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Today we’re talking about idea generation for business growth with special guest Esther Littlefield! If you’ve ever wondered how you can gain ideas to grow your small business and enhance your relationship with your target audience, this is the episode for you. We will discuss just how to do that by pulling ideas from the resources already at your disposal in simple, bite-sized steps. While you’re here, check out this stellar Life & Biz Guide for how to create a business that aligns with your faith, values, and goals available FOR FREE on Esther’s website by clicking the link below!
Click below for show notes
Idea generation for business growth
Idea Generation Explained
One of your super powers that we have talked about on this podcast is idea generation. I love this term and yet it’s so intriguing. Can you explain it?
Esther: It really did take me a while to figure out that this is a super power. I think that’s often how it is for us.
We do not recognize our super powers because they just come naturally to us.
The concept of idea generation is essentially coming up with ideas and ways to talk about or communicate a concept in a variety of ways.
Not everybody is going to understand something the first time you explain it. For some reason, I have the ability to break very complex topics into much smaller pieces.
That’s one of the things I love doing with my clients now, whether they’re in my programs or just one-on-one, I love working with them on how to help people understand what you’re talking about and make it easy for them to say yes to working with you.
Four tips for idea generation
Esther: Okay. So I have four tips to idea generation and it’s kind of a process that I’d love to share if that’s okay with you. Because I think this is a place where people, like I said, they get stuck. They often talk about their topic with the assumption that everybody kind of already understands what they’re saying.
For most people, if we’re an expert in an area or we are specialized in something, most of our community doesn’t understand it at the same level. We have to be able to talk about it in terms that they will understand. The first step and the thing I recommend with everybody when you’re thinking about content or copy is you’ve got to get to know your audience.
1. Have REAL conversations
You have to get in real conversations with them, and this is absolutely the best way to experience idea generation is real conversations. I actually mean to get on a phone call or get on a zoom call with some of your podcast listeners, some of your members of your community and have real conversations. That’s one way, of course, you can also just do this in comments and connections in your Facebook group, or again on Instagram, wherever you’re interacting with your community.
If you don’t have a community yet of your own, say, I only have a hundred people following me on Instagram, or I only have five people in my Facebook group. Well, then you’ve got to go to other communities and start having those conversations. Be thinking about what is your topic, what is your area of expertise and start looking for opportunities to connect with people and have conversations about their struggles, their challenges, about the things that they love, really anything can be a starting point for content ideas.
So that’s the first tip is start to get to know your audience for real, rather than just trying to guess what they want to hear about.
2. What problems does your target audience deal with?
The second step to keep in mind with idea generation is that as you’re doing that, you’re building those relationships and getting to know people. Ask yourself what problems do my Ideal listeners and ideal buyers deal with? What questions are they asking? You want to be looking for themes and actually tracking this.
You could have a spreadsheet where you copy and paste answers to those polls or answers to the questions that you’re asking.
I do this a lot. Screenshot what people say in Facebook groups or screenshot responses to things I want to remember. Because you will be getting the actual words that your audience is using to describe the challenges that they’re having or the desires they have.
Look for those themes and then keep track of responses and put them all in one place. That’s one of my best tips, because if you do this on an ongoing basis, you will never run out of ideas.
Ruthie: If you do your research and take time to listen, you’ll see the ideas. I’ve got scads of screenshots on my iPhone too. I echo the idea of using that verbiage to speak back to them.
3. Brainstorm your ideas
Esther: Yes. So the third step in the process is to start brainstorming your ideas.
Once you’ve done those two things. You’ve gotten some input from your audience. Now you get a brainstorm. You’re going to take what you’ve got and, and start to just allow your mind to wander. And this is actually hard for me. I am a kind of a logical, like a type A person, I like to do things orderly.
I like things to be neat and clean. But, you have to let yourself get messy.
Ruthie: Right. So just journaling it out or using sticky notes. I know our friend Christa Hutchins from Do a New Thing has a great podcast called “Just One Simple Thing.” She recommends this in one of her brainstorming episodes. Just get it all out.
Esther: Yes, it sounds crazy and all of us process differently. For me, a big blank pad of paper works really well. So I’m not tied to like staying within the line. For some people, if you’re a verbal processor, you might need to get together with a biz bestie or within a program or something that you’re part of and say, “Hey, I need to brainstorm out loud with other people.”
Do whatever you want to do, but just make that master list of all the, all the messy ideas that you.
4th step to idea generation: Content buckets
The fourth step that we would get to is to put those ideas into content buckets or themes and say, okay, does this make sense? What does this fall under? What I want to talk about? This is where you’re going to need to be a little bit more strategic.
You don’t want to just take all the ideas that your audience gave you and create those as your buckets, you want to make sure you’re aligning your buckets or your themes to what are you going to be selling? What’s your big overarching topic, you know, all of that and, and create those themes, but then take all the ideas that you got and you can group them under the main buckets that you’ve created for your content.
So that’s when you know those of us who are a little bit more logical and orderly and want things neat and tidy, we can start to get a little more organized here, whether it’s on a Trello board or a spreadsheet to sort of start to plan out that content in a more logical fashion.
That’s really, I would say for the content for a blog or a podcast or social media, and then there’s another angle you can take when it comes to launching. There’s content themes, or big goals I think you need to have for launching or for selling essentially that you want to cover.
Before your launch: Part 1:
So the first one is to make sure that you inform and educate your audience about what the end result of your product is going to do for them.
Talking about the big picture, end goal, educating them on what that is, you know, so if it’s growing and your Instagram, you know, you talk a lot about this. Why would somebody want to grow their Instagram? What are the benefits? What does it look like to grow your Instagram, all of that.
The second thing is to “Reveal.” So revealing the problems or challenges that often happen when someone is trying to do that thing. You’re trying to grow Instagram. What are the challenges people are going to face? That’s some of the things you want to talk about and cover in your class.
Then you want to clarify for your audience what the solution is to that problem. This is key for idea generation! If you’re thinking about, okay, the problem is that people try to grow Instagram by you know, non-authentic marketing. They try to buy followers. You want to come up and share the solution and clarify for them.
The solution is actually to grow your audience authentically and to get to know people and all the things that you teach. That’s where you clarify what is the actual solution.You introduce what your offer is. Like, you could go try to do it on your own, but I have this thing that can help you do it easier and faster and, you know, and save you a lot of time and money.
Before your launch: Part 2:
Then you also want to make sure that your content during your launch inspires people. You want to inspire people to consider what’s the future of their life when they have done this. So if I grow my Instagram, what’s that gonna do for me? How is that going to change my business?
How’s it going to change my life? So inspiring, getting them dreaming.
And then lastly, you also want to ensure to your potential buyers as to why this is a good idea. A lot of times that involves testimonials from past clients. Sometimes we offer some sort of guarantee on a course where we can say, look, this is not a risky decision to invest with me because these 10 people have had real results when they’ve worked with me or you guarantee that if you do the work and you don’t see results, I’ll give you your money back, whatever that might be.
That’s a real brief synopsis. We could go really deep on all of that, but five kind of themes you should cover during your launch period when you’re trying to sell something.
So here are the five steps again:
Do your reasearch
Ruthie: It all goes back to research. At the very beginning of those four points ,you talked about just having conversations and listening instead of having our own agenda. This is a problem I see a lot on Instagram, a lot of “buy my thing” instead of backing up and asking your audience questions, even inviting them in the comments.
Esther: So many times we come in to our business with an idea of what we want to sell, the service or the product we’re going to deliver.
I’ll talk to a client. They’ll say I want to start a membership. They’ll tell me all about their membership and then I’ll say, well, have you thought about what your audience needs? What are they actually needing help with? A lot of times, they haven’t taken the time to really dig deep on that.
They try to launch a membership, but it completely flops because either their business wasn’t ready for that type of program or their audience wasn’t ready. It’s so important doing those beginning stages of just really getting to know your audience and then matching up what their problem is what your gifts and skills and experience are.
Anticipate your audience’s needs
When you can bring those together, you’ve got a winning product or program that you can sell.
Ruthie: Yes, because if we just perceive, “Oh, I think their problem is this.” We could create a product that ends up not even being their problem, so we have wasted all that time.
Esther: Exactly. The reason I can talk about this so easily is I’ve made all the mistakes. The first thing I tried to sell before I actually did any type of one-on-one coaching, or group program, or small workshop was an entire six module course recorded all the videos. And then tried to sell it. It was just really not worth the amount of time and energy I put in for how much I made from it.
A lot of times, we get ahead of ourselves sometimes with what we’re doing. That’s a big part of what I try to help my audience figure out what does your audience need right now? And also what makes sense for you in your business right now, too?
Ruthie: So research and test the market. I know I had three beta memberships in 2020 before I actually launched my own membership. You have to test and see if people are going to respond to the model or not. It’s so important to do that research.
What is a mistake that you see creators often make when it comes to sales?
Build relationships to create good sales copy
Esther: When it comes to sales copy. I think that we underestimate how much we need to get into our buyer’s head,we truly do need to understand their challenges and their pain points. And so most of the time, when I look at someone’s sales page, I see they try to get sell way too quickly.
Buy it now. Here’s all the features. Here’s all the amazing stuff you’re going to get, which is usually truly a wonderful product . But they haven’t taken enough time in the copy to be able to have the person reading it, say, oh, my word, she gets me.
Like, how does she know that? That’s what you want people to do when they’re reading your sales copy is she understand my problem!
She has something that will help. I think it’s taking that time. All that research, all those relationships, all those real conversations. You can pull the copy and the wording right from those conversations you’ve had with people, if you’ve been doing it consistently.
That is an opportunity to just hear from real people where they’re at and what they’re doing. That gives you perfect opportunities to start pulling ideas and copy.
Use the same verbiage as your target audience
Ruthie: Open up a Google doc and list all their pain points and add to it because that is their verbiage. You want to say their words back to them in sales. It’s so important to network. Like you mentioned, getting on a Zoom call, inside your membership, just 30 minutes of just talking. Conversations are an important way to build your business.
Really it’s kinda like the Kevin Bacon, seven degrees of separation. You must have those networking experiences and conversations, you have to slow down and get to know people and be ready willing to help others. Also, we have to invest in our education in order to find a way. We can’t just blindly go out there. We really do need some kind of person to follow, to show us.
Esther: I would not have gotten to where I am without really being coachable and being willing to just kind of do the nitty gritty hard work that it takes, especially in the beginning.
Many times it seems like people are just waiting for clients to fall in their lap. That’s not how it works. It boils down to conversations and relationships. I took myself from a DIY mentality that I had at the very beginning, when I was doing the blogging. I was like, DIY-ing everything and not hiring anyone.
Know when to invest in yourself
I’m doing it all myself. I’m learning everything, which sometimes you need to have that. You need to have that grit. Learn and do stuff for yourself. If you, if you have literally no money to spend, but at the same time, there comes a point where you do have to be willing to invest in yourself and in your business.
I’ve come determined for myself in the past couple years. I say I’m betting on myself and it sounds kind of weird, but in a way, when you invest in coaching, you’re kind of saying I’m taking it right. That I am betting on myself that I’m going to do the work and I’m going to take action on the things that I’m investing in.
Of course, as a believer, I know that there’s the faith component and I’m always learning to put my trust in God. So I’m not actually saying I think it’s a bet, but in the sense of when you invest in yourself and your business, you are saying to yourself, “I’m taking this seriously.” It isn’t just a hobby anymore.
Connect with Esther
Connect with Esther on her website, Estherlittlefield.com where you can listen to her podcasts and get her free ideal life and business guide. She’s also on social media primarily on Facebook. Her freebie connects directly to her product. Tuck that in your bonnets when you are crafting products or memberships. Make sure they directly relate to your freebies.
Esther Littlefield is a marketing strategist & business coach for Christian women who are ready to stop feeling scattered and confused about how to grow their business online. She’s the host of the award-winning Christian Woman Leadership Podcast and the Christian Woman Business Podcast.
She is passionate about helping clients cut through the confusion, find clarity, and develop confidence in their marketing strategy so that they can focus on what will truly help them create a business (and life) they love.
Esther resides in Maine with her husband Scott, daughter KJ, Golden Retriever Allie, cat Daisy, and 2 leopard geckos. In her free time, you may find Esther enjoying a cup of coffee, exploring the great outdoors, or convincing her husband or a friend to take a road trip to see her favorite band, Switchfoot.