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At the Chicago Traffic Club conference last week, I presented on social media strategy and content marketing. In an hour-long presentation, we spent considerable time discussing why it is a smart social media strategy for business-to-business salespeople to take an active role on social media platforms. We discussed various benefits, including the opportunity to efficiently expand the network of people you “know” that might need what you provide or who know others that might need what you provide.

Chicago-Panorama

Who Do You Know?

At the event’s conclusion, two salespeople from my former company were “stuck” taking me to O’Hare airport. We decided to stop on the way and have a drink at a wine bar in Lombard, IL.

Standing in the bar area, we continued our conversation about why it benefits business-to-business salespeople to invest time to network on Twitter. I tried to explain the value of expanding the network of people you know. I talked specifically about how The Brainzooming Group social media presence increases our contact points, benefitting our market position and sales.

As we talked, one of the salespeople was facing the patio area. He mentioned watching an attractive blonde outside who was communicating via sign language.

Without turning around, I told him as a way of proving my point about our social media strategy, “There’s a good chance I know exactly who she is because of Twitter.”

He was incredulous at my claim. I turned around as the group the woman was in was leaving and asked if he had been talking about the woman in the red and black checked top.

He said that was who he had been watching. I started looking in my Twitter “Conversations” list to see if the woman I suspected it might be had tweeted anything about being at the wine bar. Seeing nothing, I simply told him that it might be her (based on my recollection of her picture from Twitter), but I couldn’t be sure.

Returning home that night, I did more digging. As I looked through the Twitter stream of Anne Reuss, I found a picture of her from a few days before in a RED AND BLACK CHECKED TOP!

Anne-Reuss-(@AnneReuss)---E

Think about the Opportunity

I met Anne via #Ideachat, a now dormant (unfortunately) global Twitter chat where I also met frequent Brainzooming guest blogger Woody Bendle. Anne and I had tweeted at various times, but not recently. Yet, because of Twitter, in a Chicago metropolitan area of nearly ten million people, I knew the person sitting fifteen feet away from us at a random restaurant BECAUSE OF SOCIAL MEDIA.

And get this . . .  when Anne and I were direct messaging the next day on Twitter, I learned she had been checking out our profile recently to see if some collaboration opportunities existed with one of her clients. Yes, there are potential business opportunities arising from having known each other previously and being able to readily reconnect, even though our opportunity to meet in person the other day was a near miss.

Sure, it would be easy to chalk all this up to dumb luck or random chance. But it’s a fact: the more connections you make via social media, the more possibilities there are for those connections to lead to important relationships and business opportunities.

What are you going to be doing today to grow YOUR network via a social media strategy that builds YOUR sales opportunities? – Mike Brown

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You start writing blog posts, stick with it nearly every day, repeat that for nearly eight years, and suddenly, you have two thousand blog posts.

At least that’s what has happened with the Brainzooming blog!

Today, based on the post counter in WordPress, is our two thousandth blog.

MM, 2K, 2000

The blog started on the Blogger platform in November 2007 after seeing Jessica Myers (who was at Garmin Industries at the time) speak at a conference about being able to start a blog for free in just ten minutes. The first two years, I was writing the blog while still at YRC Worldwide. I would come home Friday nights and stay up until all hours on Saturday morning writing Brainzooming plus five humor blog posts and one spirituality blog post for other blogs I later created.

Yes, you can do too much of a good thing.

While having a daily deadline has become less stimulating creatively over the years, I shudder to think of how much experience and the number of strategic thinking exercises that would have come and gone without any documentation if not for the Brainzooming blog.

While the Brainzooming blog serves multiple functions, one of the most important for me is as my own professional reference source.

  • If we’re headed into a client session or a meeting and need a few creative thinking questions, I visit the blog and grab suitable questions from one of our compilation posts.
  • In preparing a strategic thinking workshop or updating a presentation, I search for new Brainzooming articles and images since the last update to freshen and expand content.
  • When we have a call with a prospective client to cover questions about our process and approach to strategic thinking exercises, I’ll open multiple browser tabs, each containing a previous blog post that answers a likely question.
  • In creating a new eBook or Fake Book, the blog provides the starting content we can arrange and share in new formations.

Thank You!

So, thanks to Jessica Myers for her first suggestion.

Thank you to YRC Worldwide for its support of the blog’s early years, Seth Simonds for handling the free conversion from Blogger to WordPress, and to Mike Whaling of 30 Lines for his help making tweaks during the years, especially when a server attack put us on the Google bad website list a few years ago.

Thank you to all the guest authors over the years, especially Woody Bendle, who has to be at the top of the list based on the number of posts with his insightful writing on customer and brand experience (and other topics) over the past several years.

Thanks to our Brainzooming clients since our start around this time in 2009 for their support and work with The Brainzooming Group. It’s our client engagements and workshops on strategy, innovation, creativity, social media, and content marketing (among other areas) that keep the lights on and the computers going to be able to share our strategic thinking exercises with you.

Clients-Oct-2015

Finally, thanks to all of you readers around the world – whether you are a new reader, read our content sporadically, or have been a faithful reader since the blog’s earliest days! – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

 

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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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People ask me frequently about why we give away so much of what The Brainzooming Group does on our website.

The conventional wisdom is you give away “what” you do as part of content marketing, but not “how” you do what you do. We, however, routinely share how we do things via our methodology, tools, and learnings from Brainzooming strategic thinking workshops.

Gifts-Strategic-Thinking-Ex

Why Do We Give Away So Many Strategic Thinking Exercises?

My response is the more we share the Brainzooming methodology with you, the more you can improve your own strategy work on a daily basis in situations where it would NEVER be practical to engage us for help.

This is why we run compilation articles frequently to help you find a comprehensive set of resources, exercises, and tools. These compilations are organized to be easier to use than combing through individual blog posts.

And by the way, here are the most frequently referenced compilations:

As I describe it to readers and workshop attendees, these compilation articles are akin to having recipe books for Brainzooming. And just as someone new to cooking might grab a recipe and fix a small family meal with one, they are unlikely to open a restaurant using the recipe without any prior experience.

Similarly, it’s easy enough to take one of the Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises in the blog and experiment with it among your department team in a safe environment. But taking that same exercise and trying to use it with your entire organization in a high stakes setting? That’s a completely different matter!

That’s why when we work with large groups and involve facilitators less familiar with the Brainzooming methodology, we create “Brainzooming Facilitator Guides.” These facilitator guides provide a deeper level of detail on how strategic thinking exercises work and the success factors for them working well. This level of detail is rarely shared here on the website. These facilitator guides reflect the value of our combined experience in translating questions and strategic thinking exercises into incredible in-person and online collaborations.

Strategic-Thinking-Guide

One additional benefit of giving away so much of the Brainzooming methodology?

When you experience the impact in productivity and results from trying Brainzooming yourself, it creates fantastic opportunities for us to work with clients that are stronger and more attuned to a different was of approaching collaborative strategy and innovation.

And that works better for EVERYONE when we are actually able to work together! – Mike Brown

 

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Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
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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.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive creative thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

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Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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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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I closed Bob Fine’s Real Time Marketing Lab stop in Kansas City last week with a new talk on “Helping the C-Suite Understand Social and Content Marketing.” The presentation, which I will expand as the closing keynote at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Boston on October 21, 2015, revolved around multiple analogies related to social media strategy and content marketing.

We find using offline examples that draw comparisons to online situations make social media strategy more clear for those unfamiliar it. This includes the 50% of C-Suite executives, according to some studies, that do not see how social can deliver value for their brands.

We have highlighted a number of the social media strategy and content marketing analogies in previous Brainzooming articles. For the Real Time Marketing Lab event, I closed with a brand new social media strategy analogy. Its goal was helping C-Suite executives reluctant to educate employees on social media to understand how dangerous this attitude could be for their brands.

Here is the story we used:

The Need to Train Employees on Social Media Is Like . . .

Suppose your organization participates in an annual Social Media Corporate Challenge Karaoke competition. It’s an inter-company competition usually reserved for sports. This one, however, focuses on singing along to popular songs. Until now, the competition among brands has been based on you, as a C-Suite executive, selecting the best two or three singers from your company to put in front of the judges. The stakes are big for this competition. Your brand’s reputation, perceptions of you as a leader, AND your entire salary and C-suite bonus are based on how your team performs in Corporate Challenge Karaoke. That is why you have made sure to have the best couple of singers in the competition. Your strategy has made your brand a perennial top performer.

In a major disruption, however, the competition’s rules have changed dramatically.

Corporate-Karaoke

Now, you aren’t allowed to pick the best singers from your corporation to perform for your brand. The singers are selected at random from your corporation, whether they are strong singers or not. Additionally, any other employees from your corporation can enter themselves to sing Karaoke on behalf of your corporation – no matter whether they can sing or not. You have no say any=more in preventing bad singers from going on stage to sing as loudly and as poorly as they would like.

One thing that HASN’T changed about Corporate Challenge Karaoke, however, is your brand’s reputation, perceptions of you as a leader, AND your entire salary and C-suite bonus are still based on how your team performs.

Given this new turn of events . . . would you like to invest in singing lessons for ALL of your employees?

Are Social Networks Really Like Corporate Challenge Karaoke?

Your brand once needed only one or two approved corporate spokespeople. They spoke on behalf of your corporation and were generally the only employees with access to a wide audience via the media, barring unusual circumstances. Now, through social networking platforms, any employee on a public social network could be solicited to speak for your brand. Additionally, employees may choose to speak for and represent your brand on their own proactively.

Smart brands aren’t ignoring reality. They are proactively training and supporting employees in understanding brand basics and handling social media opportunities and challenges.

Whether a brand does or doesn’t train employees in social networking, it can’t control who gets the brand microphone anymore. That’s true even though all the stakes are still the same and the downside risks now could be life and death for your brand. – Mike Brown

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(This is another in a week-long series on forming oneself as a Catholic business person.)

While social media and content marketing strategy ideas benefit from new thinking and approaches, you can also incorporate offline best practices that make sense, even if they may seem old.

For example, one client expressed challenges in refreshing and featuring seasonally-based story ideas year after year. In answer to this challenge related to content marketing strategy, I realized something from my spiritual life demonstrates a great lesson applicable to developing an editorial calendar to take advantage of recurring content opportunities.

An Offline Way to Plan Online Content Marketing Strategy

Lectionary

Attending mass on a daily basis has helped reveal the underlying calendar that plans which Bible passages are read at each Catholic mass. An approved lectionary (in essence, an editorial calendar) sets the direction. For weekdays, some readings are assigned to annual cycles and other to biennial ones. During special liturgical seasons, all daily readings are the same each year. For Sunday services, readings rotate every three years. Specific feasts and holidays during the year may cause the replacement of that day’s passages with other related Bible readings instead.

The end result, beyond emphasizing different messages with varied frequencies, is simple: over the course of the daily and Sunday calendars, approximately 95% of the Bible’s books are included through at least some passages.

If your organization has many stories to tell and needs to reinforce key messages at different times (with varying rates of repetition), adopting a comparable editorial calendar approach could make sense for you. Employing a similar strategy for content marketing strategy requires answering critical questions. These include:

  • What’s the full range of content we want to cover for the organization and target audiences?
  • What content priorities need more frequent reinforcement, and which can be addressed less regularly?
  • What are special events that need coverage and should rightfully interrupt the editorial calendar?
  • What options can be provided to content creators (either in topics, style, etc.) to allow creative flexibility?
  • What strategic links exist between content areas and associated SEO and keyword strategies?

The questions may seem daunting. There is incredible upside in the content marketing strategy opportunities generated from implementing a strategic editorial calendar that reflects both repetitive topics and new twists on old stories.

If the prospect of creating an editorial calendar and collaborative blogging plan seems overwhelming, let us know. We’d love to help streamline developing and implementing your social media and collaborative blogging strategies.

Has your organization done anything like this? Have you tried a similar approach for a smaller organization? How has it worked, and where, if anywhere, have you struggled?  – Mike Brown

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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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Marianne-Carr-PhotoI am crazy for podcasts. Maybe I am not an early adopter. I don’t care. I love them.

I have always been a big believer that radio advertising – great radio advertising- was the most creative, and most difficult of the traditional advertising formats. Unfortunately there is also a tradition of really bad radio advertising. That’s because it’s hard to do. When done well, audio storytelling uses the theater of the mind, making the strongest audience connection.  When imagining your own pictures, you are engaged and probably emotionally committed. When audio storytelling is good, it works the head and the heart, which is the essence of great advertising.

Which leads me to Content Marketing. In what ways are Podcasts the ultimate Content Marketing tactic? It is a one-way conversation, at first, but the podcasts I listen to suck me in so deeply that I then seek out blogs, Twitter, and Facebook forums to see what others are saying.  I even join the conversation.

However, right now, none of the podcasts I listen to is associated with a brand or some other organization that wants to separate me from my money, or even build its position as an influencer in my professional life.

Could there be a podcast interesting enough to drive this behavior from me? We will see. I hope so. In the meantime, here are my top podcast recommendations.

As always, you can get to the creative clicks via the headlines. Enjoy!Marianne Carr

Creative Clicks for Podcast Listening

The Timbre.com Postmortem XIX Best Podcasts of the Week

This week’s Review of Podcasts on Timbre featured a Freakonomics episode. Not surprising. These guys are clearly masters at creating content. A podcast provides the perfect opportunity to extend a book’s premise, eliminating the wait for creating and publishing a follow up book to keep the message alive.  A comment at the end of this week’s reviews complimented the reviewer and exclaimed that he was not surprised NPR listenership was declining. The commenter couldn’t fathom why ANYONE would listen to Radio anymore.

I know why I still listen to radio. It takes a special talent to curate programming really well. What killed radio was the commercialized programming of music based only on promotion. We, as listeners, fell victim to a B2B model.  Thus we got bored and left as soon as we could. I listen to The Bridge a local radio station that provides unexpected delight through music I would never find on my own all because the DJs are very talented curators.

In what ways might we improve our curation skills to surprise and delight our audience to be better content marketers?

The Secret of the Mystery Show

“It must be quite a trip, to go about the world with this kind of head on. If every person you see is a treasure-chest of stories just waiting for the right question to open up, then you are never more than seconds away from a glittering, life-changing revelation. But of course, they are, and we’re all just too busy power-walking between pointless appointments, listening to podcasts, to notice.

“I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to be so moved by an eighty-year-old Swiss man I have never met, in a town I will probably never visit, rediscovering a long-lost gift. But unexpectedly, I’m welling up. Empathy, like God, moves in mysterious ways.” – Richard Obrien

This review of the Podcast the Mystery Show, by Obrien, is spot on.

How might your target audience member (also known as a person) be a treasure chest of stories you can tap into for your content marketing?

The Art of Storytelling

I just started listening to Lore, a podcast featuring short, dramatic essays about folklore and other mythical longstanding beliefs. It’s a lot of fun. One sponsor is The Great Courses. This organization sponsors several of my regular podcasts; I must be the perfect target audience member. The Great Course featured is always relevant to the podcast’s topic. Sooo smart. I may never want to take a course about The Law as featured on Undisclosed (yes, I am still riding this trend, can’t help it), but I will take this course on Storytelling, particularly since I am offered a listener’s discount.  One missing cross marketing tactic is that of mentions on the websites of each organization. Why not? Integrate!

Content Marketing Institute Podcast List

It wouldn’t be right to discuss podcasts and content marketing without listing a few podcasts featuring content marketing!  Here are several. I have not had the opportunity to listen to them yet, so I would love to hear your critiques. All are produced in conjunction with The Content Marketing Institute.

Podcasts-Bubble

Creative Clicks for Reading about Podcasting

If you’re intrigued by podcasting, here are several articles addressing the fundamentals.

The Power of Podcasts for Content Marketing

This article by the Digital Agency, Koozai, from Across-The-Pond (The UK if you are not one of our US readers), is a KEEPER! Written by John Waghorn, it outlines all the basics of Podcasting for your organization. The section about Creating Your Own Podcast. Makes it seem doable. Dispels some myths. It is further fuel for the fire to create a Brainzooming Podcast. Stay tuned.

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

This article by Sark e-Media gives a great set of questions to ask yourself when deciding to launch a podcast. I am a big believer in strategy, go figure.

Facing the Blank White Page of Podcasting

Wishpond highlights content types and tips for creating a podcast.  The tip to interact with other podcasts is most intriguing. When podcasts I follow mention hosts of others – or topics from other episodes – it makes me feel like part of a very special community. I am in “the Know.” This concept of exclusivity, or being a member of something, is very powerful in marketing, especially content marketing.

So if Brainzooming starts a podcast, what do you want to hear?

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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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These (para)quotes on innovation, digital marketing, and life were the most memorable ones I took away from Inbound15.

Innovation

  • “Commit to a highly experimental process. Don’t just follow best practices. Experiment to learn.” – Anum Hussain of Hubspot
  • “I don’t know what the question is, but the answer is, ‘Yes!'” – Leonard Bernstein (via Seth Godin)
  • “The only guarantee in living a brave life is you WILL get your ass kicked. If you innovate, you WILL fall down.” – Brené Brown
  • “Bob Dylan wasn’t The Beatles. He reinvents himself every seven years and gets booed off the stage.” – Seth Godin
  • “Every great writer starts with an SFD – shitty first draft.” – Brené Brown

INbound15-Pink

Digital Marketing

  • “SEO (search engine optimization) is anything you can do to influence your score. That involves solving for SEO AND improving the user experience.” – Bill King and Tyler Richer of Hubspot
  • “Great content is topically focused. If you are writing about a topic, other related words should show up as well. It’s about the main topic and all the supporting ‘cast members.'” – Bill King and Tyler Richer of Hubspot
  • “For Slideshare, come up with an AMAZING cover slide.” – Arpit Dhariwal and Taylor Greason of LinkedIn SlideShare
  • “Don’t say ‘Free’ in the email subject line. Please. Ever.” – Tom Monaghan of Hubspot
  • “With the abundance of similar content, it makes you think when you see something new, ‘I think I’ve forgotten this before.'” – Dr. Carmen Simon
  • “If your brand sucks offline, you’ll suck more online.” – Jill Rowley, Social Selling

Life

  • “Nine a.m. is VERY early for an Aziz event.” – Aziz Ansari
  • “Can we start by acknowledging that golf is a really bad spectator sport. Nothing good ever happens, and when it does, you have to clap in such a wimpy way.” – Seth Godin
  • “If people know their problems, they don’t need sales. Salespeople should identify latent and hidden problems; they need to anticipate problems.” – Daniel Pink
  • “Once you give the brain a reward, it habituates and wants a newer, bigger reward.” – Dr. Carmen Simon
  • “We are all we have today.” – Brené Brown
  • “Sarcasm . . . it’s not just for relationships anymore.” – Tim Washer

Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you 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. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

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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