As I write this it is 3:55 am, and although my body is craving crawling back into bed, my mind is racing about a variety of topics that I want to write about and share with you. Although I clearly have two options: 1. Go back to sleep, or 2. Write, writing seems like the more obvious choice. Why? Because when creativity strikes, you must listen. I thought about jotting down my ideas on the notepad strategically placed on my night stand (yes, I still have an old fashioned notepad), but sometimes you need to take action when inspiration hits because creativity is an important part of building a small business.
The one conversation I continue to have with business owners regarding marketing is the fact that they don’t think they are creative. In addition to this, they don’t believe their business is exciting enough or has potential to create interesting messages to help them break through the noisy social media and Internet marketing world. I believe that every business, no matter how boring it may seem on the outside, can generate great ideas and build an engaged audience. The trick is coming up with ways to get you to that “ah ha” moment where breakthroughs finally occur.
In 2009, I had the opportunity to meet the Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winner for Entrepreneur Magazine, Rick Alden of Skull Candy. One of the takeaways I still remember from his speech is that he requires everyone on his team to have a hobby. Whether it’s snowboarding, playing tennis, surfing or biking, he knows that the best ideas don’t come when sitting behind your computer.
Google knew this as well, which is why they created the concept of 20% time. Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin believe that in order for their team to be innovative, they must have the flexibility to work on side projects to enhance their creative thinking. During 20% time, Google engineers created Gmail, Google Talk and Google News, just to name a few projects. Recently there has been a lot of back and forth as to whether this model still exists in Google’s culture, but according to this article, 20% time is still officially alive and well.
What does this have to do with you as a small business owner? In today’s business environment, where small businesses should be acting as content creators as well as whatever their core business is, they need to consistently come up with creative ways to not only enhance products and services, but also how to share them with the world. Here are 3 ways to inspire creativity for your small business.
1. Create a Culture of Creativity
First, this means that you have to stop telling yourself that you aren’t creative. If you keep saying this, how can you expect to actually be more creative? Check out one of my recent blog posts, Are Your Words Killing Your Small Business to learn more about the importance of speaking a better truth in order to generate results.
It is up to you to inspire creativity by making it part of your small business’s culture. In order to stay creative and generate new ideas for each of our clients, my team and I spend about thirty to forty minutes every Monday morning on our “SocialStorming” sessions. During this time, we gather around the table (and online for those out of towners on our team) and share ideas. Throughout the week when we find articles, photos, videos, etc. that inspires us, we share them with the team.
If you can get out of the office for mastermind/brainstorming sessions like this, awesome! Holding these meetings outside or in a more creative environment will only help with the creative flow. Make these meetings fun, and of course with no judgments. Make people feel comfortable with sharing their ideas no matter how crazy them may seem.
2. Focus on Being More Helpful
I get it. We aren’t all in the business of selling cookies, clothes or fun products that seem much easier for which to dream up creative marketing ideas. We do, however, all have the opportunity to be more helpful to our clients, prospects and communities. Jae Baer, Founder of Convince and Convert, explains this beautifully in his book YouTulity: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype. Today, marketing your small business is more about helping than selling. What can you start doing today that will be helpful to your customers and prospects?
A great example of a company being helpful is Corcoran Group Real Estate, the largest real estate firm in New York City. You may be familiar with the CEO, Barbara Corcoran, from the show Shark Tank (which you should totally watch because it is awesome). Barbara pretty much rocks and so does her marketing team. They decided to use Foursquare to be helpful to their community. Check out what they did here. Think about ways that you can be more helpful instead of simply trying to come up with a better way to push your product in front of someone.
That idea you keep playing in your mind, but talk yourself out of because you don’t know if it is going to actually work, try it. When your team comes to you with ideas and suggestions, don’t be so quick to push them away. You are never going to know how successful it can be unless you give it a shot. Marketing, like business, is a game. Sometimes you make a play and it works while other times, not so much. The great part is that as long as you use the data and feedback, you’ll be better informed for the next move that you should make.
What can you start doing today to generate more creative ideas for your small business? Are there certain things holding you back from taking risks and trying new things? Be inspired by the examples you see from other businesses, and don’t be afraid to be bold and give something a shot.
If you have another tip on how to get creative in your small business, we would love to hear from you so comment below and let us know.
Here’s to creativity!
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