Increasing The Bottom Line Is About More Than Numbers

As a business owner, it is always imperative to flex your analytical muscle. Sound decisions are made by evaluating the bottom line, and figuring out what works, and what doesn’t. Then you pull the trigger.

There’s another layer to Internet marketing. You have to stand out in a vast amount of competition. That takes creativity. We’re creative when we’re young. Kids love drawing and telling stories. Somewhere in adulthood it becomes uncool, and goes away. Well, if you want your marketing to succeed, you can’t kill that creativity.

Avoid The Pack

There’s something in the old newspaper world called pack journalism. You’re covering a beat that several other outlets are covering. Your fed the same news through the same sources as everybody else covering what you cover. So how do you write the story that nobody else has?

Businesses need to ask the same question when they’re writing marketing copy. It’s easy to look at what the competition has and feel obligated to do the same things. Instead of giving in to that temptation, why not ask yourself what makes your business different? You can base your marketing content around your customers’ needs, and how you work to solve them.

This can be especially true with blogging. Don’t just regurgitate the same information you’ve heard from five other places online. If you’ve read it all, there’s a good chance your customers have, too. Give us an opinion or two. Come up with new reasons for the same questions. Ask different questions. Whatever the case may be, you can write the blog that others will feel compelled to respond to.

Keep An Idea Log

There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down and feeling compelled to publish, with no ideas popping out of your head. Start a Word file, or use an app like Evernote. You can take notes and jot down ideas as they come, rather than letting them pass and feeling the frustrations during your 9 to 5 hours. I’ve had ideas come while taking out the garbage, taking a shower, or right before bed. Chances are, you probably have too. When you capture your ideas as you have them, the creative process becomes a lot less limiting.

In high school I had a friend who any time someone said “I had a thought,” would respond “Did it hurt?” It was kind of a jerk thing to say, but he has a valid point. When you sit focused on a blank screen for an hour, or just struggling to come up with the creative fix you need, walk away for five minutes. Come back and take a fresh look. You’ll be surprised at the impact.

If the ideas you get don’t fit the immediate direction, write them down, refer to them later, and move on.

Soak In Everything

Of course it’s important to stay current within your industry. It’s just as important to read outside of your industry as well. Don’t become one of those boring people who define themselves solely by what they do. You’ll bore your family and friends. You won’t win any new friends at the dinner party.

Read everything that interests you outside of your industry as well. You’ve got to have some books, blogs and magazines outside that mold as well. Read those. Carry over the aspects that make sense for your work.

Don’t stop there. Pay attention to the non-business conversations that take place in your life (please tell me you have them, or refer above to the dinner party effect). Are there ideas that can somehow be brought back to educate your readers? There’s an infinite well of creativity here. There’s a scene in West Wing where the President of the United States describes his decision making process. The most important aspect is surrounding himself by people smarter than he is. Then he listens to what they have to say, and makes the call. Not a bad way to inspire some creativity, either.

You’ll be surprised the impact that music, sports, art and other outside interests can have on creativity. Don’t ignore.

Lose Your Preconceived Notions

By now, you’ve surely had somebody tell you you’re doing it wrong. When you’re working on the analytical, scientific side of your business, there probably is a right and a wrong way. When you’re working on the artistic side of your business, it’s important to know when to say screw ’em.

Nobody knows your business better than you do. Just because somebody else couldn’t pull the trigger, or they didn’t think of it first, doesn’t mean that you can’t.

Write First, Edit Later

This is closely related to your preconceived notions. As you’re writing, the chances are fairly decent that your idea does suck. It may be every bit as bad as you think it is the second it’s staring you in the face from the screen. You know what? Who cares. They’re called first drafts for a reason.

It’s important to keep the writing and editing processes separate. Once you have everything down, go back and improve. You may need to delete the questionable aspect, or maybe it can be tweaked and improved to fit what you’re actually trying to say. Editing at the same time you write is the enemy of creativity.

Expand Your Wheelhouse

Don’t be afraid to try something just because you think you’re bad. The other night my wife and I had some friends over, and we played a game that required people guess what we were drawing. I drug my feet and protested (vociferously) at first, but it turned out that one of our friends was just as bad. If we didn’t toss the papers already, I’d be tempted to scan some of my stick figure attempts in to prove a self-deprecating point.

I’m also tentatively planning a photo expedition to Chicago soon with a professional photographer friend. When it comes to photography I’m better than drawing, but still very much a hobbyist. Any chance you get to see the world through a professional’s eyes, take it.

Don’t avoid doing something because you think you’re bad at it. Chalk it up to learning and move on. It’s how you become more than a one-trick pony.

Wrapping It All Up

It’s easy to fall into an online rut, and essentially become invisible. It’s easy to look at your marketing from a black and white analytical point of view. Numbers are important. They tell a critical story in our business lives. Every child grows up drawing. Somewhere along the lines we kill off the inner artist and lose self-confidence.

It’s time to bring that artist back.

Matt Brennan is a Chicago-based marketing writer and copy editor

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