likelihood that the sales force is making stuff up as they go.
  • Putting a content marketer in your proposal department will allow her to quickly develop an understanding of your products, services, differentiation and positioning.  RFP responses are a great introduction to the nuts-and-bolts of what you’re selling and how you’re selling it–more detailed and often more accurate than the pretty but often out-of-date brochure or the website.

The Call Center: War Stories from the Front Lines of Customer Service

Your call center hears the good, the bad and the ugly in direct customer feedback every day. Spend some time listening to calls and to the CSRs who take them, and you’ll get a true sense of the organization’s ability to fix problems and maintain customer loyalty. This is the place to go for stories about the big problems that were resolved well, or the ones that weren’t and inspired big fixes.

Added Benefits to the Organization:

  • Providing a venue for CSRs to tell their stories reduces their stress and shows your appreciation for their contribution.
  • Seeking CSR input can be a call center retention strategy and even a talent strategy (how many hidden jewels have you got in your call center?).  It also connects them to the sales/marketing objectives of the organization from which they sometimes feel remote.

The Operations Department: Content that Appeals to the Technical Buyer

The hard-working Operations folks have to fix it if it’s broken and implement it if it’s sold. They need to do it faster, cheaper and better than your competitors. The Ops department probably has the best quality improvement and project management – and that means industry best practices. If your technical or operational know-how sets you apart, these are the stories you’ll want to tell.

Added Benefits to the Organization:

  • Telling Ops’ stories speaks directly to technical buyers who may be ignored or misunderstood by sales and marketing.
  • Getting the Ops perspective can help to reduce friction in the sales/marketing and operations dynamic. You’ve probably heard this exchange in your organization: Ops: “Why do you prima donnas sell what we can’t deliver?”; Sales/Marketing: “I’ve got targets to meet and if I don’t meet them, you’re out of a job.” Content marketers can be diplomatic envoys easing the tension on both sides (and getting some great content, too).

The Relationship-Builders: Brand Ambassadors and Content Generators

Your sales team and account managers make friends and influence people wherever they go: conferences, industry events, professional networking groups, and more. And wherever they go, they take your message with them – while bringing back great competitive intelligence. Even more frequently, they are delivering presentations at these events or would want to as a method to prospect, build customer relationships and enhance their own profile in your industry.

Help your relationship-builders shape their messages into professional presentations, and then re-use the content in white papers, webcasts, marketing campaigns, corporate blogs and Twitter feeds. They work their networks, and you get great content that has been field-tested for relevance and value.

Added Benefits to the Organization:

  • Empowering your relationship managers to become top-notch presenters will also require them to become social media-savvy. Their networks are already likely the most robust, although not everyone is using Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook effectively. Show them how, and they can easily become your best brand ambassadors.
  • Building a team of spokespeople who are promoting themselves online will prompt your company to develop a social media policy if you don’t yet have one. This necessitates thinking through your strategy—which is a good thing—and brings legitimacy to the content marketing effort overall.
  • Making conference presentations and the effective use of social media a performance metric or part of a sales contest gives you a double hit of value when it comes to online promotion and sales force motivation.

Mining content from deep within the organization has many challenges but also many rewards. You’ll open up more sources than you thought you had for compelling, customer-relevant content and learn a ton about the organization you’re working for, too. And the added advantages you’re offering others in the organization means you’ll be gathering content and converting skeptics to allies as you go.

What other places do you look to find content ideas? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Author: Jennifer Watson

As a writer, product developer and marketing director in healthcare and HR services for close to 20 years, Jennifer Watson only recently realized that what she’s been doing is called “content marketing.” She founded Context Communications to help B2B professional services firms have clear, compelling, intelligent conversations with their employees and markets using content marketing strategies.

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  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Jennifer,

    If your product requires training, the post-sales training staff usually have some really interesting stories and experiences at client sites. Selling a product and justifying an expenditure are one thing, being the person that actually has to deliver the product and make it work is another thing entirely. Trainers often have the advantage of speaking to a broad range of people across many different departments. You don’t get a better cross-section of information.

  • Jennifer W

    That is a fantastic suggestion! An added benefit of tapping into trainers’ knowledge is that they are oriented to learnings and education. They usually have their eye firmly on “what went well, what can we do better.” A great perspective — thanks for sharing it.

  • http://www.seoconsult.co.uk Steve

    You have mentioned great sources like Proposal Departments, The Call Center, The Operations Department and The Relationship-Builders for contents!

    Print newsletters and ezines for your industry, conferences, seminars and workshops can also be good source for having content ideas

  • Jennifer W

    That’s a great point, Steve.

    Another internal resource that I think may uncover some yummy content is the HR department. Especially these days, with HR VPs trying to build an employment brand, the need for alignment between content marketing and HR is higher than ever–and so is the opportunity to share stories and ideas.

  • http://blog.esimplestudios.com Gabriele Maidecchi

    I often get ideas from posts from my company’s “life” as well, but the structured approach you suggest is very valid. Each division within a corporate reality can provide valid, differentiated content and new ideas or views on a topic, I think your suggestions are excellent, I guess I have some interviewing to do very soon 😉

  • Jennifer W

    Glad you found the post useful, Gabriele! Go forth and interview (I’m right behind you)… :-)