6 September 2021

Content creation: How to generate great content ideas

Pete Jakob
Written by Pete Jakob

Pete is UK Marketing Director for The Marketing Centre and specialises in marketing systems, data and processes for small and mid-size businesses. He has over 35 years’ experience working in technology and a variety of other sectors.

We’ve been creating content on a regular basis since way back in 2015, and we know creating good content isn't easy. Over the years, content marketing has been central to how we’ve built our brand and grown the business.

Of course these days, that’s fairly typical. 78% of companies now have one to three content specialists on their teams and 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing.

But there’s a big difference between making some content every now and then and doing it consistently to a high standard, and even using your content as a lead generation tool.

Content marketing looks easy, but it’s actually pretty hard. And unless you do it to a high standard you probably won’t drive a positive ROI.

In this piece, we’re going to share a few of the most important things we’ve learned over the years. But before we do that, let’s quickly define what we mean by ‘content marketing’.

Misunderstanding the nature of content marketing is one of the most common mistakes.


What is content marketing anyway?

There’s a simple phrase that content marketers often use:

Be the television show, not the ad.

This neatly sums up the difference between content marketing and advertising. Content marketing isn’t advertising. It isn’t interruptive and it doesn’t try to sell or promote directly.

Instead, it gets the audience’s attention by creating things they value. This creates opportunities to convert that attention through the use well-placed CTAs, like this:

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Content marketing can be blog posts, webinars, ebooks, video, social media, infographics - you name it. As long as it’s focused on adding value rather than directly promoting your services, it’s content marketing and not advertising.
With that in mind, what have we learned about doing content marketing over the years?


Be crystal clear about your audience

We write for UK SME business owners running companies of 20+ people turning over more than £3 million a year.

Luckily, we also work with UK SME owners just like this every day. We talk to them all the time. We have detailed buyer personas that have been refined over years of working with customers. This gives us a clear picture of who we’re writing for, what they really care about and the kind of content they like to consume.

What is a persona?
A customer persona is a representation of your customers that’s based on real-life research and data. It shouldn’t be based on what you or your team think you know about your customers. It should be based on real-life conversations with them (qualitative insights) or reliable data (quantitative insights).

A persona is a useful way of collating and documenting these insights that helps you and your team understand who your customers are, what they want and how your business can help them. For more insight into personas you can read this article: What is a customer persona and what does it need to do?

You can build the best content team in the world, but if you’re not writing with a specific audience in mind and you’re not realistic about what that audience wants, your strategy will fail.

Understanding your audience is everything.

Pick specific topics you know will be of interest

We write about marketing but we don’t write for marketers. This has a big impact on the topics we choose and the level of detail we go into.

Business owners aren’t interested in the minutiae of marketing operations or how to optimise web pages. They pay other people to worry about those things.

They are interested in things like:

We know from working with UK SME owners that strategic topics like increasing revenue and understanding marketing ROI will be of more interest than more tactical topics like increasing email open rates.

Marketing strategy vs tactics in content creation

Marketing strategy and marketing tactics are two interconnected elements of an effective marketing approach, but they differ in terms of scope, focus, and time frame. A marketing strategy refers to the overall plan and direction that guides an organisation's marketing efforts. It involves setting objectives, identifying target markets, conducting market research, and determining the positioning and messaging for the brand. On the other hand, marketing tactics are the specific actions and techniques employed to execute the marketing strategy and achieve its objectives. Tactics encompass activities such as social media campaigns, email marketing, search engine optimisation, advertising placements, and content creation. Understanding the distinction between strategy and tactics is crucial for content creation because it ensures that the content aligns with the broader strategic goals of the organisation. By linking the content to the marketing strategy, it becomes more focused, impactful, and consistent, resulting in a higher likelihood of reaching and engaging the target audience effectively.

Our part-time marketing directors

Experience is everything. That’s why we consult those who are in the trenches. Our Part-Time Marketing Directors are best placed to know what business owners really care about right now.

Our team of proven Marketing Directors use our Marketing 360 Assessment to evaluate the needs of the businesses they work with on all levels. By continuously assessing how the businesses progress our Marketing Directors stay in tune with what the businesses true goals and concerns are - and how best to address them. 

Because our team has access to all 90 Marketing Directors and their pooled expertise, they are also very well placed to share ideas and content on emerging trends, new ideas and new strategies.

Attend external events to generate content ideas

What’s happening in the real world? What are business owners worrying about and how can we help?

For instance, after assessing combined data from our Marketing 360 Assessment that is aimed at a complete overview of businesses marketing concerns across all elements of a complete marketing strategy, we found that that businesses struggle to measure marketing ROI effectively. Many businesses also rated lead generation as their top concern, which is why we offered our series of webinars entitled The CEO's Guide to Growth Levers to help them identify areas of growth that are not just reliant on lead generation.

Use content to share your success stories

As the saying goes: ‘show, don’t tell’.

We share our success stories so others can learn from them. It also gives us an opportunity to show prospects how we could help them. Here’s a recent example:

ADS Laser Cutting is a UK-based SME with an annual turnover of £11m. Despite experiencing 20% year-on-year growth, the company knew that it needed to take its marketing more seriously if it wanted to become a market leader. The founders of ADS Laser Cutting brought in The Marketing Centre to help with the company's marketing strategy and to get better visibility of their sales pipeline. Tony Galloni, one of our proven Marketing Directors, was tasked with helping the business get a better handle on its marketing metrics and return on investment (ROI).

We also share our learnings and experiences from our own marketing. The post you’re reading right now is an example of this.

Get insights for your content

The combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods offers a valuable means of uncovering insights that have yet to be discovered by others. Let's explore two examples from the past year that illustrate the significance of these research approaches:


To begin, when investigating the current best UK lead generation tactics in the UK, quantitative research allows us to gather extensive data and metrics. By analysing factors such as conversion rates, click-through rates, and cost per lead, we can identify the most effective strategies. This numerical data helps us identify trends, patterns, and correlations, providing valuable insights for businesses seeking to optimise their lead generation efforts.


Secondly, qualitative research plays a pivotal role in understanding the perplexity faced by UK small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners when dealing with marketing metrics. Through in-depth interviews, focus groups, or surveys, we can delve into their experiences, perceptions, and challenges. This qualitative approach enables us to capture the nuances and subjective opinions of SME owners, uncovering valuable insights into their specific pain points. This, in turn, allows us to tailor strategies and solutions that address their unique needs effectively.

By combining the strengths of quantitative and qualitative research, we gain a comprehensive understanding of complex marketing phenomena. This enables us to make informed decisions and develop effective strategies that meet the needs of businesses and customers alike.


Invest time and money in quality content

Another phrase you sometimes hear content marketers use is:

“90% of content marketing is people who know nothing about a subject telling people who know a lot about a subject things they already know.”

Most of the content on the internet is low-quality and low-value. If you want your content to perform, it needs to be really well-executed. 

Every week, we run a one-hour content call, where our founder, marketing director and senior subject matter expert share ideas for new content, review drafts and analyse performance.

We also work with a content marketing agency we trust and combine their knowledge of content marketing with our in-house expertise. Together we create a solid strategy and roadmap for the future, as well as a pipeline of new content that’s ready to publish.


Make distribution a priority

A common mistake is to prioritise the creation of the content and treat distribution as an afterthought. In fact, you should think the other way around.

After all, it’s the distribution of the content that will get it seen. Without distribution, content may as well not exist.

We have put a lot of time and effort over the years into building a distribution system that combines LinkedIn, our newsletter, our network of Part-Time Marketing Directors and SEO. Here are some suggestions on how you can best use LinkedIn to maximise the distribution of your content: LinkedIn Post Ideas: 44 Awesome prompts for LinkedIn content

We map out distribution for each piece of content in advance, to make sure that everything we create gets seen by as many people as possible.

Don't forget that video is a really cost effective and useful way for distributing your content and sharing insights too - YouTube especially is a prolific source of traffic for your business - you can read more on this here: Yes, your business needs video marketing. Here's how to do it


Regularly review performance and adapt

We’re always reviewing our content marketing performance. Once a month we do a deep dive on our analytics and highlight any learnings and opportunities.

We use Hubspot, which creates handy dashboards that show the performance of specific content, campaigns and distribution channels in terms of both traffic and leads generated.

Do you create content? What have you learned along the way?

We’ve got great results from content marketing and we’re not going to stop any time soon. If you have any specific questions on content marketing, feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.

I’m also really interested to hear from our readers that are creating content. Do you invest in content marketing and is it paying off? What have you learned along the way?

If you have anything you want to share, join the conversation on LinkedIn.


What areas of your marketing do you need to focus on?

Our Marketing 360 Assessment takes just 10 minutes to complete and will give you an objective view of what’s going well and what areas you should focus on.

To find out how your marketing compares, check out our Marketing 360 Assessment.

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