By Stephen Bean | Sep 13, 2010
Notable business success does not happen by chance. It happens by design. And one of the most – if not the most – important “design features” intrinsic in unusually successful people is their unusually high degree of creative skills. Highly creative people are rare and, therefore, highly creative business owners are also rare. See the direct connection?
Here’s the inherent paradox. Most business owners typically focus on and understand their products quite well. But, in my view, they simply don’t (or are unable to) creatively manage their business or creatively market their products to maximize results. The operative word here, folks, is “creatively.”
Most human characteristics and skills are distributed on the normal curve, meaning that having an unusual amount (a lot or a little) of any skill or characteristic is statistically rare. So, the logical conclusion is that most business owners are about average in their managerial and marketing skills. As a result, it follows that most business owners achieve about average results and then tend to devote significant time and mental energy trying to figure out why.
What makes a person creative? Simply put, creative people are fundamentally extremely curious people. And, when you are curious, you read more, explore more, learn more, do more and, therefore, acquire and store more information in your brain (your “psychic bank”) than non-curious people. This information can then be called upon to create things. Psychologically speaking, curiosity is a significant – and the primary – underlying cause of creativity.
People who are creative will tell you that ideas just seem to “pop into their heads” out of nowhere at various random times. Actually, they pop into their conscious heads from their psychic banks because their banks contain enough informational deposits that were made over time.
I consider myself to be a creative person, and I will often awaken during the night with actual marketing ideas that I write down on a notepad, which I always keep available in the nightstand for just that purpose. Sounds like a “Seinfeld” episode, doesn’t it?
I find creative people to be extremely fascinating to be around because they are usually very enthusiastic, optimistic and literally overflowing with interesting ideas. For example, I play racquetball with a highly creative gentleman by the name of Josh Linkner. I suggest you remember his name because he is rapidly on the way to becoming an extremely well known authority on creative business thinking. Josh is not only highly creative but he is also a major advocate of business creativity and is in constant demand as a speaker on the subject all across the United States.
About 11 years ago, when Josh was not yet 30 years old, he founded a good-sized company based in Michigan called ePrize, which is now the worldwide leader in creating one-to-one relationship campaigns between advertisers and their customers. Working with many of the top brands around the globe, ePrize is all about creativity.
Needless to say, Josh is totally off the charts on the creativity scale. His new book – “Disciplined Dreaming” – will be available in February 2011 and is a must-read for business owners who want to develop their creativity in order to run their businesses more profitably and achieve much greater success.
Today’s business world is extremely competitive, dynamic and constantly in motion. Always looking for and finding more creative ways of doing business is essential. This applies to all forms of business, including self-service laundries. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that since the product (washing and drying) is by definition not very complex or glamorous that there are not many highly creative ways to market your product and manage your business. There are.
Creativity, or the lack of it, impacts all aspects of your business. Even advertising for employees can be done in a creative manner. A number of years ago, I noticed the following help wanted advertisement in our local newspaper and was so impressed with the creativity possessed by the writer that I saved it, and I wanted to include it here for you to marvel at as well. This is a grand illustration of practical creativity in action, and it’s very instructive:
2 weeks ago we found 1 ALLIGATOR. We are still looking for 2 more alligators to fill the 2 positions that are open. I’m interested in hiring 2 semi-obnoxious pushy sales pros for a very boring repetitious job of selling. My current staff, the laziest group of individuals you will ever meet, drag themselves to work Monday thru Friday to decide to complain about the weather, the coffee, the thermostat or their manager. When that’s over, somehow they manage to organize themselves, make their appointments and make lots of money, which is surprising since nobody wants to buy anything we sell because the economy stinks. Applicants should have skin like an alligator and desire to better their way to a $40,000-plus per year career.
Notice the many aspects of creativity displayed throughout the ad. The message is certainly humorous but definitely gets the main points across. It also indicates that the “alligators” that currently work there don’t work weekends and implies that they can be lazy and still make money despite the state of the economy and are free to express their criticisms of the company.
Perhaps the writer chose to use the descriptive term “alligator” rather than salesperson to indicate that a thick skin is necessary in sales but also to convey the message that, since real alligators spend a lot of time just sleeping in the sun, being overly ambitious is not really required to make money at this company – and that’s OK with the management. This ad is very creative and clever, and I would imagine that it received a huge response because of it.
Since washing and drying is often categorized by customers as a commodity type of product, it stands to reason that the more creative your advertising is the better your chances of obtaining a greater market share.
Car dealers provide a great analogy. For example, all Ford dealers sell identical products, yet there are many Ford dealers. If you notice the flavor of automobile dealer advertising, you will become aware that – by creatively emphasizing the uniqueness of their dealerships – they do not let their product reduce itself to the level of a commodity.
Car dealers now advertise unique services they offer, feature women and minorities on their sales staffs in their television ads to appeal to a wide range of buyers, have custom hours of operation, offer free loaner cars to those who bring their vehicles in for service and so on. In short, they are much more creative in terms of the nature of their advertising and the services they provide. The auto business, like the coin laundry business, is a volume-driven business, so they focus on acquiring a large volume of customers.
Recently, I was in a clothing store in the Detroit area, and the message played on the in-store public address system made a strong point of saying that if we (the customers currently in the store) had any questions about any of the products to simply ask one of their highly trained in-store “clothing educators.” Wow! An entirely new creative twist to the old concept of a retail clothing salesperson.
We live in an age when creatively thinking outside the box is mandatory for marketing success. However, be sure your creativity is legal and ethical – and acceptable. As for “the box” itself, don’t venture an inappropriate distance from the lid.
Do you want to become more creative? If so, do some inner work on yourself at developing a strong interest in life and all of its aspects. Put away your amusing novels for now and read more informational, nonfiction books and magazines on every subject imaginable. Go to a variety of retail stores and just notice how they display their products and the nature of their in-store advertising. When you meet new people, ask them many questions about what they do. And watch a lot of infomercials because they are usually extremely creative in structure.
I recently bought a package of gum that was actually named “Be Incredibly Creative Instantly Gum.” The idea was that, if I chewed it, my creativity would immediately soar.
So, I chewed a stick to see if it would get my creative juices flowing. The package promised it would, but more importantly, it said the magic words, “As Seen on TV,” which was truly a creative way to induce me to actually buy the stuff in the first place.
Now that I’ve chewed the entire package I guess there is virtually no limit to my imagination. My wife says I’ll buy anything. I wonder what she means by that.
Stephen Bean is available for personal coaching and one-on-one marketing consulting. To reach him directly, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.