Is creativity bad for marketing?

funny eggs with facial expression: scared screaming and being terrified.As a writer just typing the question – is creativity bad for marketing – hurts a little.

Advertising and marketing people pride themselves on their creativity. After all, it’s one of the lures of the profession for most of us.

But does it serve our businesses and our business goals?

On the surface, it’s easy to argue that creativity is essential to good advertising and marketing. Whether it’s strategic nuances and insights, being innovative in your brand and how you express it, or marketing materials that capture the audience’s attention and imagination – all of those are built on a foundation of creative thinking.

But I’ve been in some situations recently where it was evident that the long-term objectives were not being well served by an infusion of creativity. Then, sadly the answer is yes…. creativity can be bad for marketing.

So let’s look at how the very thing we work so hard to capture can also be a detriment.

Too many ideas: This can be a killer. When a team is on fire with great ideas and falls in love with them all, the end result can be a mess. Sometimes the team tries to pack in all the ideas so rather than building a message hierarchy where you lead with your key message and then support that message — you get five pounds of ideas shoved into a one pound bag. That results in a lot of superficial messaging rather than a well-developed story with depth and relevance.

The other possible outcome of too many ideas is that the team decides to use them all sequentially. That typically means that no one idea is left in place long enough to really take root. Remember, about the time that we as the creators are getting sick of the ad/brochure/tagline etc. is about the same time the intended audience is just noticing the communication. If you pull the plug too soon, you lose all momentum and have to start all over.

Unbridled creativity: As the brainstorming pendulum swings, it often goes to an extreme that’s beyond the audience’s sensibilities. Sometimes a team can get so enamored with being provocative or wildly creative that they forget who their audience is. We’ve all seen ads that were very outlandish and got a lot of attention but in the end, were too far over the top and the company ended up issuing an apology or retracting the ad.

Marketing has a very simple purpose – to sell something. It might be selling a product, or an ideal or a candidate or a charity’s cause. But it does not exist to entertain, provoke a reaction or win awards. If it sells AND entertains, all the better. But it needs to do its job. Which means the audience’s perspective must always be front and center.

Cart before the horse creativity: Believe it or not, good creativity is actually the outcome of a very disciplined process, at least in marketing. To truly be creative in a way that nets the desired results, you have to do your homework before you release the creative juices. Until you define the goals, identify and get to know your audience and understand your unique position in the marketplace – you hold your creativity in place.

When you unleash it too soon, you may come up with the most compelling marketing tools that drive the audience to action, but they might be the wrong audience, might be taking the wrong action or might play to one of your competitor’s strengths.

Like most things, creativity isn’t good or bad, at least not in the world of marketing. It’s how we use it that makes it either a huge asset or a hindrance to us achieving our ultimate marketing goals.

 

What does this pricing strategy say to you?

PriceHow thoughtful are you about your company’s pricing strategy? Let me give you an example.

We use an on-line vendor to provide extranet services for our clients.  We’ve been with them for over five years.  We recently discovered a better, cheaper solution.  It wasn’t the cheaper that sold us.  It was the ease of use for our clients.

But cheaper doesn’t hurt.  And this was cheaper by a couple hundred dollars a month.

When I contacted the old vendor to cancel our service, guess what their immediate response was.

“We can match their price.”

What?  So you’ve been overcharging me for years?  Or you magically just had a price reduction to the very dollar amount of my new vendor and you were about to call and tell me about it?

Talk about leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Dropping your price to keep a customer is never a good strategy.  It can only make you and the client both feel taken advantage of and in the end, no one wins.

Your pricing strategy is one of the key components of your marketing message.  It speaks about things far beyond your cost.  It communicates value, customer attentiveness and how you view the relationship, both short and long term.  It’s not something you should just stumble into.  And it’s not something you should damage by mishandling a situation, like our old vendor did.

There’s an interesting couple articles over at Marketing Tips from the Trenches about how to think through a pricing strategy and how to test it.  Worth a read.

 

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Guilty of the frantic scramble in your marketing?

FranTarkentonI grew up in Minnesota in the 70s and I love football which meant that back when I was a kid, my world revolved around the Minnesota Vikings and our incredible quarterback, Fran Tarkenton.

At the time of his retirement, Fran owned EVERY major quarterback record out there. Fran was known as The Scrambler because he was famous for being able to pivot and run around in the backfield, dodging defensive players and giving his teammates time to elude a defender or get open for a pass.

He was something to behold. Off the field, he was articulate, intelligent and called a “thinking quarterback.”

I admired him on and off the field. He was a great role model. So no great surprise that when he retired, Fran successfully pursued other professional aspirations, including launching over 20 companies.

Being a scrambling quarterback was really the perfect training ground for Fran’s entrepreneurial efforts. Whether you run a huge corporation or a one man hot dog cart — owning a business is about scrambling for opportunities, dodging disasters and looking down the field, hoping you see the perfect play that will advance your efforts.

Sadly, marketing is never the biggest guy chasing you down. Which is why so many business owners let their marketing slack off or erratically cycle in and out.

Marketing is creating the game plan before the game and then executing it.  Sure, you call an audible now and then and change things up.  But, you mostly follow the plan.  When you plan/execute your marketing well, you can scramble after opportunities.  But you don’t wait until the need for marketing chases you.

Back in the 70s, during halftime and after every game (yes, even in the dead of MN winter), my neighborhood buddies and I would gather in our shared backyards to play a little football. So picture little Drew McLellan, out in the back yard, wearing his #10 Vikings jersey scrambling as I shouted that my teammate should go long. (Who doesn’t love that play?).

Fast forward to today — and I’m excited to tell you that a much older Drew McLellan got to be a guest on Fran Tarkenton’s radio show, aimed at entrepreneurs.  (listen to the segment by clicking here)

How cool is that? We talked about some of the challenges that business owners/leaders face when it comes to marketing, like:

  1. Marketing is not part of their daily routine — so they cycle. Go like crazy when things are slow and then do nothing when they’re flush. If the dry spell is too long, they go out of business.
  2. Chasing after new business and ignoring existing customers (spend time/money in the exact wrong way — it should be spent on employees, current customers and then prospects not the other way around).
  3. Marketing is too self centered/focused. Way too much me/we and not enough focus on the customers’ needs.
  4. Try to do too many different marketing tactics all at once and don’t do any of them for a long enough period of time or with enough depth. Better to do fewer but do them better.
  5. Business owners need an outside perspective. Why/how is their business different/unique? What is the value proposition that only they can offer? But they can’t figure it out on their own. It’s like trying to describe the outside of a bottle — if you are inside it. Can’t unknown what you know.

Are you suffering from any of those mistakes?  Are you so busy scrambling that you’re applying the same philosophy to your marketing?

Create a marketing game plan and follow it.  Leave the scrambling to other aspects of running your business.

Want to listen to Fran and I chatting about business?  You can listen to the live broadcast of the show this Saturday (June 8th) at 8-10 am CT or 3-5 pm CT on Sirius 104. Or you can listen on demand at siriousxm.com.  Get more details here on Fran’s radio show page.  Once I get the mp3 of the show, I’ll add it to this post as well.

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Video can make a prospect’s concerns go away

Video is a very useful medium that most companies underuse. But when they are used…they’re typically used to sell or teach.  All of that is well and good.

But I think you might be missing the boat on an opportunity to make your prospects concerns go away.

I’m in Arizona for 10 days — a mix of working with clients and speaking at a conference. I didn’t want to pack enough clothes to cover all 10 days so I decided to pack for 5 or 6 and hit a laundromat on my day off, in between meetings.  I know…the glamours of business travel!

So now it’s Saturday and for me, it’s “find a laundromat” day.  I’m in a city I don’t know and I’m heading to a laundromat, which is usually not a high end consumer experience.  So I have some concerns.

  • Will it be clean?
  • What hours is it open – can I go during daylight?
  • What’s the neighborhood like?
  • Is it crazy expensive?
  • How many machines do they have? Will I have to wait?

So I turn to the digital yellow pages.  Now I am really flying blind. But, on one of the listings — the laundromat had a video. They showed me how clean it was. They showed me the neighborhood.  They demonstrated that there’s always a staff person on-site.  They even showed me how much the detergent etc. would cost.  Their video made my concerns go away.

It wasn’t the closest laundromat. But, because of the video I was happy to pay for a longer cab ride to go to Ginny’s Washhouse. Why? They’d nullified my concerns.

All the laundromats had text in their ads that said they were clean and safe. But only Ginny’s proved it to me by showing me that it was true.

How is this relevant for you? Your potential customers have worries about you too.  They might worry that you’re too far away or hard to find. They might be concerned that you’re too expensive or you don’t understand their industry.  But deep down inside, every prospect has a worry or two about you.

Some of them will show up anyway.  Or pick up the phone and ask about their concern. But many will simply fade away, not ready to proceed with that nagging worry in the back of their head.

The old marketing model would have been to put the spotlight on all that you do right and ignore those worries, hoping they’d go away. Today, we know better.

Attack those buyer concerns and worries.  Pull them out into the light and deal with them.  And a really powerful way to do that is with video. Our brains may believe bullet points and text but our hearts believe what we see.  Video packs a multimedia punch that can use emotions, strong visuals and even music to create a tone of reassurance and confidence.

Keep in mind that sometimes their fears aren’t as easy to visually deal with as whether or not the floors are clean.  You may need to use a testimonial approach where a current client looks into the camera and says, “I thought AB&C was going to be way out of my budget range so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it only cost $X.”

Get creative — but get to their worries and answer them right up front.

 

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Content that your audience loves

I saw this on Scott Monty’s Facebook status…and loved it.  I couldn’t track down the creator but if I do, I’ll update the post.

Just wanted to give you something to chew on over the weekend.

Age of Conversation 4 — want to be one of our authors?

We know… it’s crazy. But Gavin and I are ready to do it again. This time, we’d like Age of Conversation to take on a much more personal tone… how is social media impacting you, your work, your family and your view on life? Your chapter might be as elaborate as a real case study or it might be as simple as your best time saving trick. But it’s about you and how you “do” social.

This time, we’re doing both one and two page chapters. (see below)

Here are the sections for the book:

ONE PAGE CHAPTERS

One page chapters are grouped into “sections” to provide a sense of cohesion to the topics covered. (One page = 400 words or so) This year’s sections are:

Secrets – what is a secret, what is your secret and what are the limits of privacy in the Age of Conversation?
Transparency – what does it mean for a business to be transparent? How do you go about making your brand or business transparent? And what happens if transparency fails?
Authenticity – what does it mean to humanize a brand? What happens when business gets personal and how does so-called “authenticity” impact you on a personal and professional level?
Unexpected Consequences – anything from a painful lesson learned to an unexpected cross the globe friendship. Share your journey in this Age of Conversation
How Do I … – share your tips and tricks on social media. What do you do well and how do you achieve the outcomes you want?

CASE STUDIES – TWO PAGE CHAPTERS

We’d love to have your case studies. (Two pages = 750 words or so) They need to be projects that you have worked on or have been responsible for. You must include measurable results of some sort. We’re not going to get into the whole ROI discussion…but you need to show how it played out. Please don’t propose case studies based on other people’s work.

Want to join in on the adventure with us? We’d love to have you with us!

To sign up —  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?fromEmail=true&formkey=dGhydDdoTmVtZXFLT3V0YzY2ampDUlE6MQ

We’ll be closing the sign ups pretty quickly so if you’re serious about writing a chapter — sign up soon!

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