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Minimum Viable Content
Lean Startup

How to Generate Content Marketing Ideas

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Uncover a 7-step approach to crafting resonant content marketing ideas using lean startup principles. Maximize impact, drive traffic, and convert readers.

In digital marketing, content is king. But, producing consistently engaging content that resonates with your target audience takes time and produces uncertain results.

But what if there was a way to validate content ideas before spending vast amounts of time and energy producing content no one reads?

You can do just that by applying lean startup principles to content creation: let the market tell you they need your content before investing the time and energy in creating it.

The best part is we’ve developed a repeatable process for doing just that. In seven steps, inspired by the lean startup methodology, you can build content that resonates with your audience, helps them solve a problem, and drives them to your website to become a customer.

Before we dive into our seven steps to generate content marketing ideas, we share a quick primer on lean startups for the uninitiated. Skip this next section if you’re already familiar.

About lean startups and minimum viable product

If you aren’t yet familiar with the lean startup methodology, you must familiarize yourself. This will help you apply these principles to generating excellent content.

The Lean Startup Background

Derived from Toyota’s lean manufacturing, Eric Ries's adaptation of the lean startup model emphasizes rapid product testing to validate market demand. The focus is creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to test hypotheses, measure results, and iterate based on feedback.

Our twist is instead of a product, we are creating Minimum Viable Content (MVC). We don’t start with a long blog post about a subject we pulled out of thin air. Instead, we start with something small: answering a question in a forum or a LinkedIn post to validate that the market wants what we are writing. More on this process later.

Emphasize Viable Content

Content Marketing Ideas | Borrowing from lean startups and MVPs to build better content
Start with a minimum viable product that starts solving the problem

A typical example of building and iterating on an MVP is developing a product that gets people from point A to point B. You may have envisioned a car in your head, and as an entrepreneur, you would go out and build that immediately to test your concept. However, a vehicle would take years to develop, and in this fictional world, you’re not even sure there is a demand to travel between two places. So, instead of starting with the car, you start with a skateboard. That is both minimum - the easiest thing you can develop quickly - and viable - it serves a purpose. What wouldn’t qualify as an MVP would be creating just a steering wheel - while minimum, it doesn’t help your user to travel and thus doesn’t help you validate the problem you are trying to solve.

So, just like you wouldn't sell just a steering wheel as a mode of transportation to validate your idea for a car, only offer complete insights with your MVC. Start with an essential yet functional piece of content, then refine and expand based on feedback.

Steps to Generate Content Marketing Ideas

Now that we’re comfortable with the lean startup concept let's dive into practical applications for using this methodology to generate content marketing ideas.

Throughout, I will use a real example of how I developed a Guide to Launching on Product Hunt with this model.

Want a consultation with the Peak Digital Studio team on generating content ideas? Book a one-hour session with us.

1. Hang Out in Target Communities

Identify platforms frequented by your audience. Look for recurring questions or challenges posted by other members that align with your expertise.

Example: I used to hang out in forums and Slack channels for startup founders, looking at ways to get more customers for their products. Often, they would want to know how best to launch on Product Hunt - a website where startups share their product with the world.

2. Share Quick Insights

Offer succinct insights or solutions in these communities. Respond to these questions or challenges directly in the forum with your thoughts; this is your Minimum Viable Content (MVC).

Example: Whenever I saw someone ask, “What are your top tips for launching on Product Hunt?” I would answer with the two or three things that worked well when I launched on Product Hunt for the first time.

3. Monitor Engagement

Positive engagement (upvotes, thanks, shares) indicates resonance while lacking it suggests the need for refinement or reevaluation.

Example: I noticed every time I posted my top tips, the original poster and other Slack/forum users would thank me and ask follow-up questions. They were super engaged, and my tips helped them answer their questions and solve a problem.

4. Learn and Refine

When a post or reply is well received, the content resonates and is worth the investment in creating a blog or other content. For lesser-engaged content, diagnose the cause and adjust your approach.

Example: For the Product Hunt article, it was clear early on that practical tips resonated most, not just general thoughts on launching. So, I focused on repeatable steps people could follow to launch.

5. Expand Beyond MVC

With validation, develop your content further in whatever medium you use, be it blogs, videos, or podcasts. Use your initial comment or insight as a foundational framework to create the content. The great part is you have a starting point.

Example: Once I shared my Product Hunt tips a few times, I created a blog post outlining these and more.

6. Diversify and Share

Share your content across various platforms, tailoring your message to each community's interests and norms. Remember, provide value upfront rather than just sharing links to your content.

Example: Now, whenever I came across someone asking about how to launch on Product Hunt, I would still share my top tips directly in the forum, which provided readers value in the forum and wasn’t seen as overly self-promoting. But then I would also link to my blog post and say, “I wrote a blog on this if you want more tips and advice.” Sharing tips and links in forums generated traffic to our site, and people often bookmarked and shared the post.

7. Scale Successful Content

Consider more extensive adaptations like webinars, videos, ebooks, or product features for highly resonant content. If it works as a blog, it could work in these other formats, and you can leverage it further.

Example: We went beyond just a blog post and then created a complete checklist and resources in Notion. We even built a template feature in our product, Taskable, to let people import the list into their accounts.

Conclusion for Generating Content Marketing Ideas

Lean content creation is about minimizing time investment until a content idea proves its worth. It's about being efficient, ensuring audience relevance, and scaling strategically. Following these seven steps to generate content ideas will help you create better content and find new ideas and channels for delivering that content. The end goal? Providing valuable content without wasting resources that drive traffic and customers to your website.

Matthew Johnson

Published on

October 13, 2023