Last weekend, we spent Sunday afternoon dodging rain drops at a Minneapolis art festival along the scenic Mississippi River. We were amazed not only at the number of artists displaying their works but the variety of creative talent on display and for sale. We did a fast rewind to a couple of weeks earlier when we walked around the Mall of America and were disappointed at the lack of creativity in both merchandising and promotion in window after window. And every day, we are disappointed at the level of creativity we see in promotional mailings and e-mails.
This week’s AH-ha! moment wonders where marketing teams get their creative spark. By creative, we are going far beyond graphics and cute copy and down in the depths of marketing where strategy is born and nurtured.
We believe that most marketing teams are pulled in so many directions that they have lost their creative spark. To drive this point home, pull out last year’s marketing plan and see how it differs from this year’s plan. Maybe there is a shift toward or away from social media or direct mail but that’s not a real shift in strategy. If you had four Customer Appreciation Days or Friends & Family sales last year, do you have them slotted in again this year? How radically different is your BTS sales effort this year versus the last three years. Is it another sale – Save 20%? Last year it was a 15% sale, this year is 20%. Is this a fundamental strategy or creative shift? Where are the value added benefits?
Without inspiration, the status quo lingers and inertia infests the organization. Inspiration must come from marketing and it has to move the organization as well as the customer. Inspiration comes from many sources both internally and from the outside. Agencies should be a prime source of inspiration but too often that is not happening.
Let’s look at a real situation that happened last week. We got a call from a media agency that works with a salon group in Florida. We met them a couple of weeks ago during a sales presentation. They have an e-mail database created from a variety of sources. The data is limited to names (sometimes) and e-mail addresses and not much more. They are working on their BTS promotion and wanted us to send out the e-mail for them because they thought we could do more, but when we asked what they were thinking, the response was, “a BTS e-mail and some coupons.” One copy version and one graphic and one set of coupons for everyone. When we asked if the list included gender, the answer was no. When asked if the list identified what salon they visited, they didn’t know. When we asked where they lived, they didn’t know. But they were hell-bent on sending a one-size-fits-all e-mail. And then they wondered why response rates have been so low.
We set two goals for this client:
1. To obtain more information about the people behind the e-mail addresses so the messages and offers would be relevant based on gender.
2. To drive the web recipients only to participating locations.
This involves some web programming and geocoding and we suddenly we have a completely new initiative. All it took was some imagination and a spark.
The Marketing Implications
Sparks comes from many sources. The problem for many marketing teams is they either miss them or snuff them out. We probably should not limit this problem to just marketing. Every business unit faces the same challenges as marketing.
We find the sparks that ignite our inspiration come from data. Last week we said marketing without data is guessing. Our goal is to take the guessing out of the marketing equation. We also find inspiration from dialog with our clients and their customers. Every point of interaction is a spark. We believe this is strategic to creating inspiration.
So, what’s the big deal about inspiration? Everything. Inspiration is what fuels how a business will evolve and grow. Inspiration does not come from a test tube or CAD-CAM software. Inspiration comes from people – your employees (who are smarter than you think), your customers (who must really be smart to be doing business with your brand), consumers (the masses waiting to discover you but are uninspired by your brand), and competitors who watch your every move.
This week, ask your team what inspires them to make your business grow. What inspires them to change the status quo? Last week, as I assumed the Board Chair position of Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, the Board had a strategic discussion about how to fund future projects. Our mission has always been to offer our projects at no cost to low-income homeowners. Now the state of Minnesota is urging us to apply for state funding that is tied to forgivable loans the homeowner would sign. If the homeowner stays in their home for a set number of years, the loan is forgiven. Some Board members raised the issue of “mission creep.” We rephrased it as “mission stretch.”
Mission stretch, fueled by inspiration is good. In fact, it is better than good. Now, you have some new fuel for your team to begin a dialog.
Have a fantastic first week of summer and if you are on vacation, look around and get inspired.