After 2009’s Business Marketing Association conference I posted an article admitting my initial skepticism about the event’s “Unlearn” theme. It never seemed like the right message to attract people to what should ideally be an incredible learning environment, particularly in the decimated conference marketplace last year.

The conference’s content, however, changed my mind about “Unlearn.” The presenters were so on-target in communicating the critical need to walk away from tired old marketing strategies and re-orienting ourselves as innovative marketers, the event’s theme suddenly made all the strategic sense in the world!

Because of last year’s experience, I’m eagerly anticipating the rich texture unfolding around this year’s “Engagement” theme for the BMA conference. While customer and employee engagement s a critically important concept, it teeters on the edge of becoming so over-used as to be rendered nearly meaningless.

Going in to this year’s BMA conference, “Engagement” speaks to me about a customer or employee’s emotional connection with a brand. It’s affiliation. It’s the preference that drives one to not just seek a brand out, but to want to expend additional personal resources (time, money, advocacy, etc.) on the brand.

That’s what I’m thinking today, before “BMA Engage” begins. My strategy is expand and re-shape this definition throughout the conference. Through the benefits of social media, you can challenge your perceptions on engagement too, even if you can’t be at the conference. So join us, and see what we all think about engagement at the conference’s conclusion on Friday! Mike Brown

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First day back from a long weekend, no one needs anything too heavy dumped in their lap. So here’s an easy strategic assignment.

Look at the list below. On the left side are typical left-brained, analytical skills. The right side includes the more classic right-brained, creative talents.

Review the list and pick out the skills you possess. For each one you don’t have, identify which close friend or team member you can easily reach out to for help who possesses the characteristic. For each item still without a name by it, set out to find someone over the next weeks and months to bring into your formal or informal strategic thinking (and doing) team to fill the gap.

Why should you do this? Because if you have a gap within your personal strategic team on any of these vital roles, you have real challenges ahead of you, if not already.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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For the second year in a row, The Brainzooming Group will be producing the social media content effort for the national Business Marketing Association Conference in Chicago which starts Wednesday afternoon, June 2 and runs through mid-day Friday, June 4.

The lineup of presenters includes:

You can download a copy of the conference brochure to get a better sense of what happens when throughout the three-day event.

Under the conference’s “Engage” theme, we’ll lead a team of great business marketing, communications, and social media professionals covering the conference through live tweeting, blogging, video, photography, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foursquare, among other things!

A wide array of social media efforts will provide a content-rich experience to both attendees and those who can only attend the BMA conference virtually. Our team will be adding to the conference by allowing you to:

  • Track Presenters and Presentations: All social media feeds from this stellar B2B learning event can be found at the conference’s Engage aggregator site. You can also track tweeting activity here or on the main Brainzooming page. The conference Twitter hashtag is #BMAEngage. We’ll also be using codes for specific sessions to focus the broad content.
  • Spread the Learnings: When you see information that resonates with you, share it with your own network through retweets and other social bookmarking.
  • Participate in LinkedIn Discussions in the BMAEngage Group: LinkedIn members are invited to join the BMAEngage group on LinkedIn. You’ll be able to participate in extended discussions with presenters and other group members on the B2B marketing topics addressed throughout the event.
  • Share Your Own Perspective on B2B Topics: We’ll be linking from the main site to B2B and other relevant marketing topics on the web. If you’d like to share your perspectives, leave a link to your blog post in the comments section here, and we’ll get related links shared on the conference website. You can also leave comments on the BMAEngage Facebook wall, in addition to checking out other attendees, discussions, events, and content about the conference.
  • Follow the Business Marketers Tweeting about the Conference: Through an online application called BlastFollow, you can follow everyone tweeting with the #BMAEngage hashtag. Simply go to the Blastfollow website, enter the conference hashtag (#BMAEngage), your twitter id and password, and BlastFollow does the rest.
  • Get the Full Conference Twitter Transcript: Visit What the Hashtag? to download a pdf file of tweets for the entire conference or any date range.

For those who are able to attend in person, there are even more ways to get engaged with social media effort:

  • Tweet with Us – Do your own live tweeting during the event using the #BMAEngage hashtag. When you do, there’s a great chance you’ll see your tweets on screens throughout the venue. We’ll be using the Wiffiti application from LocaModa to post tweets and share them with conference attendees.
  • Shoot Your Own Videos and Photos to Document the Conference – Just as with blog posts, we’re eager to have attendees share videos and images of presenters, other attendees, and the event. You can stop by the Engage Social Media Station to upload your videos and photos or send links to BMAEngage@gmail.com.
  • Check in on Foursquare (and Let’s All Get a Swarm Badge) – We’ve set up a FourSquare location specifically for BMAEngage at the Swissotel. Be sure to check-in daily, to let everyone (including your boss) know you’re present and accounted for with all the great sessions at BMAEngage.
  • Learn and Share Your Knowledge with the Social Media Team – The social media team is comprised of some great marketing, communications, and social media professionals. The conference provides a great opportunity to network, share best practices, and talk about new ideas on various topics. You’ll be able to pick out the social media team with our black “Engage” shirts throughout the conference.
  • Let Others Know You’re Engaged in Social Media – The social media team will have “Engage” buttons for anyone who’s tweeting, blogging, or creating other attendee-generated content. Simply stop by the Engage Social Media Station or hit up one of the social media team members for your button…once you engage in social media!
  • Join Us for a Pre-Conference Tweetup Tuesday Night – For anyone at the conference or in Chicago on Tuesday, just us for a Pre-Conference Social Media Tweetup at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 2. It will be at the Palm Restaurant in the Swissotel. Anyone at the conference and friends of the Brainzooming blog are welcome to join us!

Remember you can track the live tweeting activity below or on Twitter with the conference hashtag #BMAEngage and find all the conference’s social media feeds at the main website.  Get Engaged! – Mike Brown

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Last week, I attended a Kansas City Media Mix luncheon featuring Scott Jones, the CEO of ChaCha. ChaCha is a free, text-based question answering application; simply text a question to 242242, and you’ll receive an “answer” to your question, along with some type of targeted ad integrated into the text-based response.

Jones shared that the predominant audience for ChaCha is 17 to 23 years of age, reflecting the intense texting activity in this age segment. He cited a recent study showing 68% of teens identified texting as their preferred communication channel. In fact, based on the age distribution chart Jones showed, I might be the oldest known ChaCha user as it has become my trial application for a couple of weeks.

After asking several questions of ChaCha, you get a four-question text-based survey to understand your age, location, gender, and phone configuration. This set of questions allows ChaCha to start profiling you, and along with your question history, provide targeted advertising opportunities. This is where it appears ChaCha is generating its revenue, since competitor KGB charges 99 cents per question. Interestingly, Jones reported that ChaCha had a large spike in usage about 5 minutes after the Super Bowl ad KGB ran. He attributed this to people trying KGB while teens in the room suggested using the free ChaCha service.

Texting is obviously an area of interest for marketers, especially those trying to reach a young audience. Of 280 million mobile phone subscribers, 233 million have text capabilities, and 70% of marketers are currently using or plan to use mobile within marketing campaigns.

It’s a long holiday weekend, so if a question comes up and you’re stumped, text a question to ChaCha and see what you get. The answers I’ve received so far have been in the ballpark, but often miss the mark relative to the desired level of detail. But, hey, it’s free.

And just in case ChaCha doesn’t know when Brainzooming will publish a new post again, it will be Tuesday. See you then! – Mike Brown

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You’ll occasionally see an article or blog post questioning the value of brainstorming as a tool to generate and improve the quality of innovative business ideas. One criticism about the value of brainstorming usually stems from the “poor” efficiency of brainstorming techniques, since many ideas are generated which never get developed.

This misperception is fostered by “rules” shared at the start of most group brainstorming exercises stating “every idea is a good idea.” This guideline creates a false expectation that every idea shared in the brainstorming session is ultimately good or even implementable.

More accurately, this brainstorming rule sets up a period of divergent thinking. That’s when strong facilitators ensure a focus on generating the maximum number of ideas with minimal explanation and judging.

Ultimately though, judgment isn’t thrown out in brainstorming or innovation processes. It’s only suspended during a good divergent thinking session. The switch has to then be made to convergent thinking where ideas most certainly need to be judged. In practice, maybe 10% of the ideas survive for further consideration, and still fewer for implementation.

Sure the process can seem unruly and unproductive, but for anyone who’s tried to sit at a desk by themselves and think up innovative ideas, the value of brainstorming is clear, and it’s a tremendously beneficial processto use. – Mike Brown

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Is your organization challenged with new thinking and ideas that lead to successful business results? The Brainzooming Group and our tested approach to generating concepts you can act on successfully will quickly move you toward success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 for a free consultation on how to get started.





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A recent post highlighted strategies for creating an informal social media team within your organization to help carry out social media strategy.

Debra Feldman was nice enough to tweet a link but gave it the frown emoticon for not being applicable to solopreneurs. I promised to create a comparable list for individuals in business for themselves. Hopefully, these twenty strategies, based on experience with Brainzooming, will help those building their small businesses (or personal brands) more effectively manage social media.

Managing Your Presence

  • Select several social media platforms supporting your business strategy and objectives; concentrate your presence on these alone. You might have one location for content (i.e., a blog or micro-blog), a second for networking (maybe Twitter or LinkedIn), and a third for community interaction (Facebook or LinkedIn).
  • Divide social media time into 3 roughly equal parts – reading and monitoring social media in your topic area, commenting and participating on other peoples’ sites, and creating content for your own site. From this framework, decide how much time weekly you can invest on social media. Really work to stick to your time expectations.
  • Before blogging, determine how many times monthly you expect to blog. Pre-write that many posts to see if the frequency is viable and to build a month-long content cushion for when time is limited.
  • Choose creating and consistently delivering less content over wild swings in activity. Faithfully writing one blog post weekly and three tweets daily is better than three posts your first week with lots of Twitter activity then going silent for weeks.

Generating Content

  • Exploit your best communications talents aggressively in your social media effort. These might include article writing, headline writing, shooting video, illustrations, photos, etc.  Design a content strategy allowing you to use these talents to be as efficient in creating content as possible.
  • Write down at least two potential blog topic ideas daily where they’ll be available later as idea starters.
  • Cut your writing time and keep it short. You don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) write thousand word blog posts. Stick to one idea in a couple of hundred words.
  • Save tweets and comments you make on other blogs to use as the basis for blog posts.
  • Solicit material from your audience, providing a brief description of what type of content, topics, and format you’re seeking.
  • At a minimum, set up Google Alerts on relevant topics to create readily available content for sharing online.
  • Find an intern from a local university to assist your business in its social media strategy.

Promoting Your Presence

  • Use common hashtags and keywords to increase visibility and pass along mentions.
  • Place social media buttons on your blog to make it easy for readers to share your content within their own social networks.
  • Sync your various social media sites so one item feeds multiple platforms (i.e., send your tweet about a blog post to LinkedIn and Facebook automatically).
  • Offer simple, fun give-aways to your audience to incent participation in commenting, retweeting, social bookmarking, etc.
  • Take time to write a brief bio and company overview for use on every social media site. Use a service such as KnowEm.com to secure your identity on many platforms, with links back to your main sites.
  • Create an informal network of friends (onine and IRL) with relevant networks and agree to tweet about each others’ work.

Continuous Improvement

  • Attend in-person or webinar training on effectively and efficiently using social media applications to build business.
  • Identify someone within your network who is more knowledgeable or efficient at social media than you. After figuring out how to use your best talents to help them, offer to trade for regular help (i.e., tips) on your social media effort.
  • Do at least an informal ROI assessment – is your social media effort generating the type and volume of business results that make your time investment worthwhile?

There are certainly many other ideas and technical approaches you can use to be more efficient in your social media implementation. What things have you tried that are working for you?  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can develop an integrated social media strategy for your brand.

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Want to manage meetings and group business discussions more effectively?

One effective strategy is to put a time limit on meeting discussions and use a timer to stick to the allotted time.

We do this in collaborative Brainzooming™ sessions all the time. While participants usually make fun of the beeping kitchen timer, invariably by the end of a strategy session, they appreciate that our facilitation approach allowed us to stay on time and accomplish what we intended.

Often I’ll hear, as I did in a recent instance, the management team we worked with suggesting it start using a timer in its own business conversations, even when Brainzooming isn’t around.

Just one caution to employing this time limiting strategy successfully: the entire Brainzooming process is built around techniques and exercises that are highly effective at rapidly generating and refining ideas from group discussions. So if a timer is bringing discussions to timely stop, but you’re not getting as much as you need from the conversation, let us know. We can help you by Brainzooming through the time much more efficiently and effectively. – Mike Brown

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