Content Marketing 101 – Finding Topics

content marketing basics

In the first post in this series, I covered the goals or objectives that content can help you achieve – the 5 Es – and the types of content for each one. This week, we’ll discuss some more of the content marketing alphabet – the Ys. They help you when finding topics to create your content.


The first Y you need to know is your Y – WHY are you writing? WHY are you marketing? WHY are you DOING what you do in the first place. (Again “to sell stuff” and/or “to make money” are NOT acceptable answers here.

Answer some of these questions:

  • What do you have to offer that no one else can, or does, or offers it in the way you do?
  • What experiences, skills, knowledge and/or education can you share with others?
  • What stories can you tell?
  • How can you help others?

Your answers may not seem like much, but the real success of your blog is to be found in them. They are the gold in your content marketing.

They are the motivation to keep going when it seems as if no one is reading. When the comments stay bare and barren. When it’s like you are talking to yourself, or worse, the wall.

Your Y is what keeps you going, keeps you plugging away at creating content when you really aren’t sure it’s making any difference at all.


If your WHY is the gold, your READER’S WHY is the platinum. Again, ask yourself some questions:

  • Why would someone want to read my blog/listen to my podcast/download my ebook?
  • What problem or issue do they have that I can help solve or resolve?
  • What information do they need from me?
  • What are they searching for when they come to me and my content?

Why is this SO important I call it the platinum, while YOUR Ys are only gold?

Because in these answers lie your TOPICS. Your content. The “what do I blog about this week?”


See, here’s something you probably didn’t know, but may be a part of – the top two reasons non-blogging bloggers, non-broadcasting podcasters, and non-posting marketers give for their lack of activity are:

  • trouble finding time


  • trouble finding topics

Oh, they start off like gangbusters, plugging away for a few weeks, sometimes a month, seldom make it to a year. And then, they run out of the WHATs. Finding topics to blog about just becomes too overwhelming.

“What do I write about?”
“What more can I say?”
“What else is there to cover?”

However, when you focus not on you and your WHATs, but rather on your readers/listeners and their WHYs, finding topics for your topic stream is nearly endless. There’s no niche so small, no business “too boring”, to NOT have customers and their needs. Their questions. Their issues. Their WHYs. Finding topics becomes easy when you know what to look for, to brainstorm.


Take those questions up there and look, really look, at your answers. If you can’t answer your “reader” questions, do a bit of informal research. How to do that? Here’s some ideas that only take an hour or two each:

  • Go to Quora and/or Reddit. Search for your niche or type of business. See what questions people are asking. Write them down. Each question can become the basis for a post or other content. A whole bunch of them can become a book.
  • Go to Amazon. Look for “how to” books in your niche. Read the table of contents in one or two of them. Use those topics as “content fodder”. Also, while you’re there, buy one or two. Read them, then create reviews of them.
  • Go to social media. Join groups associated with your niche. Discover what questions are being asked. What discussions are the most heavily commented on or replied to. Make note of them. Perhaps even interview some of the participants for your post, podcast, or case study.
  • Become a lurker. Read other guys’ blogs. Listen to their podcasts. Subscribe to their newsletters. Steal like a cat burglar. Write your post from a different angle. Create a podcast where you discuss all the stuff you DON’T agree with. Or invite the other guy on to treat your listeners to his amazing insights. In short, find inspiration for your content in someone else’s stuff.
  • Interview a previous happy customer. Ask them what encouraged them to buy your stuff or hire your services. What problem did you solve for them? What unexpected benefits did they find? Use their testimonial to get ideas. With their permission, turn it into an interview for your content marketing enjoyment.

Finding topics this way is easy, and sometimes fun!


The goal is to have 12 to 24 topics to choose from when you sit down to create your content. That way, you have somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 months’ worth of ideas. Imagine sitting down and having 3 months of content just waiting to be written!

I’m currently working on a course where I put all this good stuff together in one place. If you’d like info on it, or want to get on my email list to find out about it when it launches, sign up now.

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Content Marketing 101

Content marketing is oncontent marketing basicse of those things business people KNOW they should do, but few do. A statistic I recently read claims that 94% of buyers WANT to consume some form of content – blog post, podcast, video, infographic, webinar – BEFORE they buy.

And yet, the same source claims that only 32% of B2C, and 34% of B2B businesses bother with content marketing at all.

Which begs the question WHY? Why on earth, if your customers want it, and it would improve your sales, aren’t you actively using content to market?

My only reasonable explanation is that you don’t know how. You don’t know how to create content that is appealing, fresh, inviting, and effective. You don’t know how to create content that attracts, builds relationships, and sets you up as an authority.

And so, I’ve set out to create a series of blog posts, of which this is the first, to remedy that situation.

Will you learn everything I do? Probably not, as I’ve got years of content marketing under my belt, not to mention a certification or two.

However, I can promise you that you will know ENOUGH to begin creating the content your customers are clamoring for. That your business desperately needs. So let’s begin with some content marketing basics, shall we? I like to call them the 5 Es.

Every piece of content you create should serve a purpose for both you AND the reader. In fact, you should never create content without a purpose in mind. (And no, “to sell stuff” and/or “to make money” ARE not good enough reasons to create a piece of content. EVER.)

To make things easier on myself, I’ve given each of the 5 types of content, and the 5 goals behind content marketing, a word that begins with the letter E. The 5 Es, and the goals they help reach, are:

EDUCATE: This is the most common kind of content out there on the Interwebz. The how-tos, the step-by-steps, the FAQs, and posts like this one, that are meant to teach something to the reader.

The goal that this eventually produces is that the readers see the producer of the content as an expert, an authority, a know-it-all source of information on their given topic.

ENTERTAIN/ENCOURAGE: This type of content does NOT have to be humorous or consist of a silly cat video. It can be inspirational, enlightening, simply a background or origin story, or even just a day-in-the-life type piece.

The objective of this type of content is to be seen by your readers as a thought leader, someone they go to when they want to have their mindset altered or encouraged to continue slogging on. And yes, if you ARE humorous enough, they’ll come to you to be entertained. And if you can make them go “hmmmmm” in the process, even better.

ENGAGE: Content produced to be engaging encourages the reader to react through interaction of some sort. Perhaps it asks them to share their experiences, or share their accomplishments. You can request that they join your social community on Facebook, or follow you on Pinterest. It creates conversations, or at least opportunities for conversations to begin, between both you and the reader, and the between the readers themselves.

The obvious purpose of this type of content is to set yourself up as a community leader. You become the tribal chief, the leader of the pack, the most popular girl in the glass.

EMPATHIZE: Empathetic content is best described by what it does – it creates the image of you, the producer, as just one of the crowd. You aren’t any better or worse than your readers. You are in the trenches with them, going through the same “stuff” they are.

You are no expert, no leader, just another face in the crowd. BUT, you want to share your experiences, and perhaps in the process, help someone else through the same “stuff”. You become, in essence, their online BFF. You let them behind the scenes. You give them opportunities to interact. You share whatever pearls of wisdom you have, while acknowledging their contributions, as well.

ENTICE: This is where most amateur content marketers go wrong with their content marketing. It’s all “sell, sell, sell” with no “tell”. EVERY blog post, every video, every podcast, contains some sort of sales pitch. Yes, the purpose is to sell. And there is that pesky word “marketing” in content marketing. But selling should be the LAST thing you do with your content.

Your readers will buy from you, hire you, donate to your worthy cause. They will. But only AFTER coming to know, like, and trust you. When all they get is “buy my crap”, they have little to no way of knowing, liking, or trusting you. Trust me. I’ve seen it time and again with clients engaged in the enticement business.


The way to cure the “sell” overkill in your content is to choose one or two content marketing goals. Each type of content above has a goal or objective that it fulfills. Want to be seen as an expert? Create mostly educational content. Want to be a thought leader like Gary V? Create entertaining, encouraging content. Want a whopping huge community following like the latest Instagram star? Create content that is engaging, inviting interactions and followings.

Another tactic you can use is to create content that serves your goal, and then tack a call-to-action on the end. Tie it in to the topic in some way. You can use the same piece of content to serve two goals that way.

Write a great educational piece, then add a CTA inviting them to join a discussion or Q&A on the topic in your Facebook group. Create an entertaining piece that then offers a product or service that answers that “hmmmm” you’ve created in their minds.


Now that you know what types of goals your content can achieve, and the types of content that will help you achieve them, do you feel more confident about your content marketing efforts? Drop a line in the comments. Tell me what you think. Questions? Ask away! And if you really feel you need help, there’s always my consulting services.

(See what I did there?)