How to Brainstorm Content Ideas

Apr 19, 2022

Content creation is a key part of almost every entrepreneur's daily life—it's a central component of almost any lead generation strategy. But when you have to be publishing content every day or every week, it can be difficult to know what to write or talk about. Sometimes, the problem is that you have too many ideas and don't know where to begin. Other times, the problem is that you don't have any ideas (or at least not very many).

In this episode I talk about the simple process I use with my clients to help them identify over 100 content topics in one sitting while also getting clear on how those topics relate to each other to create a set of cohesive brand topics.


In today's episode, I am going to be talking about a quick strategy for outlining a lot of ideas for content in one sit-in. By content, what we're talking about is ideas for blog posts, social media posts, podcast episodes, videos—whatever format you are creating your content in, this strategy is going to help you figure out what you're actually going to be creating that content around. 

There are several different ways to implement this process that I'm about to share with you. The first is if you tend to be more of a write-things-down, outline-things type of person, you can just make a list as you go throughout this process. But if you're more of a visual learner, or a visual person, what I have found really helpful is to use some sort of mind-mapping software or app on your computer or tablet or whatever you have. 

There are these two ways that you can do it, and personally, just to kind of give you a heads up, I really prefer the mind map approach because what we are going to be doing is coming up with an idea, and then coming up with different sub ideas that are under that idea. That's why I recommend a mind map because we are going to be moving things around and drilling down into different topics. 

Then, the other piece—and this depends on how your brain works and how you think about your work in general—is that there are two ways to go throughout this process. The first is the zoom-in approach, where we start at a really high level and then get more specific as we go. The other is the zoom-out approach, where we start with really concrete minute details, and then zoom out to get that bird's eye view. The result is oftentimes the same, but if you're the type of person who likes to start with the big and abstract, and then get more specific, then the zoom-in approach is going to work for you. And if you want to start with the nitty gritty, concrete details, and then use that to get up to the high-level aspect of things, then the zoom-out approach is going to be best for you. 

To start off, we're going to go through the process of the zoom-in approach. After that, I'll share some adjustments and ways to implement the same process but in reverse for the zoom-out approach. With that, let's go ahead and get started. Like I said, we'll be starting with the zoom-in approach. What I'd like for you to do on your computer or on your paper, whatever you're using, is go ahead and identify the four or five, or even just three really big central topics that are important to your ideal client. 

To get a little bit clearer on what we mean by topics, these can be several things. They can be the really big central questions that your ideal clients are asking, maybe about their business or about their life, the big central mistakes or problems that your ideal clients are either making or having in their business or life. The idea here is we're getting really clear on the high-level, maybe somewhat abstract things that are top of mind for your ideal client. And if you have a hard time figuring out what those things are, maybe go take a look at your past clients and see what their big central issues were, or if you haven't had any clients previously, talk to some people who you know are ideal clients and see what the big issues and problems that are coming up for them are.

Once you have done that, go ahead and select one of them. It doesn't have to be the highest priority of the biggest ones. Just select one of them that you want to dig a little deeper with. You're ultimately going to do this for all of them, but just focus on one for now. What you're going to do is get even more specific on that really high-level, maybe abstract question, problem, or mistake. 

So, for example, if a problem that your ideal client has is they're struggling to lose weight, to get more specific, maybe dive into some of the reasons why they're struggling to lose weight. What does it have to do with their mindset or their mental health? What does it have to do with their diet? What does it have to do with their exercise? Start to get a little bit more specific, so that you can, for that one big question, maybe have five more sub questions or subtopics that fit under that. Then, select one of those. 

Say that the problem is around their mindset, at least the problem that you're selecting to work with at this moment, and do the same thing over again. What you're going to do is get more specific on that problem. So if it's mindset, like we said, well, the topics or questions that could fit under that would be is it a problem with how they're seeing their body or is it a problem with how their body is? Or is it even really a problem with their body, but more a problem with the mindset? And if it is a problem with their mindset, what are the specific pieces of their mindset that are maybe needing adjusting or are not helping them? So, you can talk a lot about their experiences from childhood. Maybe they were bullied. What got them in this position where they're really struggling with their mindset as it relates to their body image? Body image is probably a really good example of a subtopic of mindset as it relates to weight loss. 

What you're going to do is select one of those and do the same thing over again, and you're going to continue zooming and getting more specific, until you absolutely can't get any more specific with what the problem or the question or the mistake is. Those are going to be your main topics. What that means is that, if you go three layers deep, three levels deep—five main topics, and five sub topics for each of those main topics, and for each of those subtopics, five sub-sub-topics—that's about 125 different things that you can create content around. That might not be a whole year's worth, but that's a significant chunk. And for every layer deeper that you go, that's five more topics that you can create content around. That's the zoom-in approach, and it's the one that most people find works really well for them. 

But in working with clients, I have found that some clients really struggle with the idea of getting more specific, in that their minds tend to start with the really specific, really concrete topics and questions and issues. And because of that, it's a real struggle for them to start with identifying these abstract or bigger issues because their brain is already jumping to this specific and concrete. That's actually really great because that's the end point that we wanted to have originally, which was getting specific and concrete. But just because you can go ahead and jump to that really specific level doesn't mean that that's all the work that needs to be done. 

In this case, for the zoom-out approach, what I recommend doing is starting with that brain dump, with that brainstorm of the most specific and concrete topics, issues, or questions that you can think of. We're starting at the opposite end of the process. Then, once you've done that, what I would recommend doing is starting to put them into some general groups, starting to see the similarities between some of them and starting to sort them accordingly. 

Then, do the same thing over again. If you're noticing a pattern, that's because this is a very linear system, doing this same thing over again, which means taking those groups and putting those groups into groups. You can see we're constructing that mind map or that pipeline in reverse this time. So, that's another approach if you are struggling with figuring out, right off the bat, what are the really big, high-level questions that my ideal clients are struggling with?

It may seem pointless, once you have this brain dump, to focus on all this sorting and grouping and figuring out the tears. But the reason that we do this—it's actually really important—is so that you can have the different main brand topics. Those are those five high-level topics or questions that you identified either at the beginning or the end of the process. 

When you have those and you know exactly what's within each of them, you're going to be better able to plan your content because you can group content that has to do with the same topic, kind of in the same category, and you can plan it that way. There are a whole lot of benefits and more than we can really get into in this episode, but knowing how they all relate to each other is going to be really helpful when it comes to figuring out what content to post and publish when, and how to really be a little bit more strategic about what you're putting out and when. 

In conclusion, there are two really effective processes for brainstorming and figuring out what to create content about. The first one is to start with the high-level questions that your ideal clients are wrestling with, and then get more specific, and then get more specific, and then get more specific. The other approach is, if you're struggling to figure out what those high-level questions are, to start at the opposite end and brainstorm those really concrete questions, issues, and problems. Then, group them together and sort them together and keep doing that, so that you're essentially doing the reverse of the first process that I talked through.


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