It’s easy to confuse the notion of having an idea with the mere inkling of one. This is why the “everyone has ideas” cliché is so prevalent. An idea requires a fully formed thought, one which has considered at least a few variables, has a goal, and can be logically presented. A good idea lies at the core of every inbound marketing campaign, so it’s essential that you start with the best foundation.
Pop quiz! Which of the following statements can be classified as an idea?
A) I want to write something about inbound marketing.
B) I want to write a 2 page blog post which details and analyzes 3 inbound marketing challenges (time, definition/tracking, marketing-sales alignment) with real world examples from Coca-Cola, Shopify, and Kraft.
Option A is merely a statement of intent. Option B is technically a statement of intent as well, but it is also a specific idea with an end-goal in mind. Option B can be further expanded of course, but at some point you’d be jumping from the idea to the planning stage.
It’s not easy to come up with ideas that others will value. Despite this, there are many ways of fostering creativity, and I’ve listed the best ones below.
You definitely need to focus on your selected topic or issue, but don’t work yourself into a hopeless corner of despair. Inspiration can come from literally anywhere. If you’re struggling to come up with an idea that will jump start your inbound campaign, feel free to ponder related and unrelated concepts with the goal of linking them back to your inbound efforts.
The purpose of such an exercise is twofold: i) to get your brain fired up and to get those creative juices flowing, and, ii) to give yourself some breathing room in order to prevent jadedness from focusing on a sole issue.
Ever had a conversation which left you and the other person stranded in no man’s land (aka awkward silence)? A simple solution to this problem is to get the other person talking by asking them something. Everyone’s passionate about something, and you never know where the conversation could go.
Let’s say you’re tasked with creating a video about Google Analytics but aren’t sure how to approach it. Ponder what you would want to get out of this content, and consider what others would like to see as well. Questions spur discussions and thoughts, so don’t be afraid of posing them. The same notion applies to you and your mind.
Tomato + Potato = TomTato
If you can’t come up with anything new, try innovating. Whoa, whoa, slow down, I said innovate. Innovation is often misused in reference to the creation of something completely new, but that’s not exactly what the term stands for.
As a matter of fact, Google’s dictionary defines innovation as “[To] make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” Don’t shy away from attempting to combine previously successful ideas. You may end up with something “new” (like a TomTato) and of value which may pave the way for fresh inbound strategies.
Create a Visual Outline
Humans tend to be visual learners, so make sure to use that trait to your advantage. Create a web or flowchart that starts with your main focus and branches into a variety of thoughts and concepts. This may help you visually pinpoint your struggles or a potential idea.
A visual demonstration of your thoughts can also help break the monotony of being locked away with your mind. Furthermore, creating a visual outline can release some of the stress or anxiety born from the struggle to come up with an idea.
Come up with some awful ideas. Seriously! If you can come up with something that shouldn’t exist, you can probably find way to fix it. This approach may even lead to you inspire and motivate yourself! Be careful with this method though, you don’t want to waste time and end up convincing yourself that a bad idea is great.
Do Your Research
Your understanding of the topic will dictate your ability to come up with reasonable ideas. Sure, you could always make things up as you go along, but you can also pour boiling water on your face. It would be great if you were an expert on everything, but the viability of that is nonexistent. However, this shouldn’t discourage you from doing your research! Ultimately, you have to accept your own level of knowledge in order to recognize how you can work with it. Feelings of inadequacy or discomfort will hinder your creativity.
By the way, it’s really easy to post online in the digital age, so your audience will have a high sensitivity to fluff. Avoid attempting to sound like an expert when you’re not; you’ll end up with an egg on your face. Transparency is important to inbound marketing since one of its goals is to connect customers with the brand.
Mix Your Views Up
Every person has a unique pool of experience and their own way of approaching situations. It’s easy to get stuck with familiar patterns, but this will lock your creative potential. Consider how someone else might approach the problem you’re dealing with, and ask yourself why.
For instance, if you’re a Pepsi marketing exec, it would be fruitful to think about how Coca-Cola may attempt to meet your challenges. Be sure not to limit yourself to only thinking like your competitors; you may find that the right attitude or idea can come from pretty much anyone (even from someone you might have little interest in!).
Bonus Tip: Nothing is Perfect
Don’t spend too much time patting yourself on the back since improvement is eternal. “Timeless ideas” ideas are never truly timeless, they are highly adaptable to ever-evolving environments.
For instance, the way your company encourages product reviews through social media may be currently effective, but there’s no guarantee that your methods will work in a year or two. Always try to stay one step ahead of yourself (and others) in all of your inbound marketing efforts. There is zero room for complacency. All ideas can be improved at some point or another, and your competitors will overtake you if you’re not careful.
It’s not necessarily true that everyone has ideas. However, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring your creativity and applying it to your inbound strategies. The key to unlocking your creative potential lies in your ability to start with the right mentality, and to explore the unknown. Always give yourself the best chance of success.
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