6 truths about creating winning ideas for your content Thursday February 20, 2020

Photo for Nottingham copywriter blog on content and ideas
Ideas – they are the currency of an effective copywriting strategy. But how do you actually come up with ideas that are both creative and commercially viable? How do you take a tiny spark of something promising and convert it into content that people will want to read and respond to? And what are the best ways to look afresh at your business and uncover the potential ideas that might be lurking there? In my 16+ years as a copywriter, I’ve witnessed too many companies try out a fresh idea and then revert back to their customary way of doing things.

What exactly do I mean by ideas?

I agree. Idea is a small word for a big topic. So, let’s explore it.

An idea in this context could range from changing your tone of voice to creating content to target a particular sector. It could be trying out a new way of communicating with your customers, whether that’s in a blog or by email. It might mean doing something that feels very different, like using content to encourage potential customers to attend an event or it could involve writing directly to your stakeholders for the first time. So, creating ideas for content can cover:

Tone of voice: The idea might be for a more informal way of communicating with your customers. Or you could be looking to adjust your tone to appeal to a different audience.

Approach: A new idea here might be to try a new perspective on how you portray your business, products or services. So, for example, instead of writing about what you do for your customers, you might look at talking more about the outcomes you create for them.

Company messages: These are the ideas that you want other people to have about your business. How do people see you now and how do you want them to see you – as an innovator or well-established or a market leader? The ideas that you develop in your copywriting approach, if effective, are the ones which can help to shape how people respond to your company. These are the core ideas – the ones which will communicate what’s great and different about your business in your website, your blog, your email newsletters…

1. It takes a plan

Coming up with ideas is creative. Making those ideas work for business is commercial. While it’s great to have loads of fresh ideas, they’re no good without a clear strategy. Many companies love a new content idea but lack the drive to actually make it happen.

One scenario might be that a business is looking for a more immediate and interesting way to talk about its products. But you wouldn’t just start by launching into it and taking the content from formal to informal. A plan for making the change would involve setting out your rationale: what kind of tone will be most effective, the nature of the target audience and many other aspects. It takes careful discussion and of course, the involvement of the right people. This is something I’ve worked on very recently for a company. The website content for this highly technical business read like an instruction manual. We worked carefully and strategically to take the idea of a new voice for their products and make it a reality, without losing the precise technical messaging that is central to who they are as a company.

2. You can’t please everyone

If you’re hoping to find an idea that pleases everyone, all of the time, be prepared for a long wait. The nature of presenting a new approach or idea versus going along with how things have always been done is that there is usually someone who won’t be happy about it. That might be someone in your business. It might be one or two of your clients. But if we all gave up on good ideas because of negative feedback, there would be no innovation and no creativity. And life would be pretty dull. The vital thing is to be clear about the potential value of your idea. For example, if your plan is to create a new datasheet which addresses an audience in a more direct and engaging way, be ready to communicate why that will be of value. Be clear with yourself and others about why it’s good for your business and for those the datasheet is written for. But don’t just ignore the doubters. Take note of their queries and see if there’s a way to keep them in the loop, to provide something that meets their needs too.

3. It’s not always easy…

…but it is worth it. Developing and executing that exciting new idea isn’t always a straightforward process. You may have to think hard about how you word certain messages. You may need to leave out certain aspects to which you were emotionally attached. But, if it’s good idea, it will be worth it in the end. This means making hard choices about what to keep in and what to leave out. That’s always the tricky part of copywriting. Having a strategy often means making tough choices. It can be tempting to opt for a newsletter which is aimed to appeal to everyone. But the more difficult choice – of choosing to write one for a specific market, with all the added time and focus that involves – will help create a more valuable and personalised experience for your chosen audience.

4. It’s a habit

Habit is a powerful thing. It can work for you or against you. It can be a vice or a cause for personal and professional victory. In this context, it’s not quite as vital as eating enough fruit or going for healthy walks but finding new ideas for your content is a really great habit to develop. And it’s not as difficult as it sounds. The hardest part is beginning. But the more you look around for new approaches and messages, the more inspiration you should start to find.

Just remove the expectation that ideas will arrive fully formed and you’ll really set the habit in place. What I mean by that is, develop the custom of being open to new ideas, to being inspired by random things or by conversations with clients, for example. Make a note of the fragment of an idea and keep it to work on at a later date. And don’t, whatever you do, overlook potential content ideas from your employees. It’s very likely that they have thoughts inspired by customer feedback, direct experience and in-depth, lived knowledge of your business. It’s amazing how the ideas and approaches build up when you do all that. And it’s a lot less effort than going to the gym.

5. Sometimes it isn’t the right time

Yes, I’m going to say it: not every content idea should be put into action. Everything has its time and while an idea might be great, right now might not be the right moment to introduce it. Going further with that, it’s not always a good thing to introduce a particular idea at all. Being creative is fantastic but don’t do it for its own sake. If your current tone of voice or approach is working, don’t risk the already excellent impact it’s having by changing it just because.

6. Get out of your own head

I know I’m advising the impossible. You can never really get out of your own head or away from your own perspective. But achieving that at least partially is essential to the copywriting and idea development process. One of the biggest conundrums for businesses is how to see themselves from the outside. When you’re in a business day in day out, one of the hardest things is to view it as others do. But if you find a way to look at it afresh, you will uncover lots of great ideas for your content.

One company told me that they see what they do as “boring and everyday”. It really isn’t. Just because something is part of normal business life doesn’t make it boring. In fact, people love to gain an inside view of a company. So, it’s always worth trying to find for yourself, or through an outsider, another viewpoint for generating new ideas.

In my experience, most companies have an idea for their content lurking somewhere…

…but they don’t always make the most of it – or even act on it to start with. Yet that little spark could be the thing that sets your content apart and distinguishes your business from all the other ones out there. And that is always a good idea. 

Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, February 2020

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