Posted by Kate Morris The simplest ideas can be the best link building ideas. If you spend a few hours really thinking like your customers, stop thinking about competitors, and stop being yourself (executive, SEO, etc.), there are a number of ideas out there that can turn into multichannel success stories for your marketing program. This inspiration came from my time spent in marketing classes. Who here took a marketing class in school? *waits for hands* If you were a marketing undergrad like myself, you want to shoot the next person that says “pick a company and build a marketing plan for them.” For those of you that were spared the annoyance of hearing about Starbucks year after year, count yourself lucky. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Starbucks, check my credit card statement.) Marketing students are well versed on how to develop out of the box ideas for companies all over the world. Know why? They don’t have to implement any of them! It is amazing how everyday politics and budgets can hinder the ability to brainstorm really good ideas. Creating a marketing plan out of the blue is something everyone should try. It is truly amazing how many great, yet simple ideas come out of starting fresh and thinking not as an employee, but as an outsider. The key is getting out of your own head to generate fresh ideas. Forget Yourself and Find Them The first step is to get out of the office. For consumer facing industries, it’s time to go find your customers. If you have the ability to visit a retail location, do that. You don’t need hundreds of customers, you just need a few. If you are an online retailer, look up some of your clients and ask if you can visit them. Find real people and ask for 15 minutes to chat with each of them. No, I am not kidding. This might be difficult, but it’s worth the time. If you are not a retailer (more B2B), do as the online retailer does and look up your clients to go visit a few. Flying across the country does not work for many businesses, so you’ll need to get creative. If all else fails and all of your customers are far away, ask to Skype chat with a few. You need to enter their world. Don’t come to the meeting with questions prepared. Don’t take more than the time they give you, and try to be brief. Simply chat with them about their day. Ask them how their life is and how your company fits in. You don’t want company specific feedback, you just want to see how you fit into their life and what is on their mind at the moment. Really get to know them. Take notes. Give them a $5 giftcard and sincerely thank them for their business. (PS: you probably have a customer for life now) Get Outside of Your Box Now that you are in the mind set of your customers, don’t go back to work. (Believe me, your boss will understand when they see these ideas.) Instead, find one of those co-working places in major cities. If you aren’t in a major city, visit somewhere that isn’t home or work. It can be a coffee shop, but try to pick somewhere you can be creative and productive for a few hours. If that means the local library or a friend’s office, then cool. Now, sit down and think like your customers. What would they say your marketing plan should be? What makes your company/client the place to go to for your products/services? You want to be the favorite place your customers go online and offline when they need something related to what you do. How do you make your company that important? Don’t be you, be your customer. What would you want done differently in your company? Find a whiteboard, a notebook, a computer, or similar. Write down everything that comes to mind. Most Important: Answer Without Abandon Take those questions and just answer. Don’t think about what is plausible. Don’t consider what other people will say. You want the ideas that you don’t have to implement, which is what makes this exercise fun and awesome. Don’t consider cost for ideas, just get them all out there. Your only concern should be how to make your customer happy. Don’t think about selling them more, getting links, shares, or email sign ups. Just make them love you. Do they already love you? Woo! Now, how do you get more people to love you? Other questions to ask yourself if you are stuck include: Where would potential customers go to find out about our products or services? How do they know they need us? How can we solve their problem faster and more efficiently for THEM? (Stop thinking about shipping and costs, this is about them.) How do we make ourselves avaliable to them whenever they need us? What can we do to make them LOVE us? The Result: Great Ideas The above is a brainstorm that turned into a marketing plan for Dick’s Drive-In in Seattle. The key take-aways were to have a spokesperson, “Dick,” that had a van he drove around in to drum up love and business. If any of you have Uber in your city, think the ice cream truck promotion . They would also give away t-shirts in addition to yummy deluxe burgers. By the time these guys were done, everyone in that room was hungry. Ther kicker here is that Dick’s is not a client at Distilled. They a well-loved local eatery. Everyone knows who they are and how to get a yummy burger. They probably don’t need help online, but they can get help with this 30 minute brainstorm and marketing plan by people who do not work for them. And the idea was fantastic. I was not a part of this team, but I can only imagine the applications. Ahem, Links? I mentioned that these brainstorms can turn into major successes for you, including link building ideas. I can’t promise that every idea you come up with will result in killer link building, but I have faith that if these ideas are actually customer focused and impactful, any number of them can get the attention of the media and make your customers want to share your business with their friends. More sepcifically, let’s use the ideas above for Dick’s Drive In. Spokesperson “Dick” Depending on the success of the branding and the events around Dick, this could mean interviews (links) and social shares. If developed right, a meme could develop around a particularly funny photo with captions. Van with Slogan “Dick, the man with the Van” This has Reddit written all over it. There are some possible reputation issues with famililes and what a van might mean to parents (think abduction vans), but you get little to no reward without some risk. This would do great with the festivals in Seattle and online. Think about how many people would tweet and share photos with Dick and the Van? All of these mentions and shares can have a positive impact on your search metrics. And Redditors would be all over talking about this promotion. T-Shirts Depending on the slogan, the shirts could be sold on the website. If good enough, they could drive people to the site via friends. How many times have you asked or been asked about an awesome shirt? The shirts themselves can be link bait. Check out this post from Shoemoney linking to Acquisio for the fact they had an awesome shirt. What are the great ideas you have had in the past to grow your business? I’d love to hear them and maybe I can give some ideas of how I would turn them into link building ideas. Sign up for The Moz Top 10 , a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!