How to brainstorm new marketing ideas

You have a passion for turning creative ideas into reality. This is one of the reasons that many people are drawn to marketing as a profession. Everything a marketing team creates — from campaigns to blog posts to advertisements — starts as a spark of an idea.

When it comes to digital marketing, any marketer will tell you that there is virtually no limit to the amount of new tactics you can try and improve. With more brands competing for attention online, a brilliant idea well implemented can set you apart. But creativity has to be balanced against strategic planning if you want to have a meaningful impact.

Forward-looking marketing teams know that the ideas you generate must support business goals and provide real value to your audience. What does this look like? It starts with developing a marketing strategy and outlining time-bound, measurable goals and the big themes of work that will help you achieve those goals.

Marketing goals should support company-level objectives and clearly communicate what you plan to accomplish — such as increasing demos by 30% or being recognized as a thought leader with X followers or reach. Initiatives can be more broad— they are the buckets or themes of work needed to accomplish the goals. Together, strategic goals and initiatives provide a framework against which you can evaluate new ideas and decide which to focus on.

A goals chart in Aha! Roadmaps with an open drawer detailing a specific goal

An example of a strategic goals chart in Aha! Roadmaps

Once the team is aligned on a strategic direction, you can start researching and collecting new ideas to engage your audience and move the business forward.

Follow your curiosity (and these tips) to get started:

Keep tabs on what is going on in the market. You can read marketing news, thought leadership content, and relevant conversations on social media. Pay attention to emerging technology that has the potential to deliver unique customer experiences. Concepts that at one time seemed wholly futuristic — artificial intelligence, geo-targeting, social media images with one-click purchase ability — are now areas of focus for many digital marketing teams.

As you dig into the research, jot down ideas that come to mind. Then use these questions to spark additional ideas and discovery:

  • In which areas can we modernize our marketing tactics?

  • In what ways can we make our website more mobile-friendly?

  • What new themes can we add to our content marketing program?


Evaluate competitors

Maintain a list of direct and indirect competitors and review their marketing efforts occasionally. Direct competitors offer a similar type of product or solution within the same market. Indirect competitors offer something different that serves the same need. Look for shifts in competitors' marketing that might indicate new strategies — such as redesigned advertisements, a new partnership, or a change in their go-to-market strategy.

Questions to spark ideas:

  • What messaging do competitors use in their ads?

  • Do any of our competitors use live chat, email, or phone particularly well?

  • Where do we see competitors outmatching us?


Review past performance

Evaluate prior campaigns, activities, and KPIs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the overall plan. Segment results by channel (e.g., social, search, and website) and persona. Take steps to optimize campaigns and identify ways to replicate success.

Questions to spark ideas:

  • Which marketing channels produce our highest and lowest quality leads?

  • How could we more effectively reach the right people?

  • Where are visitors getting stuck or abandoning the buying process?


Talk to customers

Set up time to talk to your most engaged customers. If you cannot do this regularly, speak with those who do — such as sales and customer success teams who support both prospective and current customers.

Questions to spark ideas:

  • What messaging resonates with customers on sales calls?

  • Which review sites do customers use and trust?

  • What are the most important factors that impact customer loyalty?


Engage internal teams

Bring teams across the organization into the ideation process in purposeful ways — without creating a free-for-all. For instance, ask the business development team how marketing can support partnerships. Or work with the hiring team to explore new ways to get the word out about open positions.

Questions to spark ideas:

  • What resources or tools can the marketing team help create for other teams?

  • Is there an area of the marketing plan that internal teams need to better understand?

  • Which marketing messages and topics resonate the most with internal teams? Do any cause confusion?


Crowdsource feedback

Creativity is not time-boxed. Many marketing teams use an ideas portal so that folks can submit their feedback and requests when the need is pressing. Even if you do not move forward with a request, it might prompt a related idea. You can also give submitters the ability to vote on each others' ideas to measure interest.

Questions to spark ideas:

  • Why do we think certain requests are most popular?

  • Which internal teams submit the most ideas?

  • What themes emerge across requests?


Assessing the value of new marketing ideas

Some ideas will be worth pursuing and others will need to be cut. The good thing is that you do not have to make arbitrary decisions. Let your marketing goals and initiatives guide you. Take a first pass at evaluating ideas by doing the following:

  • Enhance the ideas: Some of the requests you have collected will be incomplete. Take time to add a bit more description, think more deeply about feasibility, and combine related ideas.

  • Create categories: Organize ideas and requests by theme or persona so you can get a clear picture of numbers and trends.

  • Apply a score: Create a scorecard based on criteria like impact and effort so you can assess ideas against your goals. Scorecards make it easy to rank ideas based on their value.

Once you have reviewed all ideas, incorporate the top priority ideas and requests into your existing marketing roadmap. Connecting requests to the strategic goals and initiatives they serve demonstrates how the marketing team's work helps achieve business outcomes.

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