Ideas are the lifeblood of any content marketing campaign. Without new ideas, campaigns—no matter what their aims—will quickly become stagnant.

But creating ideas can be hard.

No doubt you and your team are full of creativity, but producing actionable ideas that can achieve your objectives is the hard part. In this article, we'll examine how to keep your brand ahead by consistently delivering winning ideas over the long term. The three main stages of that process are...

  1. Idea generation
  2. Idea evaluation
  3. Campaign creation

1. Idea Generation

Many organizations think themselves great at idea generation, but they often seem to fall short. A combination of process and people is what makes it possible to continually generate good ideas.

On the people side, a mixture of creative and logical minds is needed to get the best chance of success. Don't be afraid to exclude people who aren't contributing, and include those from other areas of the business who think in different ways. Different perspectives are massively important at this stage.

The creative talent should be firing lots of ideas around and going off on tangents with their creativity. A lot of good ideas come from such brainstorming, but it's also when a lot of time can be wasted with ideas that aren't relevant to the brand. The logical side often ends up holding things together and establishing some boundaries in the form of aims and goals that are to be achieved.

Process also plays a key role at this stage. Before any brainstorm, ensure that you have undergone a preparatory process that includes unearthing data, gathering audience insight, and getting attendees to think about their own ideas in preparation for the main creative meeting.

That preparatory work allows the meeting to be more structured, to be based on data about the audience you're trying to engage, and to get off to a fast start with already considered ideas. (Find out more about this process by downloading Datify's free e-book on data and content marketing strategy.)

How you brainstorm is up to you as an organization. We at Datify have found that getting the relevant people in a room for at least half an hour is the best way to come up with some ideas quickly. We then go away to evaluate.

If you find during idea evaluation that more ideas are needed, hold another idea-generation session.

2. Idea Evaluation

In a creative meeting, the first rule is to not belittle anybody or their ideas; otherwise, that great idea that someone may have next time might not be shared.

The second rule is that the opinion of the highest paid person in the room shouldn't be the deciding factor. Just because your boss or your client really likes one of the ideas doesn't mean that idea should be the frontrunner; the audience insight data, for instance, might suggest that a less-preferred idea would work better for the audience in question.

There are three key factors in idea evaluation:

  1. Will this idea help achieve the overall goal?
  2. Are the target audiences proven to engage with this type of content?
  3. Is this idea possible within budget/time/organizational constraints?

Once you've answered those three questions for each idea you have come up with, you should have some clear priorities. Consider a 1-10 scoring system for each question to allow you to have a clear-cut decision.

Once an idea has been qualified as useful and achievable, it then needs to fit into your content strategy. Don't necessarily create your strategy around the best idea. Think about which campaign ideas fit best in terms of seasonality, events, and your business before you begin implementation.

3. Campaign Creation

Once your content strategy is supported with great ideas that have been scored and qualified, it's time to move into the fun phase: campaign creation.

As long as your content creation team (whether in-house or agency) is up to scratch, the key focus here is on ensuring that your campaign reflects exactly what you have envisioned.

The most important part of the campaign creation is the brief and specification. Without a documented vision and requirements for the creative, what you're going to get back may not be exactly what you were hoping for.

At a practical and operational level, the specification ensures that the campaign will work with your platform and will also work toward achieving your aims. On the aesthetic and functional side, how the campaign looks and works/reads is hugely important so that your concept doesn't get lost because of engagement barriers.

Also, at this stage, make sure that your campaign is going to be fully trackable to allow you to measure results and to optimize your strategy for future use. Tracking may involve the inclusion of tracking codes or the custom setup of your analytics platform.

Consider the performance of each piece of content. Doing so will allow you to evaluate the relevance of your ideas as your campaigns develop and your content marketing efforts become more sophisticated.

The Idea-Generation Formula

To consistently generate winning ideas, you need to invest time in your process and your people

Engaging in idea generation in a way that's the right way for you is essential, but do go in armed with lots of data and prepared ideas. Idea evaluation can be problematic if people get too excited about the ideas themselves rather than focusing on what they're trying to achieve. Finally, campaign creation can flop as a consequence of insufficient briefing.

If you're on top of all three stages, you will not only consistently come up with great ideas but also deliver them in the form of successful campaigns, as well as learn what's working (and what's not) so you can continually improve your ideas and campaigns in the future.

Data + creativity = great campaign ideas!

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image of Ben Harper

Ben Harper is the CEO and founder of Meet Hugo, a sales intelligence platform.

LinkedIn: Ben Harper

Twitter: @benharper87