When it comes to creating great content, knowing what to produce and when to produce it can be an incredibly difficult decision to make. How can a business tell what kind of blog or article to write next? When should they publish? How often should they publish? How long or short should the content be?

Seeing competitor businesses continually benefitting from great post after great post is disheartening – but we know their secret. It's not that their marketing team is gifted with being able to predict what content will perform best; it's that they know what to do when seeking inspiration.

So let's make the secrets of these supposed content-masters public...

They're not afraid to ask

Companies looking to create content shouldn't be afraid to ask their target audience what it is they want to see next. It may seem daunting at first but it provides a unique insight into exactly what kind of content is the most sought after. This way everyone benefits – the audience receives the content they crave and the business benefits from happy customers; oh, and it also shows that a business cares about their audience, too.

They do their research

This involves not only seeing what competitor sites are doing and what the most popular pieces of content are, but also visiting forums and online groups to see what people are talking about and hopefully get some inspiration from these third-party sites. The best part is that the information gathered from these sites will be unbiased, and therefore highly beneficial to businesses harnessing the insights. The same can be said for industry publications and the comment sections there, and social media trends.

They cover all bases

Whether it's a listicle, a how-to guide or a longer insight-driven article, the businesses with the most effective content plans mix it up and try to create a bit of everything. It may be that some forms of content are less popular than others – in which case, simply don't create as many – but it is important to try and create an inclusive strategy. The same can be said for different mediums; seek to create articles, images, videos and infographics for a really broad mix.

They don't do everything themselves

Another tactic used by content specialists is to harness the creative input of their audience and to encourage people to create their own content to be shared on a business' site or social media profiles. Rather than simply asking them for ideas, this gets them even more involved. Again, this also shows that a company cares about their audience, but it's also a sneaky way of building a content plan without causing the marketing team to become overwhelmed with the requirement for new and original ideas.