I’ve used the tools I’m about to share with you to help organizations in many different industries around the world achieve amazing improvements in their marketing results. You may be familiar with some of these techniques, but after reading this blog, I hope you’ll have a new appreciation for them as they apply to your marketing strategies!
One of the most important tools I use when starting a new marketing project is sometimes called “idea mapping” or “mind mapping.” It’s one of my favorite creativity tools and it always helps me get inspired. Idea mapping is a simple technique you use to capture and organize your thoughts and ideas visually on a page.
Idea maps are especially helpful when you are brainstorming for new and creative ideas. Here’s how you can get started…
Take out a blank piece of paper (use paper without lines because lines can restrict the natural flow of your thoughts). Turn the paper lengthwise, with the long side of the paper at the top.
Next, in the center of the page, draw an image or print the words that represent the main theme, concept, or topic that you want to brainstorm. For example, you might start with “what ideas for new products?” or “How to sell product X?”
State it in the form of a question, using the words “who,” “how,” “what,” or “why” if possible. Leave plenty of white space for you to lay out the rest of your map. I like to have a few colored pens available too, because color stimulates the brain and helps capture attention.
At first your idea maps might be pretty simple, branches with lines and a few words. That’s okay. Because the more you practice this method, the more creative you’ll become, and the more you’ll discover idea mapping to be a fast way to capture and generate new ideas. It also helps you create new connections between your ideas and concepts.
When it comes to idea mapping, a picture really is worth a 1000 words! Images stimulate the brain to think up new associations, and focus your thoughts, resulting in much better recall of the content at a later date. So use pictures to represent your ideas. They can be simple stick figures, sketches, symbols…whatever makes sense to you. Because your brain works by association, visually connecting the main branches to your central topic helps you link those elements in your brain.
The main branch words and images stimulate other thoughts and associations. They allow the random flow of your thoughts as you add other levels to your map. So make the lines from the central topic thicker, curved and “organic” (like the branch of a tree attached to the trunk) to help organize your sub-themes.
Now try adding a secondary level of thought. Link these words and/or images back to the main branch that inspired them. Continue to add more branches (levels of thought) as ideas come to you. Feel free to jump from branch to branch as the mood strikes you. Remember, it’s your idea map so you can use any of the following to create it:
shapes, boxes, circles
If you’re not already using idea maps or mind maps as part of your creative process, I strongly encourage you to start using this tool in meetings, sales presentations, and of course, when you’re planning your marketing strategies.
Although I started by drawing out most of my idea maps, now I also use mind-mapping software called “MindManager” from https://www.mindjet.com/. There are several others too, but don’t think that you have to run out and get this software right away. It’s just as effective if you start out using just pen and paper – the goal is to open your mind and expand your creativity. Give it a try and I’m sure you’ll quickly see how idea mapping can help you and your team!
I’ve already explained how idea mapping can help your brainstorming efforts, but here are a few quick points to keep in mind about the actual brainstorming session itself. For maximum results and openness to the creative process, there are a few rules you need to adhere to for successful brainstorming.
Set a time frame for your session; generally the shorter the better (like 15 to 30 minutes max.). The goal of brainstorming is to collect as many ideas as possible from participants, without criticism or judgments while ideas are being offered.
All ideas must be welcome, no matter how silly or far out they might seem. The goal is to be creative; not brilliant. The more ideas gathered the better, because at this point no one knows what might (or might not) work.
Allow absolutely no discussion during a brainstorming session. Stopping the creative flow to talk about ideas being offered should take place after the brainstorming session is over. Don’t criticize or judge the ideas! Seriously, don’t allow groans, frowns, or laughs. If you do, it can make participants less willing to offer input and hampers the creative process. Write all ideas on a flipchart or white dry erase board so the entire group can see them.
Here’s a final great tip: If you’re in an organization that’s had trouble with brainstorming in the past (because of egos or office politics), or if you’ve had trouble in getting a large list of ideas, I suggest you send out a memo before the meeting outlining the main brainstorming topic or question.
Ask participants to print their ideas on paper as a requirement of attending the meeting, or you can use post-it notes during the brainstorming so people can offer ideas anonymously.
Let’s talk about making your final selections. Once all the ideas have been recorded, combine similar ideas as much as possible to reduce any redundancy. Next, vote to select the best three to five ideas from the session.
Hopefully by now you’ll see the important role creativity and free thinking plays in improving your mindset as well as your business. If you’re not already using it, try idea mapping (or mind mapping) and good old-fashioned brainstorming to stimulate your thought processes!
For more examples and ideas on indea and mind mapping, check out Ford’s “Internet Profit Kit for Information Marketers: 101 Proven Tactics & Tools You Can Use to Build Your Business” at https://www.internetprofitkit.com/.