How to Keep Your Marketing Engine Oiled

“When are you going to get specific?”

“Good Morning Prasna**. What do you want me to get specific about?”

“How can people in marketing or HR or Training or any other function use your process? Can you not give some examples?

” I understand. If you do not think I am lazy, may I post here the recent piece I wrote for Apparently many of their readers seem to find it useful.”

“Go ahead.”

(The following post first appeared in

If you want to oil the marketing engine, you must first know what is the right oil for the purpose. Ideas are  oils that help the marketing engine operate efficiently and ensure that it never stops.

What kind of ideas are especially suited to keep the marketing engine going? Business building ideas are the power packed oils that truly lubricate the marketing engine and let it run without heating up.

Here is a list of 50 business building ideas to oil your marketing engine.  If you do not have a pipeline of these ideas in stock, your marketing engine faces the danger of seizure.  Don’t wait for a crisis; it is like oiling the engine only if it breaks down.

Check which of these do you need now!

1.Ideas that build a preference
2.Ideas that make money in new ways
3.Ideas that open up new opportunities, segments
4.Ideas that solve problems
5.Ideas that make people say wow
6.Ideas to make people try
7.Ideas to make people buy
8.Ideas to make people buy more
9.Ideas to make people change habits
10.Ideas to woo people
11.Ideas to build & cement relationships
12.Ideas to improve margins
13.Ideas to accelerate growth
14.Ideas to revive/rejuvenate a stagnant brand
15.Ideas to exploit full growth potential
16.Ideas for getting the most out of local opportunities
17.Ideas to reduce costs
18.Ideas to squeeze the waste & stretch the value
19.Ideas to exploit brand strength vis-a-vis competition
20. Ideas to create/exploit brand differentiation
21.Ideas to create tailored, custom made, localized programmes for local markets & improve competitiveness
22.Ideas to improve brand volumes significantly
23.Ideas to stimulate category growth
24.Ideas to create more effective brand mixes
25.Ideas to unearth new consumer need gaps & how to meet them
26.Ideas linking brands better to consumer insights
27.Ideas to improve consumer effectiveness
28.Ideas to create new propositions
29.Ideas for new positioning options
30.Ideas for building sustainable competitive advantage
31.Ideas to locate new marketing opportunities based on consumer understanding, insights
32.Ideas to adapt global trends, developments, mixes for our markets
33.Ideas to outsmart, kill competition
34.Ideas to catch trends in the early stages
35.Ideas to create more word-of-mouth for our brands
36.Ideas to get free media coverage for our brands regularly
37.Ideas for creating new brand properties
38.Ideas for stretching brand, category boundaries
39.Ideas for improving speed to market
40.Ideas for new products
41.Ideas for new formulations
42.Ideas for new process
43.Ideas for new forms
44.Ideas for new packaging
45.Ideas for new channels of communication
46.Ideas for new distribution channels
47.Ideas for new P.O.P at shops
48.Ideas to improve relationships with retail trade
49.Ideas to tackle challenges facing the brand
50.Ideas to meet challenge facing the category

Here is the catch. The engine does not deliver if you just have ideas. It works brilliantly if you implement your ideas.

How do you generate these ideas?

Here are a few suggestions:
Make this part of your conversations with all the staff, not just marketing/sales people.

Ask “Tera latest idea kya hai?”
If you are the CEO or CMO, keep asking people  “what is your latest idea?” wherever you bump into them. Soon they will realise that the only way to have a conversation with you is to have an idea. To make life easy for them share the 50 challenges mentioned above. Listen to their ideas, show them how to strengthen the idea.

Ask non marketing staff to visit the market, meet the trade/customer/consumer and come back with ideas on any of the 50 from the list
Ask your HR, Finance, Admin, Logistics, Legal people to go on a treasure hunt in the market place. Their job is to hunt for ideas to tackle any of the 50 challenges mentioned  above. Make them feel like heroes just for thinking of ideas.

Make this part of your monthly reviews.

Along with numbers they must submit ideas too. Start with the ideas discussion.
Add ‘Idea review’ as part of your monthly review. Create an idea balance sheet. Ideas received, implemented, in pipe-line etc.
Encourage idea sharing, promote implementation, celebrate both success and failure.

Make this whole business of thinking of ideas for the 50 challenges, fun.

Don’t create a complicated idea submission system. Create an easy-to-use device where people can simply speak their idea – create an idea voice mail. They can dial through their mobile and submit an idea – whenever it strikes them!

Teach people simple ways to generate ideas, sort ideas, select ideas, develop and build ideas. And share them with conviction.
Idea generation is simple. All of us know how to do it but think we cannot do it. Teach people simple ways to think of new ideas. Example: “What will Rajni do if he was in this situation?” You might get a crazy idea to start with but it can lead up to something interesting. Ask “What will our worst enemy/competitor do?” You might get some great stuff.

Teach people to look beyond your category.

What works in one field may work quite well in another. What works in FMCG may work in the IT business.
Train them to think beyond your category. Think of successful companies outside your category. Ask ‘What will they do to tackle this?’ If you are in the machine tools business think like an IT company. If you are in the banking business, think like an FMCG company.

Encourage people to collaborate
Demonstrate to people how to build on each other’s ideas. Show them how to collaborate to take a new idea forward by encouraging them to form small, informal project teams.

Co-create ideas with trade, field-sales staff and consumers
You do not have to solve all your problems yourself. Pose the problems to your retailers, field-sales staff, and even customers/consumers. Very often they have great ideas that never reach you. Use the internet interestingly.

Create a network of ex-employees/just retired employees, employees on maternity leave to watch for trends and alert you for opportunities
Who will watch what is happening, when you are busy fighting fires? Ex-employees, retired employees, employees on maternity leave are great assets. Tell them what you are looking for and ask them to report to you  if they spot anything. Example: Any new promotion or offer launched locally by the dealer but not officially by the company. This often flies under the radar.

Ruthlessly banish idea killers and idea killing phrases like “Yes, but”, “We have tried it before…”, “HO will not approve.. Etc”

All of us are ‘idea killing giants’. Declare that idea killing is a crime. If people use terms like ‘Yes, but’ etc to fob off new ideas announce a fun way to punish them. They must contribute Rs 5 to the party fund. Keep track of contributions. The highest contributor must generate 10 new ideas for one of the challenges.
Publish a list of banned “Idea Killing Phrases”.
Make large posters that every one can see. Start whistling when some one is using any of the banned phrases.

Fly under the radar, encourage small pilots to test things quickly.

Don’t be in a hurry to go public on every new idea. Some times it makes sense to test ideas on a small scale quietly and then make announcements. It will help you refine and improve the ideas before you talk about it to others.
Ideas are about action. Not just discussion. Act on your ideas.
Beware of the ‘idea intellectuals’. The ones who discuss everything to death. The real benefit of an idea is when you implement it. Not when it is in paper. Instil a sense of urgency in converting ideas to action.

Good luck. Let your marketing engine roar and zoom ahead!

**Prasna Rao is an unusual friend. He appears every time I start writing something. He is almost always there when I am writing my blog. He asks questions that are razor sharp and often makes me uncomfortable. He is relentless till I answer his questions in simple, clear terms.  You might find that he is most of the times asking questions that you want to. Therefore he is on your side, while he is putting me in the dock. I call him my Uninvited Coach

Picture by watt_dabney  available under a Creative Commons Attribution- licensed for commercial use.


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