You’re a marketer. You need to come up with ideas. Lots of them—whether it’s content topics, creative new ways to generate leads or innovative customer loyalty incentives.
And you’re probably not generating ideas as effectively as you could be.
Idea generation doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. Or a bolt of inspiration. Or a gamble.
You can develop systems and processes that generate more, better ideas, faster. Instead of rolling the dice on inspiration, why not create an idea generation machine?
This post will teach you one approach to finding ideas and inspirations, capturing them for future reference, and generating your own great ideas.
Where Do You Find Ideas?
To effectively generate ideas, you need to not only consume a lot of varied content, but also consume the right kind of content.
What does that mean? For me, the right type of content to mine for ideas is:
- Cross-disciplinary. Consume content on varied subjects. Make connections between them. Repeat. You’re already halfway to idea generation success.
- Serendipitous. The best sources make new content discovery easy. You want to be surprised. Constant exposure to new topics and sources is the fuel that powers the idea engine.
- Contextual. Ditch the BuzzFeeds of the world. You don’t want lists, breaking news or sound bytes. You want meaty content that provides tons of context and background. It’ll help you better unpack and discover new ideas. And it also tends to indicate someone knows what they’re talking about.
Here are some of my personal favorites that consistently share unique, high quality and cross-disciplinary content:
People on Twitter
- Hiten Shah (@hnshah)
- Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday)
- Maria Konnikova (@mkonnikova)
- Ben Casnocha (@bencasnocha)
- Shane Parrish (@farnamstreet)
- Brian Clark (@brianclark)
- Brent Beshore (@BrentBeshore)
How Do You Capture and Save Ideas?
The next step is to effectively save ideas for consumption and / or later reference. Here’s one way to do that:
1. Use Twitter as your content generator. Once you have a list of trusted sources (publications, individuals, etc.), dump them all into Twitter. A Twitter list, carefully curated, will filter out the noise and save you time: you’ll have generally the best of each person or publication in one place.
2. Use Pocket to capture everything of interest. Scan your Twitter list and use Pocket to save links that seem interesting. Don’t spend too much time here. The goal is to capture everything as quickly as possible—and waste as little time as possible browsing social media.
3. Consume everything in Pocket. Read and share on social media any topics you find interesting, but be sure to use Pocket’s Archive feature to cull content from your database periodically—or else you’ll just end up buried. Only the most compelling pieces of content should remain when you’re finished.
4. Save anything compelling to Evernote or Delicious. These tools will give you an easy tagging system to save and sort the best ideas and inspirations you find. This step is critical: a long-term repository of ideas will snowball into even more great ideas over time. You may want to break down tags by marketing disciplines to keep things organized:
- Lead Generation
- Content Creation
- Customer Loyalty
Whatever system you use, a system is a must. A system (rather than haphazard bookmarking) filters out the noise and preserves the best content without overwhelming our limited mental bandwidth.
How Do You Generate Your Own Ideas?
You’ve mastered the science of idea capture. But idea generation is more of an art. Each person’s creativity is going to work a little bit differently. However, idea generation must be its own dedicated practice to be optimally effective:
- No skimming Facebook or texting or putting on Netflix while you germinate.
- Sit down, shut off the phone, and physically write down your ideas.
- Set a goal. If you’re coming up with blog post ideas, commit to five post ideas and don’t leave your chair until you’ve got them.
One of the best systems for physically generating ideas that I’ve come across is James Altucher’s excellent post on the subject. I’d encourage you to read the whole post, but here are a few of his suggestions:
- Read excerpts from at least four books on four different subjects to encourage your ideas to cross-pollinate.
- List 10 ideas each day. No more, no less. Put them on paper. They can be about anything. Flesh each one out as best you can.
- Diversify your schedule and your brain by switching up normal practices or trying something new.
With the right tools and systems, coming up with creative gold is faster, easier and happens more frequently.
What a novel idea.
What tools and tactics do you use to find, capture and generate ideas? Let us know in the comments!
Image source: qisur via Flickr