What To Do When You’re Out of Ideas

I’ve only been writing online as a marketer for about four years. And already, I feel like I’m out of ideas.

In this photo I am holding a light bulb but it is not obviously a light bulb, and I was not going to purchase a new light bulb for the sake of this blog post.

You could say that it’s because I’m still in a postpartum fog. (Supposedly, it generally takes up to six months for hormone levels to return to pre-pregnancy levels and I’m five months postpartum.) But honestly… I’m feeling great. I’m excited about my job, I exercise daily, and the baby lets me get a full night’s sleep. (Read the book Precious Little Sleep, do what works for you, then thank me later.)

But really, I just think it’s some type of burnout. It’s not the “I’m so tired and under-appreciated and I just need a break,” kind of burnout. It’s the “Oh no, did I say everything I wanted to say and now I’m bored with myself?” kind of burnout.

Joe Pulizzi knows what’s up. Though he’s noted content burnout is typically 7-10 years.

I had even taken to asking Rand for topic ideas — which, yes, I saved because I fully intend on tackling at least some of these ideas in the near future.

But asking your boss to spoon feed you ideas isn’t a great way to fill in your marketing calendar. It’s lazy and it’s only one person’s perspective. Plus, in most work environments, it’s probably better to ask your colleagues for ideas because they’re typically the ones in the trenches. Just in the different trenches that you’re in.

Hey, I’m not giving you all these ideas. This is my lazy marketing calendar, not yours.

So what can you do to source new marketing ideas? I have some suggestions…

Reflect on the questions people ask you most.

Maybe you’ll need to sift through your emails or DMs. Do you have any sent emails in which you expounded on an idea? That might be worth repurposing into a blog post.

What do people seek your advice on, or ask for clarity on regarding your product? Even if it’s not a frequently asked question, rather one that you’ve only been asked once, if it inspires you, go for it. If you have a lot to say about it, it’s probably worth sharing.

I’m often surprised by the emails I send that inspire blog posts. For instance, last year, in a virtual job fair, I mentioned the idea of pursuing fractional marketing roles that aren’t just fractional CMO roles. One of the attendees followed up with me to discuss that, and it spurred one of my most popular posts on the SparkToro blog.

The email that inspired my “Maybe You Need a Fractional Marketing Director — Not a Fractional CMO” post

Talk to your customers.

What keeps your customers up at night? What are the things they care about? The things they love? Do you have notes or a recording of a recent-ish customer interview? That interview may be worth revisiting. Consider how your brand or product fits into those customer insights and how you can turn this into a marketing campaign. This can easily become a joint webinar, a guidebook, or maybe you have enough questions to design a survey and report on the findings.

Look at what people in your niche are saying online.

You probably have at least a handful of go-to follows on LinkedIn, Threads, Instagram, Twitter/X or Mastodon. Or maybe you have a few favorite Subreddits. What’s top of mind for the people in these communities? What are the discussions they’re having? See if you can come up with a thoughtful reply to one of their posts — but then take your reply and write it up into a blog post (or your medium of choice) as a standalone idea.

Do audience research.

The above ideas all touch on an area of audience research. After all, your community is your audience, and talking to them, lurking in their conversations, and reflecting on your communications with them are all ways of conducting audience research. The trouble is, some of them are one-to-one interactions and depending on the stage of your business, you might not have enough people to engage with. Or in the case of finding people in your niche, you’d have to know your niche pretty well in order to lurk the discussions you truly find relevant and interesting. This makes it extra challenging if you’re new to a niche or industry.

The challenges then become how to do this research in a fast and reliable way. So I’ll give you some cheat codes using SparkToro V2 which is now in semi-public beta.

1. Run a search about your audience.

We’re going with a B2C fitness example — a highly competitive space: “Research the audience that searches for the keyword ‘reformer pilates.'”

2. Go to Keywords > Related Questions.

These are the question-formatted queries that frequently appear in Google searches popular with people who search for “reformer pilates.” Pretty cool, right?

3. Scroll through the questions.

…and see if anything piques your interest.

Your audience might not be explicitly searching for all these terms. But these are the questions and topics that are likely to be top of mind for them. If you have a strong point of view on any of these and/or if any of these questions are related to your product/offering, why not share your two cents? In this example, let’s say you’re a Pilates instructor/content creator. Maybe you can dive into the pros and cons of Reformer Pilates for beginners and weigh in on whether it’s worth the cost. Or you probably have a strong point of view on how often or how long people should be doing Pilates — so is 40 minutes per day enough? (I mean, I would hope so. That’s quite a bit of time. But I wouldn’t know because I am neither a Pilates teacher nor a Pilates instructor.)

4. And check out these other SparkToro text insights (using other examples)…

Don’t forget to look at Keywords > Search Keywords to find other popular search terms in your audience. If you’re a protein-forward food company and you’re looking for your next big marketing idea, check out the popular search terms in your audience.

Maybe you can highlight your highest protein foods and your high-protein/low-calorie foods.

You should also head over to Keywords > Trending Keywords and see if any of these search terms that have recently risen in popularity among your audience catch your eye. In the below example, I tried the niche interest of Korean skincare:

Sure enough, the trending keywords are specific skincare products. If I were a skincare company, I’d look at these competitors and see if I have any similar products that I can write a comparison guide for.

You can also find helpful text insights in Reddit. Go to Reddit > Comment Text and check out the most commonly used words and phrases in your audiences’ Subreddits. Better yet, go to the actual Subreddits and lurk in those conversations. Below, I ran a search for the audience that visits gaming website Kotaku.com.

If I’m marketing a video game, these might give me some ideas for what games and genres might be popular right now. (Or honestly, if I played video games, I would actually know what any of this means.)

My point is there are lots of ways to get inspired by your audience. The ideas are in the topics your audience is searching for, the suggested questions they see in their Google searches, and the way they’re conversing in communities like Reddit.

You just have to find them.

Now… I ought to take my own advice here. It’s been a couple months since I myself have blogged, and it’s high time I SparkToro’d my own audience. So off I go to do just that. 🙂

If you’re interested in giving SparkToro V2 for a spin, sign up here. If you’re a paying customer, simply head over to your V2 dashboard.