7 content marketing exercises for workshops to maximize effectiveness and creativity

You’ve got a content marketing workshop coming up. 

And, you want it to be EPIC.

Here’s what you’re hoping the workshop will look like:

  • Crazy productive (where everyone is in a constant ‘flow state’)
  • Incredibly creative
  • Action-oriented
  • Planning-focused (where folks leave knowing exactly needs to get done)

If this is the type of workshop you’re looking to facilitate, then you’re in the right place.

In this guide, you’re going to learn 7 of the best content marketing workshop exercises to maximize your effectiveness and creativity.

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Why would you have a content marketing workshop in the first place?

You’re probably wondering how a content marketing workshop can benefit your company. After all, you have your game plan established and already have the ball rolling with your content creation. 

Even if you’re off to a running start, it’s important to keep up the momentum. 

Content marketing isn’t a sprint, it’s a relay.

In order to continue growing and improving, you need a consistent and incoming stream of ideas that are fresh, original, and creative. 

Just a few of the benefits of content marketing workshops include: 

  • Establishing a sense of team
  • Clarifying/establishing big picture company goals 
  • Allowing the creation of a mission statement
  • Turning big ideas into actionable steps
  • Opening up the lines of communication
  • Getting the creative juices flowing

Strategy comes first

One of the biggest mistakes a business can make is jumping straight into content creation without having a well-thought-out strategy.

It can be so easy to become sidetracked, or even completely off-track if you don’t have a clear road map for where you’re trying to go.  

Developing a clear cut strategy for your content marketing should be a top priority for your business.

When drafting your strategy, you’ll want to consider the following factors:

  • What is the overall goal of your business?
  • What makes your business unique?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What content format do you intend to use?

2 minds are better than one

Great content marketing campaigns almost always stem from a really great idea. 

It can be easy to become stagnant with content creation if you aren’t careful. In order to avoid becoming dead in the water with idea generation, you need a new source of incoming information.

This is where group brainstorming activities come into play. 

Regularly meeting with your team for a brainstorming session is a great way to get the ideas flowing and to spark new seeds of information. 

According to Joe Master, Drexel University’s Executive Director of Marketing and 

Digital Strategy, “An idea is always brilliant in your head. But when you throw it in the pot with other ideas, that’s when the magic happens.”

Under the right conditions, this same type of magic can be created within your own team, no matter how large or small it may be. 

The more team members from a variety of backgrounds involved in your brainstorming session, the better. Each team member has their own unique experiences and viewpoints that they bring to the group. 

Getting different ideas from various people with a variety of backgrounds can lead to really interesting thoughts. 

But, be careful. 

The more people involved, the easier it can become to get off task. Larger groups of varying ideas can also lead to other pitfalls such as groupthink and inaction. 

In order to make the best out of your brainstorming sessions, you’ll want to set some parameters, such as:

  • Establishing a ‘safe place’ for all ideas – no idea is a bad idea.
  • Creating an environment that encourages critical and creative thinking. 
  • Setting a tone of collaboration rather than competition. 
  • Breaking up into smaller teams to promote more intimate conversations.

Content Marketing Games Ideas to Get The Ball Rolling

Warm-up games, or icebreakers, can be a great way to get the ball rolling in a Content Marketing workshop. 

Before you start rolling your eyes as images of your old middle school summer camp days flash before your eyes, hear us out. We aren’t talking about those cringe-worthy games we all love to hate like the human knot or the telephone game. 

No, we’re talking about some carefully crafted and selected marketing game ideas, strategically designed to quickly break down the barriers, clear the participants’ minds, and get the ideas flowing.

When used well, these types of games can be the perfect catalyst to launch your workshop to the next level of productivity.

1. The ‘Take-Over-The-World’ Game

Creative thinking activities for your employees can really get your team thinking 

outside of the box. Try to keep things fun and light-hearted in the beginning, as the team warms up and becomes comfortable with the environment.

But, you also want to make sure you’re using each minute wisely. Wasting time on frivolous, unproductive activities does nothing to move you closer to your end goal. 

Instead, choosing a strategically designed game, such as the ‘Take Over the World Game’ is a much better use of your time. If fact, a game such as this can not only serve as a fantastic group icebreaker but can also generate some useful and actionable ideas as well. 

The premise of the game is this…

If you could create a content strategy and implementation, without thinking about barriers such as time and money, that would help your business or your client’s business take over an entire industry, what would that look like?

You can even take this game a step further. Challenge your team to come up with ways in which they can modify some of the generated ideas to turn them into feasible plans that can be implemented within your actual time and budget constraints. 

Games like this will open up your team to exploring paths of thinking that they may not otherwise consider under normal circumstances. These new pathways of thought can lead to some incredibly creative and innovative content ideas.

2. The ‘Best Content You’ve Seen Lately’ Game

Another great game to play with your team centers around examining some great content that your team members have recently seen. 

The idea behind this game is simple…

Anybody on the team that has seen an amazing content strategy or content implementation recently shares with their group to get the juices flowing.

Studying successful campaigns is a fantastic way to generate inspiration and fresh ideas. 

Inspiration can sometimes come from the most unlikely places, so be sure that you aren’t pigeonholing your search and only looking at content from within your own niche. 

When studying content, you want to explore a multitude of industries, platforms, and media styles. 

When exploring these successful campaigns, look at aspects such as: 

  • Is the content data-driven?
  • How does it add value to the audience?
  • What makes the content unique or eye-catching?
  • What is the hook?

Take this game a step further and explore the other end of the spectrum. Review campaigns that didn’t work well, or just barely missed the mark. 

When exploring this type of content, focus on aspects such as:

  • What was the missing component? 
  • What could be done to add more value to the audience?
  • What could be improved to make this campaign more successful?

A great way to prepare your team for this game is to encourage them to create a swipe file. A swipe file is a collection of great content that has caught the eye of your team members. 

Swipe files can be an invaluable resource for content marketers, serving as a springboard for inspiration when it may be lacking.

1. Create A Comprehensive Buyer Persona

The first step in creating content for your business or your client’s business is understanding who the buyer is. 

According to Forbes, “Creating buyer personas is the most critical step in accurate marketing…Without this step, marketers waste their efforts and resources.”

It makes sense, right? Before you can figure out how to reach your audience well, you have to first know who this audience is.

Once you’ve identified who your buyer is, you can begin to create an actionable strategy that meshes with your buyer’s preferences. 

When creating your buyer persona, be sure to think beyond basic demographics. 

Consider things such as:

  • What are their problems? 
  • What keeps them up at night? 
  • What would solve their problem? 
  • Are they actively looking for a solution? 
  • Are they aware that they have a problem?

2. Start Backwards

One of the best ways to ensure that your content is successful and well-received is to start backward.

Instead of thinking, “ what type of content should we create?” think about it from the other side.

Explore the types of content that your audience is already consuming rather than creating what you believe to be really great content and then trying to figure out how to get your target audience to read it. 

Some of the questions you want to explore are:

  • What questions are your buyers searching in Google? 
  • What type of content are they craving? 
  • Do they want to watch videos? 
  • Do they want more science-based articles?

There are a few simple, but very important steps in this process.

Step 1: Google search your targeted keywords.

By looking at the top-ranking sites for these keywords, you can discover a few key pieces of information. 

  1. It will identify your competitors.
  2. It will show you what the most popular type of content is among your audience.

Step 2: Look at the backlinks for the top-ranking competitors.

Our preferred tool for checking backlinks is Ahrefs. This is a free tool that will show you the number of backlinks, as well as a few other metrics, for any URL.

By taking a look at your competitors’ backlinks, you can find out how often their content is being referenced by others, as well as what types of sites are linking to their content.

Step 3: Analyze the content of top-ranking competitors.

Spend some time really closely examining the content found on these top-ranking pages. It’s ranking highly for a reason, so it’s in your interest to find out that reason, and then figure out how you can do it better.

Some things to consider about each page includes:

    1. What is the length of the content?
    2. What’s the format: lists, visuals, video?
    3. How is it meeting the needs of your target audience?
    4. Is the content data or scientifically driven? 

The goal at the end of this is to determine what your competitors are doing well, and how you can do it better.

How can you provide higher quality and more valuable content to your target audience?

3. Looking at Industry Trends

Taking some time to dig into the most popular industry trends can be a powerful brainstorming tool for your content creation. 

Google Trends is a powerful but often overlooked tool within the Google arsenal. However, using this tool can give you some informative and valuable metrics regarding what people are interested in and what they are searching for. 

Consider using Google Trends during your workshop to learn the most popular trends in your industry or your client’s industry. This could facilitate some interesting ideas for content creation.

Let’s take a look at how Simon, the owner of an online bakery specializing in gluten-free desserts, might use Google Trends to help guide his Content creation. 

Simon might first keyword search “gluten-free desserts” in Google Trends, revealing the following data.

Here Simon can see that these keywords average around 50 searches per week, spiking to close to 100 searches during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

Next, Simon might want to expand his search a bit, comparing his first search with a broader keyword search of “gluten-free diet.”

This new comparison search yields these results:

Here Simon can see that this second keyword generates more than twice as many searches per week as his first set of keywords.

Additionally, Simon can scroll further down the page to see a breakdown of search frequency by region, as well as related searches.

Simon can use this information to guide his content creation, especially the information provided in the related queries section. This can spark new ideas and directions for content that he may not have otherwise considered.

4. Start With The End In Mind

Much like leaving on a road trip without a final destination in mind, creating content without a clear end goal is not going to be very productive. 

To create a content strategy or content implementation calendar, you need to know where you want to get too. A lot of businesses start just by creating content for the sake of creating content. But, they don’t have a goal of where they want to get to.

Without a clearly defined and carefully chosen goal, even the most masterfully crafted content will be a waste of your time.

Having a purpose for your content is essential for any content marketing campaign to be successful. 

If you haven’t yet determined your content marketing goal, you’ll want to spend some time thinking this through and developing a well-defined, written goal during your workshop.

Some possibilities to consider with your team include:

  • Creating brand awareness
  • Increasing organic website traffic
  • Increasing sales
  • Increasing social media followers
  • Educating your customers
  • Converting more website visitors into buying customers
  • Driving upsell

Regardless of what your goal may be, having a clearly defined goal and then creating goal-focused content is an essential factor in creating a successful and effective content marketing campaign.

5. Shoot From the Hip (And Write It Down)

Another great way to promote creative thinking during your workshop is to adopt a “Shoot from the Hip” method of idea generation.

If you’re going to use this idea, here’s how it would work. 

  • Start this activity at the beginning of the workshop, before you begin discussing any specifics
  • Have everyone begin by sharing as many ideas as they can about content marketing, strategy, implementation. 
  • Focus on generating as many ideas as possible. There are no right or wrong answers. 
  • There should be no analyzing or discussion of the ideas. 
  • Remember to have someone write down all of the ideas shared.

At the end of the workshop, once goals, strategy, data, and other specifics have been covered, you should go back and revisit all of the ideas generated during this initial brainstorming session. 

Talk through the ideas shared, thinking about… 

  • Which ideas align most closely with our goals?
  • Which ideas focus on our data points?
  • Which ideas will resonate with our audience?
  • Which ideas will meet a need for our audience?

6. How to Maximize Our Resources For Maximum Effectiveness

Create a strategic plan for maximizing resources. Think about ways that you can make better use of the resources available in order to maximize your project’s effectiveness. 

Write down all of the resources that you have available for this particular content marketing project. 

Consider things such as:

  • The team you have available
  • The strengths of your team members
  • The budget allocated for the project
  •  The software and programs you have at your disposal

Then, be creative and figure out how you can maximize those resources. 

For example, let’s say you need a logo designed for your project, but you don’t have any graphic design specialists on your team.  

You have 2 options.

  1. You can train one of your team members, so they can create the design
  2. You can outsource the project to a freelancer

If your budget allows for outsourcing, you may find this to be a much more cost-effective route over wasting days of your team member’s time on training just so they can create one small design for your project. 

Make the most of the free resources available to you whenever possible. For example, you may find that using Google Drive instead of investing in Microsoft Office fits your needs just fine, freeing up some budget money that could be more effectively used elsewhere.

Be creative when thinking about possible alternatives and don’t judge any idea until the very end.

7. Figure Out Detailed Next Steps

Before ending your workshop, it’s vital that you clearly outline the next actionable steps for your team.

Most people end workshops completely wrong because they neglect this very important final step. They leave not knowing what the next steps are. 

No matter how you structure your content marketing workshop, you need to ensure that time is set aside at the end to allow you and your team to create a plan for the next steps. 

These should be clearly defined, actionable steps that the team can start working on immediately. 

Without that, the workshop miss the mark for maximum effectiveness. 

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