Category Archives: Creative Business Ideas

Keep On Changing

Get Target Market Attention for Your Marketing(Photo by Send me adrift)

With the average consumer facing a daily deluge of marketing and advertising, how can your company hope to ensure that its marketing and advertising is memorable?

Psychologically, after we get used to something, we tend to ignore it – no matter how luxurious it is.  Our brains are wired to notice differences. Once we see a pattern, our brain categorizes it and files it away. But a new pattern causes our brain to spend time to understand it, make connections to other similar patterns, and then categorize it.

Supermarkets know this well – that’s why they’ll regularly rearrange products to capture new attention on existing offerings. So too in marketing – you need to continue to experiment to change imagery, marketing channels, copy, timing.

Changing the appearance of your offering may help your business short-term. But if your offering isn’t keeping pace with the competition, then it’s simply like putting lipstick on a pig. Make sure your offering is divine, not a swine.

A Lot Of Magic Bullets

Magic Bullets To Improve Your Marketing(Photo by David Blackwell)

We’re all trying to find ways to improve our business. Each week, we read about the newest trick or tactic that is a must. We fantasize for a “magic bullet” that will transform our business. But what if there wasn’t a single big magic bullet, but a lot of small magic bullets?

Our business culture constantly spreads the dream of “the insider secret” – something that someone did, that produced a huge result. If you’re just starting out in business, then indeed there are lots of “secrets” – but professionals simply call them “best practices”. These aren’t sexy (deep knowledge of your target audience, clear expression of the benefit of your offering, high-quality backlinks, emotional undertones, etc.). Following through on these best practices will at least put your company in “better company”.

After your initial leap into best practices, the majority of your improvement can be found in a series of smaller tactics, that if done together will result in a big result. For example: website analytic analysis, A/B testing, customer surveys, informational interviews, case studies, SWOT analysis, and value-based pricing. The problem with these smaller improvements is that it’s a lot of work to do more, especially since each tactic may require specialized skills.

Stop spending your days hoping to find a magic bullet. Instead, forge your own success through a continual attitude of gradual improvement. After a while, people will be asking you for your business secrets.

Faster Higher Stronger MarketingThis article was inspired by Mark McClusky’s book Faster, Higher, Stronger, which showcases how athletic achievement is being transformed through a combination of improved science and technology.

1 Sentence Is All You Have

Marketing Short & Sweet(Photo by benefit of hindsight)

When people ask “what do you offer”, they’re not expecting to hear a long laundry list of services, a vague promise, or a long story. They want to know if what you’re selling is something that they may be interested in (eventually) buying. If they want more information, they’ll ask – if you’ve piqued their interest. So, how can you do that?

Ideally,  phrase your one-sentence as:

  • an emotional benefit (we help you not worry about identify theft)
  • a power statement (we save businesses 27% on their recurring billing costs)
  • a simple promise (we wax cars in an hour for $30)

Getting your message to a concise statement might feel impossible – since you might offer so much and it’s hard to narrow it down – or you’re not really sure why people might be interested in what you’ve developed. If you need help, try this tip I previously published. Your 1-sentence may also be later repurposed as a tagline, if/when you need one for your marketing.

Don’t forget that your offer needs to match your target audience’s needs. So, you may want to create a number of highly targeted one-sentence phrases based on who you’re taking to.

The Right Way To Innovate Your Marketing

How to Find Sources of Innovation
(Photo by Hyoin Min)

When planning your new company, product design, or marketing launch you have a lot of options. Some options are easy to rule in (or out). But eventually, if you’re stuck, how do you choose which path is right?

With all things being equal, choose the goal that’s harder to achieve! If you choose the easier goal, you’ll likely find a number of others have chosen it (or will soon choose it). If your goal is to be different or unique, then you’re much better off choosing the seldom-traveled path. It’ll be easier to describe your approach and stand out from the crowd.

But maybe you’re thinking that other, smarter people have considered the harder path, but discarded because they knew something you didn’t. It’s quite possible. But the harder path also scares off (or at least slows down) many others potential competitors.

Do your homework to understand how hard your goal is to achieve, break it down into smaller steps to ensure that each step is potentially doable, and then start innovating!

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney

Reducing Overwhelm

Reducing Overwhelm Is Good For Business
(Photo by bark)

Every day we are all inundated with choices. What clothes to wear? Which email to read? Which product to buy? Which client to call? Most people choose to go with their default – whatever they’ve done before they’re likely to do again. So, how can your marketing break through your prospective client’s overwhelm?

Give ’em less to think about.

The more choices you provide in your offerings, the more indecision you create, and the less likely they’ll buy from you.

Instead, make your offerings clearly black-and-white. Simplify the choices. Take extreme positions. Make it seem that it’s obvious what your prospective customer should choose. By reducing choices you make your options simpler to understand and clearly articulated.

The shorter the (mental) distance between where someone is now and where they want to be, the easier it will be for them to choose your path.


Use analogies to explain marketing offerings
(Photo by Dan Dvorscak)

If you are introducing a service or product that’s innovative, you’re likely to run into a problem. How do you describe it to someone who’s never seen your novel solution – since it doesn’t fit into their mental framework?

Use Itslikea (“it’s like a…”) to explain it simply. Hollywood movie pitches are great examples of this – a new movie is explained as a mash-up of a couple of other (known and successful) movie story lines. The trick is to make the itslikea connect to something that your audience is familiar with (it doesn’t have to be related to your market niche) and then help them to make the mental leap between that image and your innovation.

Finding great analogies isn’t something that everyone’s naturally good at, since you often need to think “horizontally” (looking at other industries) rather than “vertically” (just at your market segment). To help jump start your thinking, pick three words that describe three attributes of your revolutionary offering. For example, if you’ve created a better small car, you might describe it using: lightweight, shrunken, and eye-catching. Then, use a tool such as Google Images to get some visual ideas for what other things share these attributes. Scroll through the list to find an image that somehow relates to your offering. If you’re stuck, pick 3 other words, and repeat. Once you’ve latched onto an image, then create your analogy leapfrogging from the image (for example, “Imagine putting a small engine into a child’s plastic peddle car…”). The analogy will help to create the right mental image to quickly convey your offering.

A great analogy plants a seed into your audience’s mind. Then it’s up to you to harvest your customers.

Why Pick Me?

Why choose your business
(Photo by Mark Giles)

Why do people choose to hire your services? You may think you know, but you likely don’t know the whole story. It may be your witty personality. It may be your location. Time of your classes. Parking convenience. Yelp reviews. A great coffee shop next door. Results. Price. But you don’t know unless you dig deeply.

You can start by asking your clients, “Why choose me?” You’ll likely get a set of logical reasons. But no doubt many of your competition would also satisfy these same points.

Ultimately, you’ll need to understand their emotional reasons. How do they feel after working with you? How do you affect their senses? Do they smile more when you’re around? For this sort of observation, you’ll likely need a helper who’s paying attention to all the clues. Perhaps they’ll video your interactions with clients or ask subtle questions during interactions. There are clues everywhere, but you’ll need to tease them out.

Once you understand why people pick you, make that message one of the pillars of your marketing campaigns. It’ll make it easier to find more people who are looking just for you.

How To Give Feedback

Efficient Marketing Feedback
(Photo by Stephen D)

If your client is asking for feedback (or if you’re giving your consultant feedback), it’s important to not only focus on what you say, but how you say it – for effectiveness’ sake. If you’re brutally honest, you may enforce your point, but you’ll build resentment which can reduce the desire to work harder.

The next time you need to give feedback, use the “sandwich principle” (2 pieces of bread with the good stuff in the middle):

Start by stating something you like about the submitted work (even if it’s something trivial – like how quickly the work was completed).

Next, list the specific things that need improvement. Don’t say “I don’t like what you did”.  Give tangible clues of what specifically you don’t like, and examples of things you do like (don’t make them guess).

Then end with something else you like about their work (maybe it’s something they did previously that you admire).

The “sandwich principle” works well psychologically since people remember the beginning and end of a meeting/presentation more than the middle. By starting/ending the feedback with things you like, you instill a positive feeling about the feedback – so the  “meat” of your feedback can be more easily digested.

Marketing Foreplay

Marketing by Teasing Your Target Audience
(Photo by Aimee Plesa)

How direct is your marketing message? For B2B (business-to-business) marketing, it generally needs to be fact-based (and data-driven), for example: Our solution to this problem often produces a 50% improvement in bottom line-revenue. For some B2C (business-to-consumer) services (soft skills – like coaching – for example),  producing a fact-based message is difficult (you likely don’t have case studies proving the effectiveness of your work). What can you do instead?

Tease your audience with information. If you’ve ever signed up for a free webinar or teleseminar, you’ve likely experienced this marketing technique. Instead of getting to the “good stuff” immediately, the presenter spends a lot of time showcasing their credentials: awards won, articles published, celebrity clients, books written, large seminars taught, etc.  Ten minutes has gone by. They then tell stories of the amazing successes of their past students. Twenty minutes has gone by. You’re wondering if they’ll ever share any of their techniques with you.

At thirty minutes, they then tell you that they’re about to tell you about one of their amazing “secret” techniques, and then describe how important it will be for your life. And finally, at thirty-five minutes, they share the secret.

What’s the impact to their audience? For those that have stuck through the preamble, it’s a cool drink of water to the parched audience. They revere the information. They worked for it (waiting until it was revealed) and know that the value of the presenter’s (with world-class qualifications) time is high.

Now imagine instead, that the speaker simply began the presentation simply, with a minimal preamble, and then shared the secret. Your perceived value would be much lower (even though the information is the same). The key is that through extended foreplay, your desire is heightened.

For your next marketing campaign, consider if increasing the “tease” will result in more closed deals with your target audience.

Less Is More

Less Is More In Marketing Copywriting
(Photo by Alex Akopyan)

Do you spend a lot of time trying to find the right words to convey the emotional benefit of your product or service? Would you be surprised to discover that there’s a psychology of word choice that can help (or harm) your brand?

When selling low-priced goods or services, wording is aligned with simple phrases that are generally empty of meaning (“tastes great”, “top-notch offerings”, “best-in-class”, etc.). People who purchase low-priced services are generally not looking for high-quality – they’re looking for something that “does the job”.  In fact, if you claim high-quality/low-price, the prospective buyer is rightfully often skeptical (if you have high-quality, why don’t you charge more for it?).

When selling mid-priced items, marketing language needs to distance the offering from the low-priced competition. This can be done by building on a lower-priced benefit, and adding a secondary emotional benefit. For example, “not only tasty, but healthy too!” Alternatively, the language may convey a “non-flowery” tangible benefit (“20% better results – guaranteed!”).

High-priced (luxury) marketing can’t simply use the same technique for separating mid-priced from low-priced phrasing. While the offering may not be measurably better than a mid-priced (or even low-priced) competitor, it needs to convey the status of your brand “promise” (perception).  You convey status with understated elegance in word selection, using words that are rarefied (polysyllabic or foreign) or simple (showing that the offering’s quality will speak for itself).

Sometimes its not what you say, but how you say it.

Bonus: Similar research for effective word in real estate listings can be found here.

The Language Of FoodThis article was inspired by the book The Language of Food (by Dan Jurafsky) which not only provides a fascinating linguistic history of many food-related names (ketchup, entree, flour, salad, etc.) but also an insightful analysis of restaurant menus and potato chip bag advertising.