A selection from the new book: Different Rules – the B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation
A sure-fire method for coming up with a bunch of good B2B marketing ideas
By Chris Wirthwein
The technique you’re about to learn comes by way of two sources. The general approach comes from the classic book A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb Young – a book still in print 80 years after a once-obscure ad copywriter wrote it. The approach, specifically for use in B2B marketing, comes from my own experience as an employed B2B marketing “idea guy” for many decades. Ready for the method?
Step 1: Go see a customer at their place of business (preferably drive there; the drive time there and back will help you accomplish step 3).
Step 2: Get to know them – what they care about, what they’re trying to accomplish. (The book DIFFERENT RULES contains a list of 32 questions you should ask.)
Step 3: Repeat step 1 & 2 (ideally 11-14 more times). In between interviews, think about what you’ve heard: what it means, what surprised you, confused you, amused you…and so on.
Step 4: After completing the interviews, stop thinking. Take no conscious action related to your task for a few days. Don’t try, for even a moment, to come up with any marketing ideas. (Have faith; let what you learned marinate.)
Step 5: I’ll quote Young: “Out of nowhere the idea will appear. It will come to you when you are least expecting it – while shaving, or bathing or most often when are half awake, in the morning. It may waken you in the middle of the night.”
Further summarized, the method goes like this: 1) gather raw information; 2) think about what you learned; 3) sit back…relax…let the ideas come to you.
From product names, to new product ideas, marketing strategies and ad campaigns, in my career, I’ve seen this method work a thousand times over and more. But perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from the technique is this: when I can’t or don’t come up with lots of good ideas, it’s always because I’ve skipped one, two or three of the steps in the method. The process works every time I use it. It will work for you.
Chris Wirthwein is Senior Director for 5MetaCom, a marketing agency that develops strategies and campaigns to differentiate B2B technical and scientific products. He has authored three marketing books, including his latest, Different Rules: The B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation. You can reach Chris on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org.