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After compiling yesterday’s list of your Top 10 favorite (i.e., most-viewed) new Brainzooming posts from 2014, here are my favorites.

As is often the case, there are stories behind these posts. Sometimes the stories are contained in the posts, sometimes they are not. Nevertheless, there are some overlooked gems in this list (if I do say so myself), that you will enjoy if you didn’t catch hem the first time around in 2014!

Strategy and Creative Thinking – My Favorite Brainzooming Posts for 2014

Strategic Planning Exercises – Have you tried a Zoomference yet? 

This recounts a fun content marketing success story. The original story covering how we use our online collaboration platform to work with teams spread out across multiple locations prompted a two-year Brainzooming reader to contact us. Over a few hours, we put together a strategic plan for her organization that set the stage for 2015.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Identifying Left Field Competitors

I love when questions during workshops turn into blog posts. This competitive strategy post was the answer to a question at the Compete through Service Symposium on how you can push your organization to better imagine surprising competitors.

Left-Field-Fenway

What to Blog About – 11 Buying Process Questions for Blog Topics

Some blog posts are written to share what we’re trying to improve upon in our own business. While content marketing has been a significant part of expanding The Brainzooming Group, we have work to do on linking our content to the steps potential clients are going through in selecting strategy and innovation partners.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Taking Risks with a Live Audience

This post recounts a live experiment that showed why using different types of strategic thinking questions changes what types of answers you’ll get. While I was confident the experiment would work, the possibility that I could have failed is what made it exciting to throw in to a live presentation as an unplanned exercise!

Creating Strategic Impact – Challenge and Change

It seems like there are a few posts similar to this every year, where someone on Facebook or Twitter supplies the missing piece to turn a random idea into a fully realized thought. This was my favorite example from this year, as we teamed up to define what “lle” stands for when it comes to positive change.

Strategic Planning – 10 Signs of a Strategic Planning Meeting Nightmare

I love this Halloween-oriented GEICO ad because it skewers the improbability of horror films. At the same time, though, it’s a great analogy for the bad judgment you find in organizations that stick with the same old strategic planning approaches instead of trying something new – such as how The Brainzooming Group approaches developing strategy!

Strategic Thinking Questions – 3 Questions for New Website Design

This strategic thinking exercise to help in designing a new website went from being used in a meeting on a project we were working on to a blog post in less than twenty-four hours. I love when that happens!

Strategic Thinking – Andy Warhol and Practicing What You Preach

I’ve been carrying this Andy Warhol quote around with me since writing a paper on him for a high school “Modern Thought” class with Fr. Gilmary Tallman. I couldn’t believe it had taken this long to share it in the blog post. There just aren’t that many ideas I still have kicking around from back then that haven’t found a way into the blog yet.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – A New Type of Big Focus Group

This one is a favorite because of the event, the event’s co-sponsor (Nature Explore, an organization where I’m on the board), and the opportunity to create a self-facilitated focus group of well over one hundred people. And what’s even better is we just reached an agreement to close the 2015 Leadership Institute with another full-audience, self-facilitated strategic thinking exercise.

Nature-Explore-Session

Brand Strategy, Airplane Talk and Rolling in the Aisles

The story of the funniest plane flight I’ve had in years, courtesy of my new friend, Ahava Leibtag. By the time I’d try to explain it, this would be as long as the post. Just click and read it!

Strategic Thinking – Using Caution with Business Content

This post with a recommended disclaimer that should go on all (or at least most) business blog posts is perhaps the truest post ever on the Brainzooming blog.

Strategic Thinking – When to Fix a Business Process that’s Never Failed?

This is a favorite because of the photo. I took a photo of an automated trashcan at the Atlanta airport thinking it would come in handy one day for a blog post about throwing something away. There is the big lesson: Always be taking photos that might fit into future blog posts. ALL THE TIME.

Creative Thinking – The 25 Stages in Creating a New Presentation

Okay, maybe THIS is the truest Brainzooming post ever. Even though I KNOW these steps, I cannot seem to avoid them EVERY TIME I prepare a new presentation.

Creative Thinking Exercises – Change and Grow Constantly

I like this post because it reminds me of things we did during live workshops that, if not for the post, would have been lost to me even just a few months later. A reminder to take better notes on what we do rather than just committing it to memory!

Life Lesson – Living Your Life and Dying Exactly the Same

This one is very personal. It started life as a blog post about a former co-worker’s life (and death). When I actually wove the story into a presentation about Aligning Your Life’s Work, I wasn’t sure I’d get through the story without crying. Emotions are a challenge for me. To have a story that forces me to deal with emotions during a presentation says it’s an important message.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – A Sex Tip to Boost Strategic Thinking

It’s about sex. And what about that photo?

The 4-Step Career Advice Nearly Everyone Ignores

This is the best, most widely applicable advice I have to offer. And yes, it is also the most-ignored advice I offer when people ask for career advice. That alone puts it on this list of my favorite posts: it’s full of unrealized value just waiting for you to do something about it!

Creative Idea: Jimmy Fallon Turns Brian Williams into a Rapper’s Delight

This one required very little creativity from me, but it’s likely my most-viewed Brainzooming post from the year because Brian Williams doing Rapper’s Delight is a scream!

Social Media Disclaimer: Coming Clean on Humble Brag Social Sharing

This one isn’t a favorite for the written story as much as the untold story behind the two pictures of Kate Jackson and me snuggled up. I always liked the smartest Angel best, I have to admit.

Here’s hoping you enjoy some of these favorites from 2014!

Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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When it comes to what to blog about, a solid way to improve the returns from business blogging are to addressing typical buying process questions among your blog topics.

What can you blog about to help potential customers explore what they need to consider, know, understand, and do to make successful purchases in your product or service category?

11 Buying Process Questions for Blog Topics

Each brand will have its own list of business blog topics that align to the buying process. To get you started in exploring what to blog about, here are eleven buying process questions as a head start.

Questions-Dollars

During Initial Exploration

  • What are things I should know about the product category, but might easily overlook?
  • Why are certain product features more important than others to get the desired benefits?
  • Is there one place where I can get all the information on trends, how-tos, and other important facts for this product category?
  • When is this product category going to be the most important, beneficial, or valuable for me?

Seeking More Information

  • What are case studies that show how these products are being used in new and successful ways?
  • Is there anything important I should know about the various providers in this category?

Making Product Comparisons

  • What are important buying criteria to explore for these products?
  • Are there short cuts I can take in looking at all the products out there on the market?
  • Does anyone have a graphic that shows all the important features, performance levels, and benefits of all the choices?

Justifying the Product Recommendation or Decision

  • If I spend more on a product that promises bigger benefits, how will I justify that investment?
  • Are there any tools to evaluate the benefits of making the right product selection?

Buying Process Questions Have to Be Handled Well

You can’t simply answer these questions with a sales pitch in your blog and expect to be successful.

But if you do everything else it takes to get your content seen AND you handle these topics honestly, authentically, and in an even-handed fashion, you can help potential customers through buying decisions that ideally lead to choosing your brand. – Mike Brown

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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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If you’ve participated in our Brainzooming presentations or workshops on social media strategy, content marketing, brand strategy, or even strategic thinking, you’ve likely heard a recommendation to read “Made to Stick,” the 2007 book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath (affiliate link). The primary message of “Made to Stick” is certain ideas ARE “made to stick” through what the Heath’s characterize as a SUCCES

Applying Made to Stick to Social Media Strategy

Made-To-StickSUCCES is an acronym for six principles to help ideas resonate and stay with their intended audiences.

Slightly rearranged here, the underlying principles behind SUCCES are:

  • Stories
  • Unexpected
  • Credible
  • Concrete
  • Emotional
  • Simple

For an updated “Doing New with Less” workshop for a Transportation Marketing and Sales Association bootcamp next week, we are creating a social media module linking the SUCCES formula to social media strategy and stronger content marketing for an organization.

Here are some previous social media strategy links that support the “Made to Stick” framework:

Stories

Unexpected

Credible

Emotional

Simple

BTW, if you are in transportation, logistics, or simply want to get a strong overview on marrying stronger creativity with smaller marketing budgets, there is still time to register for the TMSA Marketing Bootcamp in Chicago. You can get all the details and register at the TMSA website. – Mike Brown

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           (Affiliate Link) 

“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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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Data about your website is great.

Data patterns related to your website are even better.

Having big data to tell you how people react to different scenarios and situations on your website is the best yet.

When you are just launching a website, however, you may not have any data.

When that’s the case, either you can design something that fits a design aesthetic, or you can take what you know, answer sound strategic thinking questions, and design a website that makes strategic sense.

Strategic Thinking Questions – 3 Questions for New Website Design

We were looking at a new website the other day designed for the user to “scroll, scroll, and keep scrolling.” The nagging strategic issue was, “Why in the world would an audience member want to keep scrolling?”

To help the website creator through the strategic thinking to answer this question, we put together the strategic thinking exercise below. It lists each of the main pages of the website down the left column. Across the three columns to the right are three strategic thinking questions, all asked in the voice of the user:

  • “Why should I stay interested?”
  • “Why should I keep looking for more information?”
  • “Why should I buy something now?”

We used these three questions to quickly review the copy and design of the new website. Our objective was to have a solid, compelling answer to at least one of the three questions based on the first look at each of the website’s main pages.

Strategic Questions to Improve Design and Copy on a New Website

Website-Tool

We used the three strategic thinking questions on a first pass review of the website. The questions helped us strengthen copy, make decisions on where to place key features, and changed perspectives about whether certain functionality made sense or not.

Our decisions weren’t data-driven because we don’t have any data on the website. The three strategic thinking questions definitely proved to be hard workers, however, for checking whether a brand new website offers compelling reasons for users to engage.

If you’re in a similar situation, grab a copy of this strategic thinking exercise and see how hard it can work for you! – Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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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Does it matter if your business has a blog or not?

And if your business does have a blog, does it matter how often you update it?

While you’re thinking about the answers to those questions, peruse these dates and see if you can spot a pattern?

  • November 23, 2013 and November 8, 2013
  • September 29, 2014 and August 5, 2014
  • June 30, 2013 and January 31,2013
  • May 16, 2013 and May 16, 2013
  • September 3, 2014 and July 25, 2014

Can you guess what connects these dates? Read on.

Brand Experience Strategy – From Online to In Real Life

I was invited to a networking event the other evening. The organizers for the event were so well organized, they provided an Excel workbook in advance listing all confirmed invitees with an email address and a LinkedIn profile. I took advantage of the organizers’ beneficial jump start and reviewed the websites for most attendees.

Going through the various websites, the state of their blogs was quite surprising and signaled multiple brand strategy mistakes.

Networking-Event

Brand Experience Strategy Mistake #1

I was surprised at how many of the networking event participants didn’t have company blogs on their websites.

Not having a blog translates to less website traffic, fewer situations to connect with and deliver value to customers and prospects, and multiple missed sales opportunities.

Brand Experience Strategy Mistakes #2

Of those networking event participants that did have company blogs, most of them were sporadically updated. In fact the list of dates above is the most recent and second most recent blog update for a number of companies present at the networking event.

If your business is going to introduce a blog, the blog becomes part of your brand experience, whether YOU act like it is or not. Yup, it’s part of your brand experience strategy along with all the other elements that have comprised a brand for a long time.

Think about what these dates might mean for other brand experience elements:

  • Imagine not handling a customer service call since November 23, 2013.
  • Imagine not making a sales call since June 30, 2013.
  • Imagine going from early August to late September of this year without ever monitoring the quality of your product or service.

Yet, when you put a blog on your website, you are making it a very visible part of your brand experience. And if you hardly ever update it, it says volumes about your brand experience, especially to prospects that don’t have any REAL experience to judge your brand.

  • If you mainly share valuable info on your blog, sporadic updates convey you don’t have much of value to share.
  • If you mainly share your CEO’s ideas, sporadic updates convey your CEO doesn’t have many ideas.
  • If you mainly share company news, sporadic updates convey there’s not much going on at your company.

And so it goes.

A Brand Experience Strategy Gift

So rather than connecting on LinkedIn or meeting for coffee, the best thing I have to offer my fellow networking event attendees is this:

If you’re going to have a company blog, update it regularly and with valuable content. If you aren’t going to do that, delete your blog so you just look like a brand that’s behind the times and not one that ignores its brand experience! Or better yet, let’s get together for coffee and talk about how to fix your blog strategy!!! – Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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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I presented both a workshop and a breakout session at last month’s Social Media Strategy Summit in Dallas. This was my second time attending a Social Media Strategy Summit this year, and conference producer Breanna Jacobs and the team from GSMI do a fantastic job of bringing together both wonderful presenters and experienced attendees together in a very interactive learning environment.

Here are a few highlights of the tweets, insights, and audience reactions to the social media strategy ideas shared at the Dallas event.

Social Media Strategy and Customer Service

Via Vanessa Sain-Dieguez (@VSDieguez) of @HiltonHotels

  • You don’t want to “train” your customers to tweet and get better attention than when you call.
  • It’s vital to listen for people mentioning your brand in multiple ways, even when someone isn’t mentioning your brand directly. For example, if the location on a tweet or Facebook update suggests a person is at your location with an issue, you want to be able to identify that and respond.
  • Hilton layered its social media-based customer services activities into pre-existing protocols between its franchisees and customer service group. This move minimized issues that might have developed if social media customer service were treated differently. That’s not to say that delivering customer service via social is simple. “Scalability is our biggest challenge every day.”
  • Successful real time marketing is about what’s relevant, not what’s trending.

Via Jeff Gibbard (@jgibbard)

  • It’s easy for customers to be rude to a logo on Twitter or Facebook. That’s not so if they sense a person on the other end. That’s why it’s important to sign your customer service social media in some way to show there’s a person involved on the brand’s end.

Social Media Strategy Insights from Adrian Parker of @Patron

Quick disclaimer – I was one of three people who won some of the new Roca Patron Tequila for live tweeting the most during the Adrian Parker presentation.

AdrianDParker2

Nevertheless, Adrian had a plethora of great strategic insights and paraquotes from his diverse career experience.

  • “Outsource your thinking, but not your decisions.”
  • “Your social strategy should be something your competitor would never do.”
  • “A best practice isn’t a strategy. It’s something you should be doing anyway.”
  • “Good strategy is inspired by, but not limited to, current customer behavior.”
  • “A good strategy should make you nervous.”
  • “Leadership is plural. Vision is singular.” Multiple people can lead against the sole vision.

An Attendee Recap

Dan Vadeboncoeur (@danvadeboncoeur) attended the SMSSummit and shared his recap on take-aways on his Media Nerds podcast. I tweeted Dan that I appreciated the shout out, especially since he sat in on both of my sessions.

Video Highlights from the Social Media Strategy Summit

In a great example of using content providers to create even more content from an event, a video crew was onsite the second day of the conference to film brief interviews with #SMSSummit presenters. There is a YouTube page with all of the videos, plus here are several from yours truly on social media and content marketing strategy.

See the video at: http://youtu.be/sOuBJzHvRBQ

See the video at: http://youtu.be/Vkf6Xu2HKWs

See the video at: http://youtu.be/MQkdKal2rtM

Wait, There’s More

This quick recap doesn’t do justice to the breadth of content at the #SMSSummit. Look for another post with additional highlights coming soon! – Mike Brown

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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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Prior to the Social Media Strategies Summit last week, I tweeted about finishing my social media strategy workshop presentations in time. Reviewing the agenda, I also mentioned a hook included in the session description several months earlier that needed to be tied into the workshop opening. Another Social Media Strategies Summit presenter tweeted back that social media presentations should not be prepared more than two weeks before a conference since things change so quickly.

My reply was while some facets of the social media landscape (tools, terms of service, etc.) do change quickly and frequently, much of social media (i.e., the strategic side) is much more static.

Sitting through his conference presentation, I was hard-pressed to identify any of his content reflecting any important changes in the social media world from the prior two weeks.

How Quickly Does Social Media Change?

Contrast that with the mind-expanding presentation by Kansas City’s Travis Wright on marketing technology. Teedubya’s Social Media Strategies Summit keynote was an up-to-date overview of the significant number and wide-ranging functionality among marketing platforms, apps, and services. These marketing technology tools are designed, in one way or another, so marketers can better understand and target their audiences. Travis’ presentation felt like it had to be right down to the minute to reflect what’s going on now or in the very near future.

Teedubya-SMSS

Being that newsy and deep on a topic requires time – time many brands don’t have (or want to expend) when creating content.

That’s why we’re big fans of brands creating a healthy amount of evergreen content as part of a social media strategy. Evergreen content, which holds up long after today’s news passes, helps a brand develop a sizable online presence, paying website traffic dividends for an extended period of time.

5 Questions for Evergreen Content Success

If your brand wants to develop and publish more evergreen content, here are five questions to ask about your content. Your potential answers are Yes, No, or Not Applicable / Unsure. The more “Yes” answers on your content, the greater potential is has for being relevant for an extended period of time.

  1. Will this information be accurate well into the future?
  2. Will any techniques shared apply in future situations?
  3. Will the information shared, even when time has passed, still retain historical value as a reference source or point of comparison for the current day?
  4. Will this topic and any related issues change relatively slowly?
  5. Even if the principles shared here are varied or modified over time, will there still be value in knowing what they were originally?

News gets attention, without a doubt, but evergreen content makes your online content work much harder for you! – Mike Brown

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

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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