By Gina F. Rubel, Esq.
Brainstorming for small business marketing and business development can be effective when some thought is put into the process and the right people are present.
Here are some tips for effective brainstorming in order to enhance your creative small business marketing, public relations, and social media engagement.
1. Determine your starting point. Before brainstorming, determine what you want to accomplish. For example, if your small business is looking to develop an initiative to help raise awareness in the local community and thus generate new, direct business, it is important to state that as the objective. Then generate ideas on how to accomplish your objective. Answer the following questions:
- What do we want to accomplish?
- Who do we want to reach?
- How soon do we want to get started (be reasonable)?
- What is our marketing budget?
- What tools do we have/need to accomplish our objective?
- How will we measure success?
2. Schedule time to brainstorm. Two and a half hours is usually a good starting point. Set the first hour aside for unlimited, un-scrutinized idea generation. Use the second hour to identify the most viable ideas. And use the last half-hour to determine next steps.
3. Include a variety of people. Brainstorming is about gathering as many creative ideas as possible. Include a broad spectrum of people within your organization to generate a myriad of ideas. Be careful not to include too many people as a smaller group of four to five people can allow for more productive conversation.
4. Have a facilitator. Make sure you have someone to facilitate and establish ground rules, capture the ideas on a whiteboard or its equivalent, keep the ideas flowing, ask questions, ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak, deflect and discourage criticism, and keep the meeting on time.
5. Withhold judgment. It is important to withhold judgment during the idea generating process. Let the ideas flow. Don’t worry about who likes which shade of blue or how much an idea might cost, but DO keep the ultimate objective in mind. Here are some questions the facilitator can use to help generate ideas:
- Who are we and how do we want to be perceived?
- If you could describe our business using only five words, what would they be?
- What are our strengths as they relate to our objective?
- What are some of the things you’ve always wished we did but never told anyone?
- What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen done in marketing?
6. Ask strategic questions. Once you have identified each idea, you should then spend some time refining those ideas. Here are some questions you can use to help refine your ideas:
- Can this idea meet our objective?
- Can this effectively reach our target audience?
- What are the resources we need to get started?
- How much time will it take to make this work?
7. Determine next steps. At the conclusion of your brainstorming session, ask the facilitator to provide a report of the outcomes as well as a summary of what needs to happen in order to implement the most feasible ideas. Have the facilitator create a plan that answers the who, what, when, where, why and how much for each idea. Once you have the plan, it is then time to implement it.
Brainstorming creative ideas for your small business marketing and business development is essential to marketing, and these steps will help you organize your brainstorming process. It’s important to offer an environment that will not stifle the creative flow and help keep your team upbeat and energized.
You might decide that one brainstorming session may not be enough. Don’t be afraid to go through this process several times. You may even find that ideas continue to flow from participants after the brainstorming session is complete.
Gina Rubel is the professional that corporate and law firm leaders call upon for high-stakes public relations, media training, crisis planning, and incident-response support, including high profile litigation media relations. An attorney and public relations expert, Gina leads Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., an agency supporting business with their growth through integrated marketing, PR, reputation management, and content marketing. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @GinaRubel.