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I mentioned in an earlier article how the Gas Can event on June 24, 2016 was “half empty” at best. After the event, I posted on Facebook about how difficult it is, once you’ve produced events, to sit in the audience and not re-produce an event with major production problems.

While writing an article poking holes in the Gas Can program would be easy, however, it wouldn’t have much value for you.

Instead, how about a list of 14 event marketing strategy questions you can use the next time you or your organization plan an event? It’s one way of passing along our conference production experience and lessons to all of you.

14 Event Marketing Strategy Questions You NEED to Ask Early

Gas-Can-Crowd

If you’re planning a conference, ask all of these questions in plenty of time to do something about them!

  1. Have you seen the speakers you’re putting on stage?
  2. If you haven’t seen all of the speakers, have you at least seen some of them to know where to place the strongest speakers?
  3. For the speakers you haven’t seen, do you have an idea of what they are planning to speak about so you can arrange them in a way that there is continuity (and not a violent and uncomfortable swing in tone and subject) between each segment?
  4. To boost networking, have you designed name tags so peoples’ names and companies are bigger than the event name (since people know where they are, but don’t necessarily know other people)?
  5. Have you planned to start the event with your second biggest moment?
  6. Have you planned to end the event with your biggest moment (especially if you’re planning a next event in this series of events)?
  7. Have you made it easy for attendees to create and share social media content about the event?
  8. If you’re attempting to create a legitimately curated event (meaning you are deliberately challenging the audience’s patience and tolerance for variety in disparate segments), have you figured out how to provide a few cues to tie the pieces together so attendees don’t walk away feeling as if the program was a random jumble?
  9. Have you scheduled a rehearsal and made sure you’re absolutely confident with what and how every speaker is going to do (and whether every presenter should still be on the agenda)?
  10. Have you made sure you have a monitor in the front of the stage so presenters don’t have to keep turning away from the audience to see what the current slide is?
  11. Have you satisfied yourself that presenters have strong enough diction, volume, and speaking styles so the audience will be able to understand what they are saying throughout their presentations?
  12. Have you tested the sound system well in advance and made sure it will work for all the elements of your program?
  13. Do you have someone knowledgeable about the sound system and the venue running the sound?
  14. Is the stage lit properly so the audience can see (and photograph for social sharing) both the presenter and the slides

Yes, you need to be able to answer “Yes” to all these event marketing strategy questions. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Following our post on the tenth anniversary of the Brainzooming strategic planning methodology, the guys at Armada Corporate Intelligence, who were an important part of developing and testing the process, wrote a companion article. They highlighted 5 keys to streamlining strategic planning based on how we implemented the Brainzooming process as a contrast to traditional (and slow) strategic planning techniques.

In an edited excerpt, here is what they shared in their Inside the Executive Suite column about streamlining strategic planning.

5 Keys to Streamlining Strategic Planning

Planning-Meeting

Most executives can’t write a strategy plan, so don’t make them

We hit this challenge repeatedly. Executives that SHOULD know how to develop and write a strategic plan struggled. Since strategy planning is an infrequent activity, it is difficult for executives to master it. We learned that if we asked executives a series of questions leading to the information needed to complete a strategy plan,  they became productive strategy planners.

Strategy Implication: Remove the tedious aspects of strategy planning, replacing them with efficient alternative approaches. This implies focusing participants on contributing in ways that they can be most productive.

The number and types of participants are critical to developing a strong plan

A marketing manager is generally the expert on a particular product line. That doesn’t mean, however, it works best for him or her to close the door and spend weeks trying to write a marketing plan individually. To compress the time spent planning, we assembled multiple people with important, yet perhaps more narrow perspectives on a product line, to participate. The collaborative approach created more thorough and vetted plans. Involving more people turned weeks of solo work into a one-day collaboration to prepare a strategy plan.

Strategy Implication: Adding more people is only part of the equation. The right mix of participants must include three perspectives: front-line people, functional experts (i.e., finance, operations, market research), and innovators (people that look at business situations differently). This combination, typically accomplished with five-to-ten people, leads to a stronger strategy.

A strategy plan should be integral to daily business activities

One problem with strategic planning is it often seems completely separate from other activities. The plan includes big ideas, statements, and expectations beyond anything an organization will ever do. It summarizes the strategy in jargon foreign to daily business conversations. We instead developed a process built around facilitating conversations among people with a big stake in company performance. This leads to a realistic focus on implementing what matters for business success within the plan.

Strategy Implication: By building strategy planning around collaborative conversations, the plan input sounds just like how people in the organization talk. The ideas incorporated into the plan also come from within the organization and aren’t dropped into it by (an ultimately) disinterested outsider. It speeds understanding, acceptance, and rapid implementation of a strategic viewpoint and plan.

Creative thinking exercises generate ideas, not facts

We adapted the strategy planning process to develop major account sales plans. This switch supported a program aligning sales activities for the company’s largest accounts. Despite similarities, a sales planning workshop’s success depended tremendously on how knowledgeable the sales participants were. While creative thinking exercises help generate new ideas, it became clear that creativity couldn’t help a salesperson without key facts (e.g., knowing the decision maker) generate answers.

Strategy Implication: Document as many needed facts as possible BEFORE assembling a group to collaborate on plan building. Use online surveys, focused fact-finding exploration, and pre-session homework to establish basic information. This is vital since nothing shuts down a planning session as quickly as the absence of key facts no one can credibly address.

There are multiple ways to complete a strategy plan

With an internal department driving the rapid planning approach we used, there was no built-in bias to require a complex set of planning steps. Everyone benefitted by simplifying the process as much as possible. In fact, our approach was to use everything the internal client had already completed that would move planning ahead more quickly. Instead of using a static process requiring internal clients to adapt, our process adapted to what worked best for the internal clients and the business.

Strategy Implication: There are many ways to develop and complete a strategy plan. The overall steps are basically the same for a corporate strategy, a marketing plan, or a functional area’s priority setting. Recognizing that, there is significant flexibility to vary planning steps to accommodate an organization’s ability to develop and execute a strategy. For the sake of efficiency, we did insist in every case that we would time-constrain planning activities and manage conversations to keep things out of the weeds. This ensured everything we did was adding new insights and material to complete the final plan. – Armada Corporate Intelligence

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Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Last Friday’s Gas Can Creative Conference sponsored by AAF-KC (American Advertising Federation – Kansas City) was a half-empty gas can, at best. While there were a few presentations and ideas to stimulate our creative thinking skills, there were far too few for an all-day event. We’ll turn the event’s downsides into a positive later in the week.

3 Creative Thinking Skills Ideas from Gas Can 2016

Today, here are three valuable creative thinking skills ideas no matter where your creative community is located.

Gas-Can-Sign

Push for Absurd Ideas

Stefan Mumaw, Director of Creative Strategy at Hint, shared a creative thinking exercise in a morning break segment. He gave us three minutes to imagine what might be part of a Swiss Army knife designed especially for a pirate. After finishing the creative thinking exercise, he asked us who had more than 50% of ideas that were absurd. Stefan defined an absurd idea as something that would definitely not fit in a Swiss Army Knife. Perhaps 30-40% of the audience had raised their hands. His point was you have to get to absurd ideas to sufficiently stretch your creative thinking. Being able to pull back after going full-on absurd will reveal innovative ideas that are actually possible to do.

Creative Thinking Skills Idea:

Stefan used a different path to get to the extreme creativity approach we use: pushing beyond conventional boundaries to find new thinking with near-term possibilities. We typically start by picking the most conventional ideas, however, and blowing them out to extremes. I’ll be including a modification to our extreme creativity approach based on Stefan’s exercise, however, and suggesting we also grab already absurd ideas as a starting point for extreme creativity.

Icky Brand Pairings

Joe Cox, Engagement Director at Barkley, shared a creative thinking exercise comparable to Julie Cottineau’s Brand Twist exercise where you take two brands, put them together, and imagine new possibilities. Joe also recommended pairing your brand with various others brand to see what unique ideas emerge. Beyond simply using familiar, popular, or naturally aligned brands, however, Joe urged us to use extreme and challenging brands, too. What would new ideas emerge when your brand is paired with the NRA, a cigarette maker, or an extreme political candidate (since we have no shortage of those)?

Creative Thinking Skills Idea:

I love the idea of pushing the brand comparison beyond Nike, Apple, and Starbucks. Getting paired with an icky brand can lead to incredible ideas to offset all the negatives that would follow. Which of the powerful customer experience ideas to offset your brand’s affiliation would be great ideas even if you aren’t saddled with an icky brand partner?

Make Decisions Faster

Fast-decisions-Gunderson

Seth Gunderson, Creative Director at Sullivan Higdon and Sink, explored the way to cultivate better creativity and decision making. Seth’s presentation, titled “You’re either IN or you’re OUT or you’re MAYBE,” demonstrated how easy it is to make one-off decisions (Puppies – In or Out? Donald Trump – In or Out?) and how hard it is when there are multiple options. His advice was “we will create better work if we make decisions faster.” Seth suggested the way to better decisions is making them in the morning, after getting fresh air, and making sure to have a full stomach along with an empty bladder.

Creative Thinking Skills Idea:

There’s an early Brainzooming blog post on forcing decisions between one thing or another. Deliberately setting up decisions as “Yes” or “No” options is a good reminder. It’s very easy to get very complex and subtle in presenting options. While in/out decision making won’t always be appropriate, it’s probably appropriate in more situations than I ever think about using it.

Those weren’t all the valuable creative ideas. Each of these, though, is easy to overlook yet powerful in its impact! – Mike Brown

 

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creative Thinking Skills by “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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On Friday, June 17th, I was in Curaçao, located just north of Venezuela, to present a ¾ day workshop on social media and content marketing strategy for the Curaçao Tourist Board. Angelo Harms, the CTB’s digital marketing manager, was a great host and arranged the content marketing strategy workshop for eighty social media professionals in the island’s travel and hospitality industry.

Curacao Workshop Pic 2

For everyone that attended the workshop (and for those of you that weren’t there), here are links to much of the content I presented, plus a number of bonus topics I would have included given another day of teaching time!

The workshop and the entire trip generated a lot of questions, learnings, and lessons. Look for a variety of blogged posts planned for the near future to share more about content marketing, branding, and customer service learned going to and from this wonderful island.

If you’re looking for a new, warm, colorful, photogenic place to vacation, you owe it to yourself to visit Curaçao!

43 Resources for Strategic Branding and Engagement with Social Media and Content Marketing

Linking Business Objectives to Social and Content Marketing

Curacao Cover

Creating Fantastic Branded Content

Boosting Productivity as a Small Solo Social Media Department

Mike Brown

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I was talking with an executive charged with implementing an innovation strategy for a new company initiative. While the business objectives and expectations are lofty, the budget available to fund the innovation strategy has disappeared. The company pulled the funding because of a soft business environment and quarterly earnings pressure.

I suspect this isn’t the only such case out there like this right now.

As many companies near the end of the quarter, discretionary budgets are often scrutinized much more closely than business objectives. Budget dollars disappear, but expectations for innovation and growth remain.

16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

If you’re facing a comparable situation, you’ll want our new Brainzooming eBook, 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy.

Accelerate-Cover

Accelerate features sixteen strategic thinking questions to expand your possibilities for finding ways to move ahead with your innovation strategy even if your available dollars have disappeared.

And another great thing about Accelerate, especially if you really have no budget? It’s a free Brainzooming eBook!

You can use the strategic thinking questions in Accelerate to identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy.

Accelerate is the first in a new series of eBooks we’ll be releasing in the coming months to help you work around common barriers to business innovation.

Download Accelerate today. You can use it to surprise your organization with your ability to keep things going with your innovation strategy EVEN IF people and dollars evaporate mid-year! – Mike Brown

 

Find New Resources to Innovate!

FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It’s always incredible to work directly with Brainzooming blog readers in supporting their companies’ innovation strategy objectives.

Last week, we presented a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a Brainzooming reader who leads the national sales division of a global industrial manufacturer. We integrated the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop into their annual sales meeting. Our going-in plan for the five-hour workshop was to interactively share and practice Brainzooming creative thinking exercises the sales, marketing, and engineering team could use to expand customer opportunities in new ways.

While we did that, an early exercise during the strategic thinking workshop shaped the rest of the day.

creative-thinking-workshop

An exercise on adopting different creative perspectives to see previously overlooked business opportunities prompted an extensive discussion about a specific client situation that was stalled. The exercise uncovered how multiple team members have relationships with the account in question plus another related account influencing the first account’s purchase behavior. This was a brand new insight for the team overall. As one participant noted, “The discussion was helpful and revealed some blind spots in my thinking. I realized there are tools and resources available that I’m not using.”

Based that conversation’s impact, we talked with our client and modified the workshop approach. We eased up on our aggressive time schedule to allow more time to discuss current client opportunities and issues throughout the day. The result was we took deeper dives throughout the strategic thinking workshop, using Brainzooming exercises to develop solutions for specific current business issues.

13 Unexpected Benefits of a Strategic Thinking Workshop

Given that unexpected, real time change in our approach, we were eager to review the participant evaluations to identify other “unexpected” benefits the group realized from the strategic thinking workshop. Their answers grouped into three areas:

Benefit 1 – Applicability to Work Situations

  • The work was practical for our jobs.
  • Generates good new solutions to challenging situations.
  • The use of different vantage points to see new prospects.
  • New techniques for generating ideas on penetrating accounts.

Benefit 2 – New Learnings

  • How similar the challenges are (within our company’s different areas).
  • (Discovering) how we work in parallel (within our team) but not together at times.
  • Recognizing breaking down big ideas (and) challenges into smaller pieces.

Benefit 3 – Ways to Generate Creative Ideas

  • It pulls lots of ideas in a small amount of time.
  • The idea of thinking extreme first and bringing the concepts back to a possible scenario was great.
  • Ideas about outrageous and scary ideas.
  • Lots of new ideas to facilitate creative and strategic thinking.
  • (The) ability to unlock my creative though process.
  • Very interactive with the audience – makes for a great/fun workshop.

If you have responsibility for a sales and marketing team’s development and you are seeking comparable creative thinking benefits, contact us.

We’d love to customize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop to advance your team’s real world strategic and creative thinking skills! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Based on several stories last week extolling the benefits of being “lazy” when it comes to innovation strategy, you would think the LAZY days of summer are here a few weeks early (at least in the northern hemisphere).

Lazy is hardly a sentiment you typically associate with innovation strategy, which is why these articles caught my eye.

Execution, a bias for action, and trying lots of things and failing fast are all descriptors you are much more likely to employ when describing a successful innovation strategy.

Yet, consider these stories. In one way or another, each suggests the advantages of laziness when it comes to trying new things, especially acquisitions.

4 Examples Where NOT Acting Might Be a Smarter Innovation Strategy

Stop-Sign

“Dollar General’s Buck Goes Far” by Steven Russolillo in the Wall Street Journal highlights how Dollar General seems to have come out the stronger player for being on the outside looking in as competitor Dollar Tree acquired Family Dollar Stores in a $9 billion deal. The story recounts typical post-acquisition issues (integration takes longer than planned, cultures and business styles don’t match up, risks are more significant than expected) to explain while Dollar General is stronger for not making a major acquisition.

Another Wall Street Journal article from Dan Gallagher, “Focus Is In, Scale Is Out for Tech Giants” recounts how tech giants Microsoft and HP are both unwinding acquisitions. The individual deals were originally characterized for each company as an important part of its growth and innovation strategy. Microsoft is shuttering most of its $7 billion Nokia acquisition as it lays off more than 1,800 people from its smartphone division. HP is merging its service business with Computer Sciences Corp., as it gets out of the $13.9 billion business it acquired from EDS. Within the fast moving tech sector, these deals once looked critical for scale, but now are seen as inhibiting agility and the flexibility to move with the market.

Finally, in a seemingly far afield example, George Varga interviewed musician, Billy Joel for the San Diego Union Tribune. The thrust of the article was that Joel, who hasn’t released a recording of new pop songs since 1993, has little interest in writing or recording new songs. This extends to the classically-oriented pieces he finds more creatively intriguing. Joel is hardly hurting from his blatant strategy to NOT create new material. Instead, he’s using his catalog of hit songs as a cash cow, grossing $31.7 in concert revenue in 2015 from playing just 30 shows. Twelve of those were in New York at Madison Square Garden.

You generally think of a successful innovation strategy as leading to doing new things and pushing boundaries.

Maybe when developing an innovation strategy, however, it’s worth a quick check to see if doing nothing MIGHT be the best answer after all. – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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