Annual kickoff meetings are a common activity for most sales and marketing teams, but they rarely result in successful collaboration that leads to an increase in team performance—which is of course the goal of any manager setting the agenda.
If you’re looking for some new ways to infuse creativity into your next kickoff or brainstorming session, incorporating brainstorming games or activities into the agenda is a great place to start. You can begin the meeting with an activity and then transition into others over the course of the event to get ideas flowing and help break the ice, showing participants that it’s okay to throw out ideas and suggestions regardless of whether it is well-thought through, big, or small.
Here are five great creative brainstorming games for you to incorporate into your next sales and marketing session to help make it more collaborative, innovative, and successful.
1. The Five Whys
Often, it can be difficult to see the true cause or problem behind an issue that your organization is having. Instead of seeing the true underlying problem, we tend to see only the symptoms. But by treating the symptoms and not the cause, we give ourselves much more work to do—and no guarantee of success. This brainstorming activity is designed to help your team uncover the root causes behind the problems that they are facing.
To play, you must first identify a problem that your team needs to evaluate. Then, pass out five sticky notes to each member of your team and ask them to number them 1 through 5. Once set, ask your team to answer the question of “why” the problem is a problem. This answer goes on sticky note 1.
In the next phase, ask your team why the answer on sticky note 1 is true. This answer goes on sticky note 2. Then ask them why the answer on sticky note 2 is true, and have them write the answer on sticky note 3. Repeat unto you have used all 5 sticky notes.
Once you are done, create 5 columns on a whiteboard, and at the top of each column place the question “Why?” Each team member will then place his answers in a row, with their final assessment coming in the last column. Evaluate these answers, marking similarities and differences amongst answers, and allow for discussion.
Hopefully, this will identify a few key areas that you can focus your improvement efforts. If not, you can repeat the process again until you have a clear answer.
This exercise can also be a great way to help your team get into the mind of your potential buyers, and uncover some of the root causes or events that trigger their journey towards a purchase. These ideas can be used to shape your marketing team’s content marketing editorial calendar, as well as your business development team’s prospecting strategy.
This exercise will likely take around 1 hour to complete.
2. Empathy Map
A common goal for annual sales and marketing team meetings is to set the go-to-market strategy for the year, and to develop detailed sales and marketing plans. One great way to kick off this exercise is to create Buyer Personas—a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers. An “Empathy Map” is a great visual way to kick off this process and get your team’s creative juices flowing.
Doing this will help your team recognize an ideal customer when one appears, will help them to become more attuned to the customer’s needs and desires, and will allow them to quickly check whether or not they are working in a way that will appeal to their ideal customer.
To conduct this exercise, create a circle on a whiteboard and label it with the name of the person you are focusing on (you can turn the circle into a head if you’d like). Then, label areas around the head with the words “Thinking,” “Seeing,” “Hearing,” “Feeling,” “Doing,” and “Saying.”
Ask your team to explain what the person’s experience is, from that person’s perspective. Do this for each of the 6 categories. By the end of the exercise, your team will have developed a certain degree of empathy for the individual in question, allowing them to identify the person’s motivations.
By asking themselves “What would so-and-so want?” or “What would he think about this?” they can quickly do a mental check to make sure that whatever they are doing is on the right track. (For example, a marketer might ask themselves, “Is this the kind of content that our customer wants to see?” or a salesperson might ask themselves, “Knowing how busy our target customer tends to be, maybe we need to rethink our outreach strategy.”)
The exercise should only take 10 to 15 minutes for each “persona.”
One of the key powers of working in groups is that it brings together individuals of different perspectives and worldviews so that you can create ideas that you may not have been able to create on your own.
To play, first identify a topic that you need to generate ideas about (for example, increasing audience engagement). Ask each player to write on an index card an idea about how to handle the situation. Then, each team member will pass the card to the person to the right, who will elaborate upon the initial idea. Continue this until each team member has had the chance to read and add to each index card.
Once you are done, as a group you should evaluate the ideas and identify the ones that seem most worthwhile in pursuing. Discuss the ideas generated and see if you can put of them into action.
This exercise should take between 30 and 45 minutes.
4. Elevator Pitch
This exercise gets its name from the following fictional scenario: You are in an elevator with a big-name investor, buyer, or someone else that can bring your business to new heights, and you only have until they get off of the elevator to make your pitch. Talk about pressure! Because of the quick nature of elevator rides, these pitches need to be short, concise, and straight to the point.
To play, you must first ask your team members the following questions:
- Who is the target customer, and what do they need?
- What is the name of your product, and what market does it address (size and industry)?
- What benefits do your product offer customers?
- Is there any competition?
- What separates your product from thee competition?
Then, you need to create your pitch so that it includes all of this information without being too long, which sounds easier than it usually is. Conducting this exercise in a group setting allows the individual skills of your team members to shine through and come together. Completing this exercise will give your team a clear understanding of how their roles fit into the company’s strategy, and also give them a pitch to use if they ever find themselves in an elevator with Mark Cuban.
The exercise will likely take between an hour and an hour and a half.
5. Pain-Gain Map
Most decisions that people make are choices between something that will benefit them and something that will harm them (even if they don’t realize that the trade-off exists). When it comes to sales and marketing teams, knowing what this tradeoff looks like for potential customers can help inform their selling and marketing strategies.
To play, you must first identify the person you are evaluating (say, a customer or end-user of your product). Then, you should identify the “pains” that may drive the person to become a customer or otherwise seek out your product or service: What are they afraid of? What is he responsible for? What obstacles does he face? What keeps him awake at night? What does a particularly bad day look like to them?
Then, identify the positive things that may drive the person to seek out your company: What does he want to gain? What can we offer them to reach their goals? How can this person benefit from our product? etc.
By framing your understanding of key buyer personas in this way, your team can then frame their own outreach and workflows so that they are sure they are addressing these issues.
The exercise will likely take 10 to 15 minutes per persona investigated.
It’s Not All Fun and Games
Performing one or a handful of these brainstorming exercises can go a long way in helping your sales and marketing teams to better understand their roles within your organization and how your product serves your customers’ needs, ultimately making them better at their jobs. The power lies in collaboration, creativity, and teamwork.
For more great team-building and brainstorming activities, check out Gamestorming by Dave Gray and Sunni Brown.