Introduction to idea management for marketing
Ideation is an essential part of a marketing team's responsibilities. It is the process of coming up with new and creative ways to engage your audience and drive growth. After all, every breakthrough marketing program or campaign starts with an idea. But on a more tactical level, ideation can include identifying new content ideas, sales tools, or techniques to reach prospective customers.
Managing requests is another big part of what a marketing team does. Typically, these requests come from customer-facing teams who need information, assets, or other materials to best represent your company's brands and products.
But it can be difficult to capture and organize all the incoming ideas and requests that come your way — let alone decide which ones to implement. Since everything is coming from different groups and channels, you may be keeping a tally of it all in a static document that requires constant updating.
This is where idea management comes in. It is the process of gathering, storing, prioritizing, and selecting relevant insights to improve your existing marketing programs and inspire new ones. The goal is to capture the strongest ideas so you can include them on your marketing roadmap and ultimately improve what you deliver to customers.
Why is idea management important?
Continuous innovation puts you in a strong position for more engagement with and growth from your marketing efforts. Insights can come from a wide variety of people and sources — executives, your marketing teammates, and customer-facing teams that hear from users firsthand about the problems they are trying to solve. Research and customer surveys can also be valuable for discovering insights that you can apply to your next program or campaign.
But fielding a large amount of feedback and suggestions can be overwhelming. A solid idea management process gives you a way to capture and review every request. You can embrace all the incoming data and use it to improve your marketing efforts. For example, you might think of a way to counter a new competitor after a colleague in sales asks you to analyze a specific tool. Or you might learn that customers need additional training after a teammate in customer support requests a webinar on particular functionality.
Establishing an idea management process allows you to:
Stay close to what customers want and focus your marketing efforts accordingly
Empower internal teams such as sales and customer support to share their requests as well as feedback from customers
Identify common themes that support your marketing strategy and the overall business goals
Discover an idea that sparks your next breakthrough campaign or piece of content
Determine how practical each idea is by judging whether or not it relates to a specific opportunity
Add the best ideas to your marketing roadmap and then act on them
Where do marketing ideas and requests come from?
Being receptive to input from your colleagues and customers helps you hone your messaging and deliver better campaigns. Here is an overview of some of the groups who typically reach out to the marketing team and what they might request:
Executives might ask for major efforts such as a website redesign, updated logo, or content package aimed at a new audience the company wants to target.
The product team might request content for an upcoming launch or collateral to help educate customers about new functionality.
Salespeople might ask for specific sales enablement tools with custom branding, such as market research, data sheets, updated competitor analysis, or help with an upcoming presentation.
The customer support team might inquire if there is any existing content on a particular topic that customers are talking about, or if there are plans to hold a training or publish new related content.
Human resources and operations
These teammates might need supporting marketing materials to post on an online job board or for a company event.
Prospects and customers
Customers may submit comments about your product or service through your website or social media channels. But most customers will not approach the marketing team directly. Instead, you might be proactive in asking for feedback at the end of a marketing video, then use this feedback to improve future work.
Your marketing teammates have ideas and requests of their own. For example, the content team might want the ability to submit ideas for future blog posts in a portal and organize them by category. Or the field marketing team might share ideas for future campaigns based on their discussions with customers.
How do marketing teams manage ideas and requests?
Generating quality ideas and managing requests is an essential part of improving your marketing efforts over time. Many marketing teams regularly devote time to coming up with ideas that support the business and marketing goals, yet they do not have a clear process for gathering these ideas. They either receive and respond to requests in real time (which often means a lot of reactive work), or they put ideas into a backlog and may not get around to addressing them.
The first step to establishing a formal idea management process is to collect all your feedback in a central place. If you use web-based idea management software like Aha! to do this, people can submit their ideas and requests through an online portal. This allows you to capture all feedback in one place and then promote the best ideas to your marketing roadmap.
Here is an example of a marketing ideas portal:
Now that you have gathered your feedback in a single place, you need an organized process for effectively reviewing those ideas and vetting them against the marketing strategy. Here are the basic steps to take:
1. Review every idea and request
Once it is submitted, make sure each idea contains the necessary details. For example, you might want to group each idea into categories based on broader topic or add tags to identify what the idea is about. You can also input any additional information you need to determine next steps. If an idea clearly does not support the marketing strategy or align which what your customers need, you might decide right away not to pursue it. But be open to what you can learn from every piece of feedback.
2. Notice patterns
Group ideas by theme so you can quickly identify common types of requests and minimize repetition. Idea management software makes it simple to spot patterns because users themselves can select the topic that their idea relates to during the submission process. You can also create reports that show the breakdown of ideas by topic and identify popular ones. Most software also includes voting functionality, so people can see a list of submitted ideas and show their support for specific ones.
3. Score against strategy
Evaluate each request by thinking about how closely it aligns with your overall business and marketing goals. You can create an internal scorecard to rank ideas in a quantitative and objective way, then use that number to prioritize requests. This helps you quickly say "yes" or "no" to each submission.
4. Promote to your marketing roadmap
Of course, you will need to address some requests right away. But other ideas will support the longer-term programs and campaigns you already have on your roadmap. Promote these ideas to activities on your marketing roadmap, a visual timeline of your upcoming plans and how they support the larger strategy. And make sure the entire team understands what is on your roadmap and why you are pursuing it.
5. Communicate your decision
After you determine whether or not to pursue an idea, inform the person who submitted it about your decision. Including a brief explanation of why encourages a culture of sharing and transparency. Even if your answer is no, people will be more likely to continue submitting other ideas and requests going forward when they know that their suggestions are being reviewed seriously.
Start implementing idea management
Breakthrough ideas help drive the business forward and establish your organization as a market leader. Determining which ideas and requests are worthwhile takes time and effort — but it is an invaluable part of crafting messages that resonate with your target audience. Once you have a formal process in place for managing ideas, you will be well-equipped to improve customer engagement and deliver even stronger programs and campaigns.