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Lesley J. Vos on November 13, 2017 • 10 minute read
“When I don’t have enough money, I sit down to think rather than run to make it. The idea is the most expensive item in the world.”
These words by Steve Jobs reflect top marketing leaders in the best way possible. Rationality, luck, perseverance, and patience are all essential qualities to survive in this brave new world of competition, but they are worthless without a big idea. The ability to find fresh solutions to business problems is what separates first-rate managers from mediocre entrepreneurs.
Often, all you need is to take a seat and let your mind wander. In other words, it’s time to master the art of effective brainstorming for setting growth goals and organizing top-notch marketing campaigns.
Sometimes, the best marketing decision is to sit and have a think
Image source: Pinterest
With hundreds of articles on the topic, some might think they already know everything about brainstorming. But for leaders willing to overtake competitors rather than copy them, it’s crucial to understand the peculiarities of brainstorming that work for marketers and guarantee positive results.
This guide reveals secrets and techniques of effective marketing brainstorming so you can avoid most common mistakes, know how to organize brainstorming sessions in teams, and understand how to choose the best ideas from those brainstormed.
Why is it 7-10-17?
You’ll have got it by the end of this post. (Hint: consider subheadings.)
But first things first:
Brainstorming is the process of searching for ideas by taking every thought – no matter how awkward it is – into consideration. Some will transform into marketing decisions later, but the primary goal of this process is to go above and beyond the perceived “best practices”.
Why do you need brainstorming? Often, a structured and formal process of decision-making in marketing departments eliminates the work of specialists. New ideas seem irrelevant to a brand message, so leaders approve ordinary and bo-o-oring concepts instead. Brainstorming allows you to mix the experience of all team members and lend a great deal of attention to the idea generation process.
You won’t see a solution if looking in the same direction
Image source: Twisted Sifter
Brainstorming can be group-wide and individual. The latter is often more effective because managers don’t know how to organize the process. And, a group-wide brainstorming allows your team to get involved in business, develop creative thinking, and become more willing to initiate.
So if you want to make the most out of brainstorming sessions and not turn them into pandemonium, remember the following:
The #1 mistake of most marketers during brainstorming:
They want to cover the whole ground at once. Sure, there are a million ways – right and wrong, earth and cosmic, stupid and genius – to find solutions to a problem; but if you try to embrace and analyze them all, you risk to go out of mind or slip to a well-trodden path: your old attitude toward business decisions.
To avoid that, assign a target and position your brainstorming session accordingly. The following techniques will help:
Imagine you need to solve a problem appeared 10, 100, or even 1,000 years ago. What would you do during Holy Inquisition, and what decisions would you make? Or, let’s say you are in a post-apocalyptic world of 2201: any ideas?
Try taking a look at your marketing problem as if it found you in a different country, climate, or planet. How would you regulate it?
Become 10 years older or 50 kilos heavier. Ask your team to reshape some characteristics in their mind’s eye: nationality, race, or a madness level. It will unveil a spectrum of decisions our subconsciousness hides, allowing us to come up with truly creative ideas for your marketing campaigns.
Take the place of your father, best friend, or enemy. What would they do? Imagine yourself Einstein or Tesla: how would they solve this problem? Alternative variant: your team members “turn” into Hulk, Superman, Mickey Mouse, or any other fiction characters; encourage them to share ideas on behalf of the roles they play.
Here’s your starting point – a marketing problem you have at the moment. And here’s your final destination – a goal you want to move towards. Just start feeling the gaps between these two points step by step. For instance, the shortest way of turning your hobby into business could look like this:
Certainly, you would have more gaps in such schemes because each gap snowballs hundreds of complementary ones; your task is to consider and resolve them all.
A competitor analysis is a must-have for marketers willing to strengthen their techniques for more traffic and leads. It helps to compete for link building strategies and content ideas to overtake opponents online. However, spying on competitors may hurt you if done wrong, and it would be far from effective brainstorming to steal others’ ideas for own marketing decisions.
And yet, why not take a look at other niches? For instance, you sell building equipment and want to attract subscribers to your Facebook business page. Chances are that your competitor’s unhumorous articles describe all features of their product, but you might take a different tack: target the same audience with alternative content – jokes and memes about builders. Brainstorming in this direction will help to generate more ideas and engage more people in the discussion.
When brainstorming in a group, ask members to write down their ideas and questions. Then, exchange writings and come up with alternative ideas based on those given by your co-workers. It’s a great technique to break traditional in-order brainwork.
Just give your team a task to come up with as many ideas as possible, choose the most appropriate ones, and then try to generate even more ideas based on those approved. Keep on brainstorming like that until you find the ideal solution.
A mind map is a diagram connecting information around a central subject. It reminds a tree or a spider, allowing you to capture thoughts, bring them to life in visual form, and solve marketing problems more effectively. Created by international speaker Tony Buzan, this technique works for brainstorming, organizing, managing, teaching, communicating information, and much more.
Imagine all powers striking for you, as well as those preventing you from success. Start brainstorming on how to enhance the positive factors and keep negative ones to a minimum. In other words, think about components rather than your central idea itself.
Make it a goal to brainstorm until you have 101 ideas in the pocket. Or, set time limits for coming up with 101 marketing decisions.
Do you know that physical exercises stimulate endorphins secretion and make your brain work best? When you get off the subject for an hour – your subconsciousness enters a room so you could change the perspective and think of the problem with a clear head. Your gym is the place where “Eureka!” moments may strike you.
SWOT is a technique for understanding all Strengths and Weaknesses of your business, and for identifying both Opportunities and Threats you face. Brainstorming with SWOT will allow you to concentrate on details claiming attention for better marketing results and, therefore, avoid worrying about anything and everything.
Here’s an example of SWOT analysis for Botanical Bounty that will inspire and help you conduct own:
Image source: Bplans
Question the assumptions surrounding your problematic issue. For instance, let’s say you need to come up with a topic for your next long read at the Databox blog. Why do you need to publish it on this particular blog? Or, what makes you think you need a long read rather than a series of blog posts?
Sometimes your initial marketing goal might be wrong. Make sure you don’t try to brainstorm solutions for waste problems.
Imagine that you have unlimited resources to deal with the task. What would you do if got a never-ending budget or time? Let “the sky is the limit” be your motto at every brainstorming session, and the results of this technique will surprise you.
Choose a random word or image related to your niche and use it as a base for all ideas that strike your team members during brainstorming sessions. It’s a kind of like a matrix allowing you to generate content ideas and plans for marketing campaigns.
Image source: Orbitmedia
What will happen if your marketing problem swells to larger-than-life sizes? And what if you have 10 of the same problems all in one? How would you solve it? Or, you can diminish the goal of your brainstorming a little: doesn’t it become easier to find a solution to a smaller problem?
Sure, there’s no need to use all 17 brainstorming techniques at once. Just keep them in mind and choose those fitting your project and marketing goals best.
Based on the above, how to choose the best idea?
You’ll have tons of ideas and marketing decisions after the brainstorming session is finished. Now it’s time to regiment and sort them out. To make this process productive, answer six questions:
Organize all ideas accordingly. You might want to use this kind of charts to sort out the results of your brainstorming session:
Or, ask each team member to choose (anonymously) the top five ideas. This will take individual brainstorming out of play, and you will be able to analyze the most popular ideas and decide on the most effective ones for your marketing campaign.
The ball is in your court now!
What brainstorming technique do you use to set business goals and make marketing decisions? Does it help you manage campaigns in a worthwhile manner?
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