Turn Your Marketing Team into a Creative Powerhouse
Intelligent companies know that future growth depends on relentless improvement. And what’s the most effective way to unleash new growth?
In a word, CREATIVITY!
The Power of Creativity in Marketing
Why is creativity so important in your marketing? There have been multiple studies done through the years proving the impact of creativity on driving positive business results.
In one McKinsey study of 200 CMOs, the management consulting firm found that those companies that prioritized creativity and integrated it into their marketing drove revenue growth at twice the rate of those companies that did not. McKinsey, in another study, determined that the most creative companies outperform peers financially.
McKinsey research has shown that the fastest-growing companies are exceptional at creating new products, services, or business models. They write, “…creativity is at the heart of business innovation, and innovation is the engine of growth.”
In a Tenovos study of 3,600 marketing executives, 100% of respondents confirmed that creativity improved top-line revenue growth as well as bottom-line profitability. Every single executive aligned on this. Think about that!
As Stratabeat CEO, Tom Shapiro, wrote in his book Rethink Lead Generation, “Creativity underscores all business progress. It simply cannot be commoditized. It’s what sparks the greatest growth. It’s the most sustainable competitive advantage.”
If your team isn’t prioritizing creativity as a strategic business asset, you’re leaving revenue, profits, and growth on the table.
The Time : Creativity Ratio
It’s funny. Whenever we discuss the power of creativity with a prospective client, we ask them how much time are they devoting to creativity in their marketing. This could be in the form of brainstorming sessions, pitching new ideas, evaluating new ideas, etc.
The majority of teams respond that they spend less than 1% of their time on creativity, lateral thinking, and innovation.
If that’s the case, then is it any wonder why these teams are frustrated that they are not as innovative (or successful) as they could be? If you want to be more creative, you need to spend time on it. Period.
Methods to Increase Your Marketing Team’s Creativity
If you want to build your team’s creativity muscle and achieve greater innovation, consider the steps outlined below.
The first step in the process is to literally block off time in your calendars for creativity. Essentially what you’re doing is creating the white space in your team’s schedules to not only allow more creativity-focused activities, but to actually schedule it.
Use time blocking in your calendar. And make brainstorming a welcome way to spend your time.
Focus Like Crazy
It may be counterintuitive, but it’s actually easier to be creative and generate new ideas if you narrow the focus. Be clear as to what challenge you are addressing. What are the goals you’re trying to achieve?
Do this, and you’ll find yourself with more ideas, as well as higher-quality and more practical ideas.
One of the most effective ways to spark creativity among your team members is to host brainstorming sessions. Here at Stratabeat, we love holding brainstorming sessions for our clients and establishing an environment for our team to unleash new ideas for consideration.
To make your brainstorming sessions as productive and effective as possible, clarify the specific topic you’ll focus on ahead of time. Give them time to think about it in advance. Make it clear what the goal of the brainstorming session is, or the specific outcome that you’re aiming for.
Involve those in different departments and at different levels of the organization. And be open-minded to whatever ideas your participants may have. It’s not that every idea is great or even realistic. But to reach the best ideas, it’s important to generate as many ideas as possible.
And if you’re in person, offer fun food at your brainstorming session!
If You Were a Startup
A fun way to approach a challenge is to think as a new startup. Pretend that you’re about to launch a new company. What would that company do? How would they disrupt the status quo?
How would they do it? In what situations and for which audience segments would they be a better option?
Cross-pollination helps to improve your ideation. University of Chicago professors Ufuk Akcigit and John Grigsby and Harvard Business School’s Tom Nichols found that industries with higher percentages of foreign-born inventors produce more patents and inventions than others.
It’s the same with your marketing innovation. Bring in personnel from other divisions or other departments. Collaborate with those at different levels within the organization. Mix it up!
Consider Doing the Opposite
Prior to founding Stratabeat, Tom Shapiro helped his prior employer, iProspect, explode with growth. When Shapiro joined iProspect, the main form of marketing was large industry conferences costing $30K-$50K each. Plus, dozens of competitors were also there with their own booths.
A colleague and Shapiro decided to test “doing the opposite” by hosting a small, invite-only events. Instead of two-minute conversations, the idea was to spend hours having much deeper conversations with the prospects.
The result? Attendees at the first event brought in not only a new seven-figure deal, but a six-figure deal as well.
The local, intimate events quickly turned into the #1 leads driver for the agency, helping to spur growth from 85 to 700+ employees in under five years.
The Wrong Answer
Similarly, what if you were to brainstorm the WRONG answer to a business challenge? How could we become less efficient? How could we turn off prospective customers.
Although it may seem silly, sometimes you discover that your business is currently headed towards the wrong answers and then it becomes clear what you need to do to avoid this from becoming the reality.
Crazy Effective Marketing
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One method of innovation is to seek opportunities to bring disparate components together into a new consolidated offering. Think of SEO tools. There are tools for keyword research, rank tracking, online content performance, on-page, backlink monitoring, etc.
What companies such as Ahrefs, Semrush, an Surfer did was consolidate a dozen or so tools into one, delivering a more consistent, cohesive solution.
When you use a kaleidescope, you break a view into many individual pieces. The same can be done to generate new innovative ideas from larger concepts.
The world is always in need of simpler solutions. Offerings that make it easier for an individual to get stuff done are prime opportunities for innovation.
If You Were to Spend $1 Million
Another way to spur creative thinking is to ask your team what they would each do with an incremental $1 million. How would they spend it? Which marketing channels and activities would they invest in?
The “Crazy Eights” ideation technique enables your team to quickly iterate on eight iterations of a source idea in order to see where it takes you. With this fast-paced exercise, each participant works within a sheet with eight boxes. Then, they each take one minute per box, entering an iterative idea in each box until time’s up. In this way, participants come up with many ideas in a very short period of time.
What If? Why Not?
Asking “What if…” and “Why not…” are useful questions to ask your marketing team to spark the imagination. To get you
- “What if budget were not an issue…”
- “What if we split this service off into its own business…”
- “What if we acquired our biggest competitor…”
Questions literally open pathways in your brain. When you ask a question, your brain is hardwired to race to answer it. Therefore asking exploratory, expansive questions like “What if?” and “Why not?” is a great technique for increasing your team’s creativity.
Sky’s the limit when you start asking “What if?” and “Why not?”. Just keep asking, and new possibilities and ideas are sure to arise.
How to Improve Your Ideation Sessions
Once you’ve cleared the way for your team to spend more time on brainstorming and creativity-driving activities, follow these principles in order to ensure the best ideas are voiced openly:
- Don’t judge others’ ideas (initially)
- Don’t worry about execution (initially)
- Don’t worry about the past
- Don’t be negative
- Don’t be disinterested
- Don’t leave it to others
- Don’t lose focus
How to Select the Best Ideas
Let’s say that you’ve developed a list of ideas for consideration in your marketing. Next, apply a decision-making framework to ensure you identify the best ideas from the group.
What this means is creating a matrix. The matrix should include the marketing idea in the left-hand column. Then, to the right, list the following columns:
- Leads/Revenue/Business Outcomes
Evaluate each with a green, yellow, or red highlight. So, if it meets your criteria for “Ease”, then color the cell green. If it fails the timeliness test, then “Speed” should be colored red. Etc.
In this way, it will become very clear whether the idea meets your criteria. This is a fast, effective way to significantly narrow down your options to only a few.
From there, choose the best ideas. And enjoy all the new growth your business experiences!