How to Brainstorm Content Ideas for Effective Content Marketing

Simone Cunningham how to brainstorm content ideas

Yes, the clock’s ticking.

You and your team have been staring at a blank virtual whiteboard for the past 30 minutes or so.

You all feel stuck probably because you can’t figure out how to brainstorm content ideas for some creative topics to achieve your content marketing goals. 

I agree, coming up with a variety of ingenious topics every week can be quite challenging and time-consuming.

Content ideation.

These two words form the basis of your content marketing success. Why?

Because content marketing can be rendered ineffective when the quality of content created isn’t consistent or considered valuable by your target audience.

Yet high-quality content is dependent on creative content topics and articles.

You’ll need to source inspiration that will help you develop these fantastic content concepts.

Which in turn, produces content that your audience engages in, shares with their networks, and wants to link to.

Content ideation shouldn’t feel like a chore. It should be fun.

It all starts with an idea.

But how exactly do you approach content ideation?

I’ll be sharing with you 7 techniques on how to brainstorm content ideas for effective content marketing.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

But first, if you prefer to watch the video check it out here.


Watch the video – How to Brainstorm Content Ideas: 7 Techniques for Effective Content Marketing



To have a sneak peek into how I plan and organize my content, download my Essential Content Calendar.  

It’s a powerful tool to plan your content and keep track of all the different content you develop. 

It will simplify your content creation workflow and minimize the time spent looking for your published content. I say it’s life-changing, you might call it super useful.



If you are continuing here on the blog, let’s get into it.


How to Brainstorm Content Ideas: 7 Techniques for Effective Content Marketing


1. Use Topic Mindmaps to Kick Off Your Brainstorming


mind maps for brainstorming


Whether you’re working as a team or alone in an ideation session, don’t shy off from using methods that were used ages ago. Such as a mind map.

A mind map is a diagram that lays out information visually.

The main topic of a mind map is situated at the center of the map. Then, related keywords and ideas diversify to other areas.

The idea is that you start with your main topic in the middle of a whiteboard, then jot down associated topics; diversifying out to more and more related issues.

For instance, let’s assume you’re brainstorming content ideas for a health brand.

Start with the key topic “health” in the middle.

Then branch out by writing down the associated topics such as:

  • Food/Diet
  • Exercise
  • Spiritual state
  • Physical condition
  • Genes
  • Medicine etc.

how to brainstorm health


Fun, right?

Your goal isn’t to look for a right or wrong answer but to spark inspiration and come up with subtopics that will lead you to specific ideas for your content marketing.

Some of the best mind mapping tools you can use are:

  • Mindly—best for mobile mind mapping
  • SmartDraw—best for linea mind mapping
  • Coggle—best for mind map beginners
  • Stormboard—best for in-person mind mapping sessions
  • Ayoa—a modern approach to mind mapping 
  • Scapple—for fluid, non-traditional mind mapping
  • MindMup—for creating public mind maps

2. Build a Swipe File of Your Great Content Ideas


You would be happy to know that there are no rules, whatsoever, for creating a swipe file.

For those who don’t know, a swipe file is simply a digital or physical folder where you keep all your fantastic marketing ideas. 

If you’re a content marketer that spends hours perusing websites for inspiration, please do yourself a favor and start building a swipe file.

You might be doing this already by bookmarking websites, or articles but I now want you to be more organized about it.

When you’re searching for inspiration and find something you like, always bookmark it and save it to a folder that you can easily find.

It doesn’t matter whether that content was produced ages ago, or by a business in a niche different from yours or by your competitor.

The goal is to capitalize on other people’s ideas as inspiration when you brainstorm for content ideas.


use a swipe file to store brainstorm content ideas


This could be as easy as creating a Pinterest board, an image folder on your computer, or better still using apps such as Pocket, Evernote, Dropbox, or Simplenote.

Whenever you find yourself struggling for inspiration, just go to your swipe file and generate mind-blowing concepts for your content marketing strategy.

Why not start building one today?

You’ll thank me and yourself.



3. Find a Marketing Strategy That Nearly Worked & Understand Why It Didn’t 


Learning from your unsuccessful content is a big part of content marketing.

The idea behind this is, you research a piece of content that didn’t perform well, seek to understand why it didn’t, and then fix it by making it better.


Content marketing campaigns flop for various reasons. Although, predominantly it’s because data is outdated, inaccurate, or the hook to articles is weak.

So where can you find these underperforming concepts?

There are two ways you can do this:

  1. You could look at your old posts or
  2. Look at a competitor’s content marketing results. 

If you come across some that aren’t ranking well or haven’t earned a reasonable number of links, then that’s content you can explore and make it better.

To assist with your content brainstorming you can use tools such as:


find low quality content to brainstorm


4 tips you can use to re-optimize such content are:

  1. Answer the user’s questions — match intent.
  2. Create a persuasive and keyword-rich meta description.
  3. Add power words to your headlines.
  4. Use long-tail keywords.

Again, a swipe file would come in handy during this process.


4. Keep a Spreadsheet for Your Old Brainstorming Ideas


Make a spreadsheet to brainstorm content


Like we said earlier, the first step in creating amazing content is to ensure that you have a bottomless well of great ideas—to reap the benefits of having variety in your content marketing schedule. 

My recommendation? Store those ideas in a spreadsheet. I use Google sheets.

Spreadsheets are flexible, simple, and you can go as far as you wish with color-coding. 

Please remember when you brainstorm for new content: there’s no such thing as a bad idea.

Yes, some may be more appropriate than others, but you shouldn’t ever label an idea as bad.

Any idea that you may deem unfit to use today, might be a great idea in 6 months. So don’t delete concepts that you don’t use.

Going over your old ideas is also a perfect way to brainstorm content ideas. You never know that old idea might spark someone to come up with a viral piece of content.


5. Brainstorm Ideas About Topics Your Audience Cares About


Don’t just base your content ideation on keyword research, do further and in-depth research with questions such as:

It isn’t always about ranking top on search engines. No, that’s not the primary goal of every content piece.

It’s usually about how that piece of content resonates with your target audience.

Does that article or video make your audience feel more connected? Does it evoke some sort of discussion, emotion, or feeling?

If the answer is yes, then it qualifies it as a successful content idea.


brainstorm topics your audience cares about


That’s why you must spend some serious amount of time studying and learning your target audience.

Which platforms they mostly hang out on, what publications they’re reading, and their lifestyles.

Be keen to pick any common topics and themes. Spot the trends.

Then use these trending topics to come up with ideas. Ideas that will tackle or answer your audience’s questions and provide value in the end.

For instance, you can add fresh insights or opinions, data, and analysis.

And you’ll be on your journey to creating great content ideas that will see you scale up your content marketing results.

Here are 4 excellent tools that you can use when you brainstorm content to help you understand your target audience better:

  1. SproutSocial
  2. BuzzSumo
  3. SimilarWeb
  4. CrazyEgg


6. Examine What’s Working in Other Industries


It’s quite easy to fall into the trap of “stalking” your competitors.

Spending copious amounts of time researching what kind of content they’re producing.

Not that there’s anything so wrong about that, but the downside normally is you’ll find yourself gravitating towards copying what they do.

This isn’t a productive way to brainstorm new content ideas or to get inspiration.

How about you do it differently? Ditch that competitive spark for a minute.

Take some time and peruse content created by brands in a completely different industry or niche from yours.


best marketing strategies


If your niche is finance, have a look at the travel industry. If it’s B2C, check out what’s breaking records in the B2B turf.

Look for content pieces that have caught the attention of the community and publishers.

Then dive into the key metrics; social shares and links. Where did they earn their links from? How are they performing on SERPs?

After which, you and your team can work on reverse-engineering that content.

Establish why the piece was successful. Was it its unique research, timeliness, hook, or data-driven angle?

Once you do the comparison of such content along with yours, you’ll know how to improve your content during your brainstorming sessions.


7. Consult Those Outside Your Marketing Team


Real talk.

Are you at fault for exclusively keeping sessions on content ideation within the marketing team?

If that’s you, you aren’t alone.

A huge number of companies tend to only involve those in marketing when brainstorming content ideas.

Yet, teams in other departments have a deep well of ideas based on their interactions with your customers, as well as company products or services.

They may not be marketers but you can’t afford to rule them out when it comes to being a legit source of inspiration for an endless list of creative content marketing concepts.

This is how you keep it real and get research to develop targeted campaigns that answer your customers’ questions and concerns.

Sometimes the negative client feedback you receive is more useful than the glowing reviews.

So, how about you choose to incorporate your CEO, customer service team, or your sales team. 


to brainstorm content consult other stakeholders


Find out the common questions presented to them by customers, prospects, or workmates.

I love this approach because your content marketing will be so much better for three reasons:

  1. Content will be created around the questions being asked by providing answers.
  2. You’ll have insight into some real problems that your content marketing campaigns could solve.
  3. You will determine the best ideas to build on those key topics.


It’s Time to Stop Staring at a Blank Whiteboard and Start Brainstorming


Yes, it is.

Go and explore the topics your audience cares about.

Examine what’s working in other industries different from yours, use topic mind maps.

Find a strategy that nearly worked and understand why it didn’t, consult those outside your marketing team, and most importantly—don’t forget to build a swipe file of those great ideas!

Also, remember to put them into your content calendar.

If you need one, download my FREE Essential Content Calendar below. It’s a powerful tool to help you simplify your content creation workflow and minimize the time spent looking for published content. I use mine multiple times a day.



After all is said and done, you and I know it isn’t a walk in the park when it comes to nailing content marketing.

There’s a whole lot of aspects that you have to consider and incorporate. I understand it can be overwhelming.

That’s why I’m here to help.

My name’s Simone


For 20 years, I’ve been creating compelling content and marketing for entrepreneurs, big and small businesses.


I’ll help you turn your traffic into loyal customers and return visitors. As well as create valuable content your audience will love!


Let me show you how to manage it effectively, create authority, generate leads and website traffic.


I have also created courses and resources to aid you in this journey. No need to fly blind anymore!


In the meantime, I’d like to know from you—what techniques are you using to brainstorm content ideas; what do you want to try, and whether it will be with your team or alone? Are there any that you think I have missed out on? I’d love to hear from you.


Also, if you have any questions, please feel free to shoot.


As always, thank you for dropping by, for reading my blog posts, and for subscribing to my YouTube channel. Thank you too for watching my videos. I feel the love. 


I bet I’ll be seeing you at the next one — yes?

Simone Cunningham

Simone Cunningham

CEO of eWords Agency & Simone Cunningham Media

Simone is a public relations and content marketing strategist. For more than 20 years she’s been developing communications and media content, as well as marketing strategies for written, video and audio content. She partners with businesses, government, and not-for-profits as an industry authority, and also offers 1:1 coaching sessions to help individuals and businesses achieve their content and publicity goals.

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