How Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes Can Help You Find Inspiration

Cooking duchess Martha Stewart is releasing a new book today called 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone’s Favorite Treat. It got our attention since, well, we do have a (major) weakness for these devilish cakes, but also because it hints at our thematic of today’s post: inspiration.

Indeed, coming up with 175 variations of one simple treat is no easy task – it asks for a lot of trial and errors, incessant baking and, best of all, endless cupcake tasting. Ultimately though, you need to be inspired to make it work. Inspiration comes and goes, which is often inconvenient when you need to come up with interesting ideas on a regular basis (if you’re writing a blog, you know what we’re talking about.) So how can you find inspiration when it feels like your head is empty?

How to Find Inspiration

There is no fool’s proof method to gain inspiration, but there are definitely actions you can undertake to help jumpstart your brain. Here’s a simple list to get you started:

Get Away from the Problem

You don’t know how to get started on that cloud computing essay? You feel like you’ve explored every facets of social media on your blog? Your problem might be that you need a fresh perspective. When immersed into a subject matter for a long period of time, it gets difficult to pull yourself back and get an outsider’s perspective on your work. Being able to examine your work through different lenses is important as it can help you find new details and ideas. If you feel you need a new perspective on your work, then get away from it for a little while. Explore other subject matters outside your usual field. The cloud computing expert could have a look into photography or football. The social media expert would benefit from discovering the pleasures of design and architecture. Opening up your mind to other disciplines can help you gain the necessary distance for fresh ideas to blossom in your mind.

Do Research

Another great way to gain inspiration is by having a look at the work of other people. Start by browsing del.icio.us for subject matters that interests you. Whenever you find some links that are of interest to you, look up whoever provided the links and explore their profile. This can open doors to new correlations you never thought of before. You can use the same process with Reddit or any other bookmarking sites. Flickr is a fine website to get inspired. Check out their stream of most interesting pics, or perform some queries on your subject matter and see what shows up. You’d be surprised to see how other people visually approach your choice of semantics. Remember though that there is a fine line between gaining inspiration and stealing other people’s ideas!

We believe books remain a great way to gain inspiration. First, their nature encourage immersion – when you read a book, you forget about what surrounds you. They have a calming effect, which is perfect to generate new thoughts. Also, books (fiction or not) tend to thread a deep web of ideas and concepts. Blogs and white papers are great at communicating ideas quickly and efficiently, but their short, scannable nature remains a far stretch from the deepness books can achieve. Taking time to read books is a great way to gain inspiration.

Brainstorm and Keep a Journal

We find that brainstorming sessions work best in groups. Indeed, bouncing ideas off with other people can enable new connections or perspectives you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. But don’t stop there. Sorry, that’s not true – do stop there. Once you have brainstormed, take a break – a few hours, or if you can afford it, a few days – before getting back to that session. Again, removing yourself from the problem can help gain a new perspective. Also, while you’re away from your blockage, your mind is still processing that information, creating new links and bridges. When you’re ready to explore your brainstorming session once more, new concepts and ideas could make their way to the top.

Another way to brainstorm regularly is to keep a journal at hand. Make sure you can access it easily as you never know when your brain will come up with some brilliant thoughts. Fill it with quotes you loved from blogs, magazines, billboards, etc. Put in thoughts you’re having – it doesn’t matter if they’re boring or utterly crazy. Don’t censor yourself, be as open as possible. That journal will come handy when you’re looking for ideas or when you’re having those brainstorming sessions. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad idea when you are brainstorming.

Change your Environment

An easy trick to stimulate your writing process is to write in a different environment. Leave your desk or wherever you’re used to write and change location: try your local café, the library, a bookstore or some other public place. This change in external stimulations might be the push your brain needs to come up with a wealth of inspiration.

Bake Cupcakes

Finally, if you feel totally uninspired, stop and do something completely different. Try baking cupcakes, go for a bicycle ride, have a pic-nic, visit your friends and family. Sometimes all your brain needs is a little break!

How do you fight a writing block? Let us know what your secret is!

Upcoming Marketing Conferences

Conferences are a great way to remain connected with your industry’s latest developments. It is also a fantastic opportunity to grow your network and score some valuable leads. We’ve gathered for you a list of the best upcoming marketing conferences that will happen in June 09.

SMX Advanced

June 2-3 2009
Seattle, USA
From $1495 to $1595 depending on when you purchase the ticket.

The Search Marketing Expos are a great place to connect with like-minded individuals while perfecting your skills through advanced workshops and conferences. Note that Google’s Matt Cutt and Microsoft’s Qi Lu will both present a keynote at the event. The conference will take place in Toronto.

For more details on the SMX Advanced conference click here.

Mobile Marketing Forum

June 2-3 2009
Grand Hyatt NYC, NYC, USA
From $1195 to $2010 depending on ticket type.

Some people say that mobile marketing will be a vital milestone for marketers in the near future. If you’d like to get familiarize with this fairly new field, this conference would be a great entryway!

For more details on the Mobile Marketing Forum click here.

Velocity, Web Performance and Operations Conference

June 22-24, 2009
Fairmont San Jose, San Jose, USA
From $395 to $1395 depending on ticket type.

If you want to improve your website building skills while also meeting experts in your field, the O’Reilly conference is the place to be.

For more details on the Velocity Conference click here.

White Paper on White Papers – A Review

We recently stumbled upon a great white paper on the topic of… white papers. It seemed unusual at first that a document’s content and form would be so intricately related, but upon reading the paper we realized it made a lot of sense.

The document is appropriately called A White Paper on White Papers: Emerging Strategies for Delivering Traditional Content in New Media Channels and was written by the folks at Eccolo Media. You can download the paper for free upon registering. They introduce the topic of white papers through its technical origins and how it morphed over time to become a business and lead generation tool. They’ve also performed a survey on the matter of white papers and generously shared the data with their readers. Here are some highlights:

  • On 155 surveyed people, 44% mentioned they believed white papers to be very influentials.
  • 67% of respondents reported sharing white papers with their colleagues.
  • 25% of readers shared the paper with more than 5 people.
  • 70% of the people surveyed prefer reading papers on their desktops instead of in print (from MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide).

These data advocate that digital white papers are well-worth looking into. PDFs allow for documents to be easily shared and can integrate hyperlinks. The latter is an incredible addition to your essays since they can redirect readers to your website in order to access more information, or simply to join a discussion on the matter. As Eccolo Media points out, it’s best to “stop thinking of the white paper as an airtight entity that must be consumed in a particular way. Think of it instead as a succession of value-added copy blocks—thought-leadership nuggets that can be lifted wholesale from the white paper and repurposed for maximum sales enablement.” Indeed, digital copies allow you to segment your content, to make it more focused and niche-oriented, but also briefer. People scan digital content, looking for what they’re after.

There’s a whole lot of information in this white paper for those of you who write or commission white papers that could help change the way you market them. It’s well worth looking into!

How to write compelling content and connect with your readers?

This is the fourth installment of Content Marketing lists for the month of May. The first installment was The Content Marketers – List of ‘How To’ Blog Posts, the second installment was The Content Marketers – List of Lists – Part 1 and the third installment was The Content Marketers – List of Lists – Part 2.

There is so much to be learned about writing and how to connect with your readers. Buckle up for a fantastic ride. What follows is a collated a list of (pure gold!) resources for you to enjoy and improve your writing skills.

Today, marketing is a two way conversation. How can you incorporate interactivity in your content? Brian Clark and Patsi Krakoff discuss how to spark interaction with your audience that increases engagement. Although their tips are for bloggers, the lessons are applicable to anybody creating marketing content. Patsi Kraoff’s blog post is 7 Top Ten Ways to Get Readers to Respond. Brian Clark’s blog post is Four Easy Ways to Create Innovative Content With Interactivity.

All content creation is to get the reader to think and take action. How do you connect with your readers and make them think? Patsi Krakoff says that all readers are different and are looking for different things. She discusses how to make a connection in her blog post 8 Simple Writing Steps to Connect with Readers. Once you have made a connection, the goal is to get the reader to ‘think’. Patsi’s insights on stimulating readers is given in her blog post 10 Ways to Write to Make Readers Think. Denise Wakeman’s shares her insights on 10 Ways to Connect with Readers.

Isn’t the goal of all writing to influence the reader in some way? How do you convince your readers to do something or agree with your point of view? Read Brian Clark’s blog posts Ten Timeless Persuasive Writing Techniques and The 5 Immutable Laws ofPersuasive Blogging. Jennifer Stewart’s insights on getting readers to follow a particular course of action is at How To Write Persuasively.

Michael Stelzner shares his picks of blogs, blog posts and books where you can find doses of inspiration on writing better. Read Michael’s blog posts Top 10 Blogs for Writers – The 2008/2009 Winners, Top 10 Blog Posts for Writers (The Best From The Best in 2008!) and Top 10 Books for Writers – The Finalists.

Key lessons that apply to writing white papers and eBooks

  • Use a title that is creative, interesting and attractive. The title should indicate what the reader will learn.
  • Capture your reader’s attention by posing questions in the beginning of your content.
  • Focus on the problems of the reader and how your solution will help solve those problems.
  • Show, rather than tell. Give proof of why your solution is the best. For example, use case studies to highlight the benefits of your product.
  • Write persuasively to convince the reader to take action. Talk about benefits of your product solution rather than a laundry list of features.
  • Introduce interactivity in your content. For example, create a video of your product instead of writing a long data sheet.
  • Have an explicit call for action towards the end of your content.

I hope you have found this list and the other three lists from earlier this month(The Content Marketers – List of ‘How To’ Blog Posts, The Content Marketers – List of Lists – Part 1, The Content Marketers – List of Lists – Part 2) useful. There are many valuable Content Marketing tips and lessons in these lists. Which is the one tip that you found most useful? Write it down and implement it.