Marketing is a blend of science and art. It isn’t easy to get the balance right, whether you’re working for a large corporation or run your own small business. However, one strategy that rarely works is just trying a bunch of different tactics with no clear plan.
You need a marketing plan to succeed. But how can you create one that will work for your business? A good place to start is a productive brainstorming session.
Coming up with lots of ideas at once will help you decide which strategies are viable and which aren’t worth pursuing. With that said, it’s important to give your brainstorming session some structure so that you don’t end up wasting your time and end up with no promising marketing ideas. Here are 5 strategies to help you make the most of your brainstorming session.
Identify Your North Star
Brainstorming sessions are naturally free-form. That’s how you get unexpected ideas that can turn out to be the perfect solution. Unfortunately, this means that brainstorming can easily go off the rails. It’s all too common for brainstorming sessions to get off track and lose sight of the original goal.
By having a clear goal as your “north star” for the meeting, you will have a way to get things back on track if participants start to lose focus. It’s also a good idea to consider a time cap for the meeting. Brainstorming can lead to a variety of tangents that don’t always add to the session, so put a bit of time pressure on the meeting and steer it back toward your north star as necessary.
Write Down Objectives & Set an Agenda
If you’re trying to come up with a marketing plan, you might think that this is the objective for your brainstorming session. But if you really want to make the most out of your session, it’s a good idea to drill down further and write down a list of more specific objectives.
Ask yourself some questions before the brainstorm. What do you need from a marketing plan? Are you trying to get new leads? Increase online sales? Simply increase brand awareness? Knowing what your marketing plan needs to do will help you to brainstorm helpful solutions.
Once you have your list of objectives for the session, you might want to set an agenda. Brainstorming is an informal process, but it’s helpful to have an agenda to guide you and keep the session focused. No one wants to spend an hour throwing out ideas and leave without any clear next steps. An agenda can help.
Identify Your Personas & Find Where They “Live”
Effective marketing requires that you understand your ideal customers almost better than they understand themselves. One way to “get to know” your customers is by creating “personas.” Personas are profiles of imaginary customers that include details about that person’s lifestyle, economic and demographic status, and more.
Having personas ready before brainstorming is essential. You need to know what your customer might be thinking before you can consider how best to get and keep their attention through digital marketing strategies. Don’t skimp on this step—take your time and create thorough, helpful personas.
You also need to think about where these customers “live.” Not their physical address, but where they spend time online. Do they frequent social media? Are they more likely to respond to advertising or influencer marketing campaigns? Knowing where your ideal customers are most engaged online is key for creating an effective marketing plan.
Brainstorming sessions are all well and good, but they are best conducted in person. With hybrid workplaces becoming more and more common, in-person brainstorming isn’t always practical or even possible. Enter: brain-netting.
Brain-netting is the process of allowing remote teams to brainstorm together. You can always meet over video chat, of course, but as we all know, lag and other downsides sometimes make this impractical for fast-paced idea generation.
Another option for brain-netting remotely is setting up a central location for ideas. Remote whiteboard software or another type of collaboration software can be great tools for this purpose.
You just need to set clear parameters for exchanging ideas with brain-netting. If there isn’t going to be one set session for brainstorming, you should set time limits and figure out how to collaborate and provide feedback on ideas. Brain-netting is a little more complicated than traditional brainstorming, but it can be a great way to connect remote teams and get marketing plan ideas.
Bring in New People for Fresh Perspectives
Have you ever heard of groupthink? If people spend enough time together, they are more likely to start thinking alike and agreeing with one another without really thinking about it. In brainstorming, it’s important to have people who will play the devil’s advocate role and really think about the ideas in front of them instead of just approving of every idea that comes along.
Fresh perspectives matter. If your team has been coming up with very similar ideas or you’re not getting anything innovative in your brainstorming sessions, it’s time to switch it up. Bring in someone from a different team! If you don’t have a large team to work with, consider asking someone on your existing team to “play” devil’s advocate during the session, or ask each person to come up with both positive and negative feedback for the best ideas.
Remember: Brainstorming is Just the Beginning
Brainstorming can be a lot of fun. It’s exhilarating and inspiring to consider lots of exciting ideas with other members of your team. But it’s just the beginning of the process.
Once you’ve generated some good ideas, you have to put them into practice. Plans that are overambitious or too broad can halt your marketing in their tracks, so be choosy and realistic about what you can implement.
Following through is the most important piece of the puzzle. Brainstorming only works if you leave the room with ideas you can act on right away. It’s a good idea to approach your next brainstorming session with that reality in mind.