In the previous post, I promised to follow up with some ideas about how to achieve marketing ingenuity. This may have been a misleading promise. Ingenuity, by its nature, is new, unique, and adapted to specific circumstances and market conditions. So a cookie-cutter approach (and that includes suggestions for “creativity workshops”) — will probably prove ineffective. Pulling the ideas from different places and combining them into something new could work, or could be a true disaster.
Nevertheless, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest some ideas to encourage your creative ingenuity forces.
Remember the start-up days of your business; and see if you can embed some “start up” with your business model.
This is the feeling of “never done this before” you get at the business outset. Of course, most businesses fail at the start. But yours didn’t (or you wouldn’t be here). So think back to those early days and the mind-set you had.
As an example, I remember well one experience in the early days. I wanted to get my then 100 per cent printed newspaper for Realtors in the classrooms of the local community college where new real estate salespeople got their licenses. The college, following policy, said “no”. So I hired a clown for a few hours and stood with the character on the sidewalk outside the college property, handing out the papers. I also took a photo, and published it in the following issue. Next month, the college relented, agreeing our publication served an educational purpose for the Realtors-in-training.
Obviously, reading this should not give you the brainy idea to use a clown — it was a situational and time-sensitive concept that worked in the situation. And that is ingenuity at work.
Google’s 20 per cent rule — can you formalize it in your business?
Google had a policy until a few years ago to give employees one day a week to work on projects of their choice. This may seem to be a serious business cost, and I expect Google decided at the end as the company grew into its larger structure that most of the free days were wasted. But the original concept when the business was smaller helped to foster new ideas (such as Google Maps) that continue to be crucial resources. (But note that when I first visited the Google campus in Mountain View a few years ago, our tour guide was using his “20 per cent day” to fill the time. Fair enough. It is good to help introduce visitors to the campus, but that doesn’t add that much value, does it?)
Connect with ingenuity outside your business.
The latter Google example provides another clue in explaining how I got to be there to take that tour; on the first of five expense-paid visits to Google offices. I volunteered by answering questions on the AdSense Help forum, and ultimately became a moderator (Top Contributor). While I cannot share specifics from my visits to Google HQ under a non-disclosure agreement, I liked enough of what I saw to purchase several shares of the company for my retirement account. They’ve done well. And the first-hand connections and appreciations of the dynamics of search and social media have helped me understand how to adapt this old-line publishing business to current trends.
Encourage and reward risk and allow your employees to experiment.
This is a challenging concept, easier said than done, because you can end up with wild ideas going nowhere, consuming your budget, or pet projects designed to satisfy employee interests rather than market requirements. (See above, and note that Google ultimately curtailed its 20 per cent program.) Yet you generally cannot be the only one to come up with the bright ideas, and them implement them, in a way that will truly help your business to grow. Cut some slack.
These are some of my ideas. However, frankly, they won’t do too much in themselves. There is a final idea — engaging the services of an outside consultant to shake things up and suggest new things. Here, (if you worked with me), I would probe into your business and then suggest between one and three ideas you could implement with little or no cost to capture new markets. But I can’t do this from a blog post. You’ll need to ask.
You can “ask” by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to provide a comment to this post, you can, as well.