When you ask a client to help you brainstorm he or she might interpret it as helping you do your job. For that reason it’s important to build the client’s confidence in your abilities before you invite them to help.
When you sense the client is happy with the direction of your company’s content, consider taking the following steps to brainstorm with the client in order to get better, more insightful industry ideas.
Send a Questionnaire
Your initial contact with the client should set the tone for long-term communication and a strong rapport. Make sure the text is friendly and respectful. Have someone else read it to ensure there are no miscommunications or unintended implications in your writing. Keep all of the questions brief and straightforward, so that you can gauge the client’s interest in participating further. Here are a few sample questions you could ask:
- What is your goal?
- Why is your company the best?
- What customer compliment does your team get often?
- Who are your biggest competitors?
- What’s your favorite piece of social content?
- What’s your favorite blog in your industry?
- What do you want to tell your customers?
One of the last questions should ask if the client is willing to help the team brainstorm. This should be the only yes or no question on the form. If the client responds, “no,” then don’t push the issue. However, it is safe to re-assess his or her interest after a few months, or when you have established a rapport.
Share Social Goals with Them
Don’t expect a client to understand what social users think and like; that’s your job. You need to inform the client what social goals your company has, such as reaching Reddit users or Google+ fanatics. Then, inform the client what that audience enjoys in terms of social content. Here are a few examples:
- Target: Reddit – Tell them that redditors are quirky and a bit subversive. Let them know that Reddit is suspicious of marketers, so content has to be subtle.
- Target: Facebook – The client probably uses Facebook often, but doesn’t understand it from a marketing angle. Share insights about networking and reaching an audience through personal friends and family.
- Target: YouTube – Let the client know that YouTube users leave a lot of negative feedback, even if they secretly like the videos. Tell them that if they pursue viral videos they have to have a thick skin and a lot of patience.
Remember to keep your social brief succinct and colloquial. Clients are busy: they don’t have time to learn social jargon. If you assessed that the client is very interested in participating during your questionnaire, then you could include links to examples of your social site feedback.
Provide a Preemptive Form
Allow clients to brainstorm individually before you meet with them. They might be introspective thinkers who produce more content ideas alone than in unison. Because they aren’t teammates you can gauge in person, you should allow for different kinds of learners and thinkers.
Your form could have different sections for articles, videos, infographics, and images for services like Instagram. Each section should have a few prompts for the client, as well as tips about that kind of content. For example, in the ‘articles’ section you could state that social articles tend to be 1,000 words or less and often take the form of listicles.
Include example ideas that might spark thoughts for the client, such as 14 Most Expensive Shoes Ever Designed by Celebrities. You could link them to Cracked articles to give them an idea of what people enjoy reading.
Make sure your form contains a follow-up date or scheduled Skype call. Also, email the client a reminder before the event so that he or she doesn’t forget. Clients are much more likely to cancel if they don’t feel mentally prepared, so give them ample reminders and time to get there.
Set the Tone
Once you are on Skype or meeting in person for the purposes of ideation, make sure you set a light-hearted but upbeat tone for the meeting. Only invite coworkers who bring a positive atmosphere of synergy to ideation. If you set a great tone for the meeting the client will relax and think more clearly. Otherwise, you might just be brainstorming in front of a stumped, silent client.
Accept every idea from the client gracefully. Don’t interrupt the client to tell him or her why an idea won’t work: instead, try to imagine ways to make their ideas work, or keep negativity to yourself. If you suggest the client’s ideas aren’t good, even accidentally, he or she will shut down and stop participating. Also, by offending a client in this way you will make the client more critical of all of your future ideas.
Prepare Prompts for the Group
When a client comes to brainstorm he or she wants to be as productive as possible and then get back to work. You can help them save time by preparing thoughtful prompts. Consider using PowerPoint if you are in the same room or a shared desktop if you aren’t together. Here are examples of generic prompts:
- What’s your favorite article?
- What problem is the industry experiencing?
- Who is your customer?
- Is this industry making moves to go green? How?
- How do celebrities interact with this product/service?
- What technological advancements are being made in this industry? Are there prototypes for future designs?
- How has the product/service evolved from the past?
Keep your client prompts as specific as possible. While these generic ones will work, you should try to optimize your client’s time by asking industry-specific questions of the client’s expertise. For example, if the client is a shoemaker, you could ask, “What information about shoes do customers just not get?” and the client could respond with facts and ideas that will blow your mind.
Profusely Thank the Client
Thank the client profusely and send him or her a thank you note or gift basket. Also, send the client a brief of what was covered in the brainstorm, and which ideas you will be generating as social content. When the content is prepared, send the client any polished samples that he or she suggested: people love to see their own ideas become tangible, printed infographics or published sharebait articles.
Encourage the client to send you any ideas that he or she thinks of in the future. Try to keep open communication with the client so that he or she will feel involved in brainstorming, even when the client is too busy to actually join your team.
When a client feels involved in the brainstorming efforts for his or her company the client becomes more open-minded to social promotions and efforts made by your team. You can find exciting ideas from the client that your team couldn’t have come up with, because the client is an expert in the targeted industry or field. Remember to be gracious and welcoming, and you might find the client more willing to work with you on a regular basis.