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Insights from the Tactical to the Strategic

Why Brainstorming Fails – and What To Do About It

Photo Credit: Ondine32 (License)

Content marketing might be about numbers, views, click-through rates, conversion rates, and buyer personas, but it's also very much a creative process. Producing content for B2B marketing — whether it's a blog, whitepaper, video, webinar, or infographic — begins with the most basic step: an idea.

For organizations running content marketing campaigns, brainstorming sessions are ideal for creating and targeting content. A group of company executives, marketing staff, salespeople, writers and designers throw ideas back and forth to explore what works and what doesn't.

On paper, it looks like a simple process that should work, but as Forbes points out, conventional brainstorming sessions are rarely the best solution for supporting innovation. The same article also mentions how Professor Richard Wiseman slammed brainstorming in his book, "59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot."

"Over 50 years of research shows that people often reach irrational decisions in groups ... and highly biased assessments of the situation," Wiseman wrote. "[Strong] willed people who lead group discussions can pressurise others into conforming, self-censorship and create an illusion of unanimity."

But does this mean that brainstorming sessions should be a thing of the past? Absolutely not.

While effectiveness may be compromised by a few people trying to one-up each other for the 'Best Idea Award,' the problem can be traced to a single glaring flaw: the lack of a brainstorming framework.

Free-flowing meetings may seem conducive to generating new and innovative ideas, but they're also prone to spirals of silence with a few loud people dominating the others. To prevent this problem, content marketing teams can benefit from a clear and comprehensive framework with instructions and criteria for choosing effective content ideas.

As an example, our friends at Akoonu suggest a five-layer framework that outlines specific steps and components for conceptualizing, creating, and targeting content assets.

The five-layer brief framework explained

The five-layer framework can serve as your content marketing team's guide for creating effective content, helping writers and designers, as well as marketing and sales teams to produce and leverage content assets effectively.

This brief framework introduces the five layers: business alignment, buyer relevance, goals, production details, and usage plan.

Business alignment

Content ideas must have a storyline, an audience focus, existing research materials from within the organization or from competitors, and a business objective (the goal for creating the content asset).

Objectives may include:

  • Brand building
  • Expertise and leadership demonstration
  • Pipeline development
  • Lead nurturing
  • Sales

Buyer relevance

Buyer relevance is about audience segmentation or creating content for specific parts of your target audience:

  • Market segment - Identifying industries or other niches
  • Buyer personas - Identifying specific types of buyers to maximize content effectiveness
  • Journey stage - Creating content for specific phases in the buyer's journey based on their needs, mindset, and goals
  • Journey stage need(s) - Identifying a buyer persona's specific need(s) to accomplish certain buying processes in the journey

Goals

Every content asset should revolve around a goal(s), otherwise it can be measured and evaluated for effectiveness. In Search

Engine Journal, Aaron Aglus outlines the most common content marketing goals:

  • Brand awareness
  • Driving traffic
  • Generating leads and sales
  • Turning leads to conversions (buyers)
  • Driving upsells

Production details

This layer gets into the nitty-gritty of the actual content creation process, helping teams decide on:

  • Content formats (e.g. whitepapers, articles, blogs, videos, and infographics)
  • Keywords
  • Targeted content for specific personas and buying stages
  • Production resources (e.g. writers, designers, and editors)
  • Citations our sources to be used in creating the content asset

Usage Plan

As the name suggests, this layer deals with how content will be leveraged by marketing and sales teams:

  • Channels for content distribution
  • Methods for promoting the content asset (e.g. social media, email, and PPC among others)
  • Campaigns to be used for leveraging content, such as SEO, PPC, and email marketing
  • Repurposing the asset through any number of ways

Conclusion

This tried and tested process of brainstorming content creation and targeting offers the structure you and your team members will need for truly effective ideation. Note that this framework does not impede the creative process, but rather streamlines content marketing, beginning with conceptualization, creation, targeting, execution, and, finally, reuse.

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