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How to Brainstorm and Prioritize Your Best Content Ideas


How does your team prioritize marketing projects?

Are you focused relentlessly on nothing but potentially high growth ideas?

Or are your priorities unclear or unproductive, leaving you stuck in a constant scramble?

When crystallized and properly communicated, prioritization can, in some estimates, reduce costs by roughly 15 percent and improve your team’s capability to meet your marketing goals.

What is the process to truly remarkable ideas and ruthless execution?

Million-dollar gap between 10x and 10%

Because the goal of any marketing program should be to drive profitable customer action, the best marketers prioritize high-potential growth projects over incremental improvements.

Our team adopted a simple process that helps us do exactly that – the 10x vs.10% framework. A 10x project multiplies the results by a factor of 10. A 10% project improves results by a measly 10%.

A 10x project can positively impact a huge number of people in your audience and produce incredible revenue returns for your business. If plotted on an x-y chart, a 10x project falls high on the upper-right quadrant:

A 10x marketing project affects a huge chunk of your audience & produces incredible returns. @garrett_moon Click To Tweet


A 10% project, on the other hand, provides a little bit of value to a few people. Looking at things this way provides a framework for understanding and predicting impact. And therefore, it’s perfectly suited to help you prioritize which projects to take on and which ones to take a pass on.

At CoSchedule, the startup I co-founded, you’ll hear this mantra daily: “Think 10x. Forget 10%.” Prioritize the work you do to reach your marketing goals 10 times faster. Don’t do the trivial minutiae that sucks productivity and fails to drive growth.

You see, the goal of 10x projects is to drive positive outcomes, not perfection. The goal isn’t flawless work; it’s effective work with huge results.

The goal of 10x projects is to drive positive outcomes, not perfection, says @garrett_moon. ‏#contentmarketing Click To Tweet


Cost of losing focus

Research from the University of London found a person’s IQ drops when multitasking as much as 15 points. Another study shows task switching can cost up to 40% of someone’s productive time.

Task switching can cost up to 40% of someone’s productive time via @APA. #productivity Click To Tweet

According to the researchers, the evidence suggests two processes are involved in task switching that explain the negative effects. The first is a goal-shifting stage, which happens when we decide to move from one task to the next. The second is a rule-activation stage in which the mind must wrap around the parameters for a new task.

These stages are awesome to help you navigate between tasks. However, the productivity costs become enormous when you bounce task to task. Chasing down a 10% task is incredibly expensive.

Now, there are two big questions to answer:

  1. What does a real-life 10x idea look like (results included)?
  2. How do you consistently generate and prioritize them?

A 10x project looks like this

At CoSchedule, a core component to drive growth was our email list. We asked ourselves, “What can we do to grow our email list 10x?”

We looked at what information we had. Our tool had north of a million headlines with social share data for each. Through intensive research, we boiled down the best into a formula for our team. Next, we built an algorithm to automate the formula and score the quality of any headline typed into it. It predicted the likelihood for everything from potential clicks to social shares.

Then, we went a step further and realized a 10x project – making the algorithm available to the public for free. The Headline Analyzer was born. Immediately, email addresses poured into our coffers. To date, it’s resulted in over 60,000 sign-ups.

Compare the Headline Analyzer to potential 10% improvements.

Correcting grammar and typos in blog posts would be a 10% improvement-type effort. We never go back and correct them. Though I’ve gotten flack for my stance, we still don’t.

We never go back to correct grammar & typos in #blog posts, says @garrett_moon @coschedule. #productivity Click To Tweet

Why? Because the time to log into WordPress, scan for the typo, do a pass for other potential mistakes, and republish the post can be used to far greater business impact elsewhere.

10x framework for idea generation

But before you get to the execution, you must have a good idea.

At this point, you may think, “It’s a great framework in theory, but how in the world is my team supposed to become a 10x idea machine?”

Take one hour to go from no ideas to 50-plus through the 10x brainstorming process.

Step 1: Do a 10x brainstorm

The process begins before the team meets. Ask everybody to spend 10 to 20 minutes on their own to think of as many ideas to answer this question: “What can we do to grow our (metric) tenfold over the next (timeline)?”

Sending the guiding question keeps everyone focused and ensures that ideas aim at solving a specific problem. Notice how the question is structured – it includes four components:

  • Idea – how the company will achieve the growth
  • Metric – the company will measure the effect
  • Goal – the growth of the metric by 10 times
  • Timeline – the duration to accomplish the idea

Here’s an example: We will launch an (email subject line tester tool) to increase (the number of email sign-ups) by (10 times) within (four weeks) from start date.

Step 2: Gather and score for 10x

Now it’s time for the big meeting. Everybody has their ideas ready to share.

Give each person a bunch of sticky notes and pens. Ask them to boil down their ideas into three words or less and write each concise idea on a single note.

Next, stick the ideas to a board, a wall, or somewhere else in plain view. Here’s what our team’s board looked like at this stage:


Now it’s time to score them by answering two questions. The first is, “How long will this idea take to execute?”

  • Level 1 – one week or less
  • Level 2 – two weeks
  • Level 3 – three weeks or more

Mark the level score on the corner of the note.

The second question is, “Is this idea 10x or 10%?” Mark each idea with the answer.

While those two questions are most helpful in determining impact and execution, these three questions can help the evaluation further:

  • What’s in it for the audience? If they won’t receive value, then there is no value for your company.
  • Can we execute this well? Do we have the resources and ability at the level required? Will we need to recruit outside help or incur substantial cost? Skew toward ideas that leverage your team’s strengths.
  • What can we “ship” right now? Is there a smaller version of the opportunity that you can ship quickly to gather feedback and refine your idea?

TIP: If you have a whiteboard, sketch out a grid and plot your ideas accordingly.

Step 3: Find your 10x ideas

At this point, you’re looking at a ton of categorized ideas. Our team usually leaves a brainstorming session with 30 to 50 ideas.

Ready for the best part of this system? Your ideas are now prioritized like magic.

Projects that are both 10x and quick to execute default to the top of the list (upper right quadrant on x-y chart) and the others plot accordingly. Done. Prioritized.

Which metric do you want to grow by tenfold?

Now you have a system to generate 10x ideas and a framework for ruthlessly prioritizing them. All that’s left is to go execute.

Make plans today to grow your content marketing skills 10x (or more). Register today for Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute