An idea-generating machine
by Gordon Graham, Editor, SoftwareCEO.com
Marketing with content is great.
Search engines love it, prospects use it and it's highly cost-effective.
The only problem: Coming up with the content?!
Are you stuck scratching your head for ideas for an article or white paper?
Under the gun to come up with some blog posts, or ideas for the spring newsletter?
Here's an idea-generating machine from author and design guru Roger C Parker.
He's worked for clients like Apple, HP and Microsoft, and sold millions of books on design and typography.
His "Content Catalyst" is an e-book you can use to come up with a never-ending stream of ideas.
It's $99 from his website.
And it's so good, it just might save your job... or your company.
"I think the hardest part of writing anything is the premise: What am I going to write about?" says Parker.
So he created the Content Catalyst "to provide a simple way of jogging your ideas."
It's simple but amazingly effective: a set of more than 400 terms and ideas you can scan through to generate ideas.
You just can't fail to come up with ideas using it.
"The idea is that you just leaf through and you realize, 'Oh, I never thought of killer apps, or touchstones, or profiling authorities in my field,' " he says. That jogs those ideas into play.
Parker is a fan of list-based articles and so are we.
Any article structured as "Five Ways to..." or "Six Must-Have Features of ..." enables busy readers to skim, scan and skip through the text and get to the end quickly. Let's face it, that's how most people read when they're at work or on the web.
Parker says the easiest way to come up with these popular articles is to combine a number with a basic idea.
"You take a number and a concept and you just brainstorm. The number provides a framework for you to complete. Once you know you need six steps, all of a sudden your brain will help you get to those six.
"This really helps you set up a factory of ideas."
Looking a little deeper, Parker says the basic structure for any piece of B2B content has only four parts.
♦ Part 1: Premise
Let's say this is "Six Questions to Ask before Signing up for a SaaS CRM System." So the premise becomes the title, the first few lines and the overall structure of the piece.
♦ Part 2: Relevance
The second part describes why you should care. What are the penalties for not asking the right questions?
Could you end up picking the wrong CRM? What would that mean to your career and your company?
♦ Part 3: List of key points
The main body completes the idea with three to seven main points, each described in one or more paragraphs.
In this case, each point is a question, why you need to get an answer and what kind of answers you want to hear.
That gives the whole body a strong backbone, so you don't have to flop around like a jellyfish looking for your next point.
♦ Part 4: Call to action
The conclusion is a call to action—what you want a reader to do next—or where they can go to learn more. This should be as specific as possible.
Presto: Another article written, short and sweet. Now take some time to polish it up.
"You write as fast as possible, so you can rewrite at leisure," says Parker. "And it's the rewriting that separates the unnecessary, the redundant and the verbose from the concise and helpful."
And then you have another article all wrapped up in an hour or two... instead of preying on your mind for days.
Thank you, Content Catalyst. I wish I'd had it years ago.
What do you think? Got a comment or question?
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