Want to be more creative? You should probably stop trying to be creative!
I’m often asked, for example, how I’m able to consistently crank out these essays, every business day. Over 1,000 words per day. Over 1,175,000 words of high-value content since 2014.
(And deliver them at a consistently-high-enough quality that some of the world’s best direct marketers — and my heroes — count themselves as regular readers.)
Some have suggested that I’m incredibly creative. In terms of the marketing content I’m able to regularly dish out here.
I try NOT to be creative!
In fact, it’s few and far between that I get the kind of lightning-strike creativity — such as my Architecture of A-List Copywriting Skills model — that most folks think of…
When that happens, yes, I capitalize on it. But I do not sit around waiting for it.
The kind of creativity that I aim for? We can call it Productive Creativity.
That is, creativity that is productive in solving business challenges, and getting marketing and selling results.
Productive creativity is about input, not output…
Here’s the thing. The common misconception about creativity is that it’s something that takes place in your head. That in order to be creative, you have to think a lot, and come up with blank-slate ideas that have never been heard before.
The best, most useful, most productive creativity in solving business challenges and seizing opportunities comes from something else.
It comes from adding 2 + 2.
That is, grab an idea from here, and an idea from there. Put them together, and you have “creativity.” Even though you didn’t do much more than stick two previously-existing things together.
With that said, you should be constantly on the lookout for ideas you can join together.
That involves having NEW interactions, exposing yourself to NEW ideas, having NEW conversations, enjoying NEW experiences.
While you’re doing that, think about your market, and what they want. Think about your business, and your product and service offerings.
Then, play a little game of 2 + 2.
For example: I watched Star Wars Rogue One last night. Good movie. There’s a punchline that keeps coming back — and if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry, this isn’t really a spoiler.
“Rebellions are built on hope.”
Now let’s say I’m writing an essay about how to buck the 9-to-5, launch your own freelance business, and make six figures next year.
How can I use that?
Well, if you’re starting to get an image of corporate suits as the Empire…
Freelancers as a rag-tag group of renegade rebels, fighting for freedom and independence…
And the uncertainty as to whether you’ll succeed as the major conflict…
You’re probably starting to see where hope comes in. That moment, when you choose to join the rebellion. When you choose to break off into entrepreneurship and launching your freelance business. You know it’s right for you, but you’re up against some tall odds.
Are you getting the point here?
(This is a great application of Story Selling principles. Mastery of using stories — even parables and metaphors — starts with my Story Selling Master Class. Get started tonight when you join BTMSinsiders. Click here.)
The idea is that when you’re looking out, coming up with your next 2 + 2 moment is very simple.
With that introduction, I want to present…
10 creativity hacks for marketers and salespeople…
Believe it or not, I found this list in my office, written on a 3X5 note card. Not sure where it came from, but I obviously thought it was valuable enough to keep it!
This is a pile of different ideas you can use to fan that creative spark into a flame, and come up with new ideas and breakthroughs for your marketing, selling, and business.
- Don’t ask family…
Here’s the thing about family. They come with a pile of emotional baggage and no expertise. But they want to pretend they know, to help you out. (They don’t know this is the worst kind of help.) Same with friends.
If you’re going to ask someone to weigh in, you have two choices.
First, there’s the qualified expert. Someone with experience in your field and market, who really knows what they’re talking about and is able to separate fact and market knowledge from opinions and biases. These people are exceedingly rare, but when you find one, they can offer massive breakthrough ideas that will spark huge creativity. (This is the power of masterminds, mentorship, and coaching.)
Second, you can ask potential buyers what they think. Which is what many of the additional creativity hacks are about, so I won’t go into detail here.
- Do a public demonstration, set up a booth/kiosk…
One of the best ways to learn selling is to be a one-to-one salesperson. Many marketing greats got their start in door-to-door sales.
Why is this so powerful? Because you can see reactions, and respond to them. Then see how your response changes your prospect’s response.
How does this apply to your current situation? If you have something that can be demonstrated and pitched in-person, and you have a place you can do that to your target market, try it. Try to sell publicly, and pay attention. The responses you get will help you shape your future pitches and may spark some creative breakthroughs.
- Interview potential customers…
It can also pay to shut up. Round up potential customers. Ask them what their issues, challenges, or problems are around your product or service category. Make sure not to turn it into a blatant pitch.
Then, let them tell you. If you can really get them to spill the beans, even better. You want to listen and find your most adamant potential customers, and see what they say about what they want, and what’s missing from the marketplace.
- Put office/workspace where the customers are…
Again, this is about getting in the middle of things. Let’s say, for example, that you’re offering some service to start-ups. Go work in a co-working space a couple times per week. Interact with the people there. Many of them are involved in the start-up scene.
Or, if your customers are regulars at the local bar… Well… I’ll hold off on that suggestion.
The idea is that if you can spend ample time interacting with your customers, you’ll learn a lot.
- Throw a party…
This is great for marketing, but it’s also a good reason to get customers to come out and start chatting.
Even better, if you host a party with a bunch of potential and past customers, it takes them out of the selling/buying dynamic.
What do I mean? Simple. In a more formal context, your market might have their guard up. They don’t want to be sold, so they don’t give straight answers.
In a party atmosphere, they may be much more loose with what they’re willing to talk about, and with answers to your questions. This may get you extremely valuable data you couldn’t get otherwise.
WARNING: Don’t switch to selling mode in the middle of your party. It’s a buzz-kill and anti-selling filters will go back up to 100%.
- Talk to experts in the field…
I mentioned this above. Who has been there, done that? Who has walked your path before? If not the exact path, a similar enough one that they’re worth talking to.
Launching a Fulfillment by Amazon business? Find someone with noncompetitive products who is already succeeding. Launching a subscription business? Find someone who has done that successfully.
Alternately, if you’re selling books on a topic, there’s probably a lot you can learn from folks who haven’t written a book, but do training or other content on the topic.
Think vertical and horizontal. Find the overlap, find the expert, and get their perspective.
- Find the decision maker and speak with them (especially enterprise sales)…
Here you’re going straight for the jugular. It doesn’t have to be a direct sales conversation, but there is creative virtue in being more direct.
Who signs the checks, that is willing to tell you the unvarnished truth? Start asking them questions, and see what you get.
- Listen to what customers are demanding…
Read Amazon.com reviews. Browse internet forums. Ask them in person. Check your support or customer service inbox.
There are any number of places where customers in your market are demanding things. Find those places, and be open to what you find there.
Maybe nobody else in your market offers a specific feature set that would be hard to pull off, but that people want. That’s a creative breakthrough, if you’re willing to do the work.
The value in complaints from customers is that these are buyers telling you what they still want after they’ve bought. There’s a ton of value in that.
- Pre-orders, landing pages, analytics…
Test, test, test. It’s one thing to try to be creative in isolation. But true creative genius comes when your message meets the market at its point of demand.
(Same thing applies to art, by the way. “Creative” art that nobody wants isn’t worth anything. If there’s a strong niche demand — even for odd things — that’s powerful. And I like odd, niche art.)
So instead of trying to come up with one great idea, come up with 20 good ones. Put them to the test. See what the market responds to.
It’s easier and cheaper than ever. So do it!
- Ask for the introduction…
Finally, consider who the friend-of-a-friend is who might be able to help you solve a problem. We’re all six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. In our fields of work, we’re likely only one or two introductions away from anyone we really want to meet.
Figure out what you can offer the other person in exchange for a moment of their time. But then ask. The worst thing that can happen? They say no, but admire your willingness to put yourself on the line for your idea.
The big takeaway…
There are probably dozens upon dozens of creativity hacks. Everything from the information you consume to the experiences you seek out to the people you interact with.
This list is more about interaction — especially with your market — than other lists might be.
The key is to do it. To use these hacks or others to get out of your head, and use INPUT as a way to stimulate your creative output.
That’s the real breakthrough.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
PS: Speaking of input, I just created a landing page where you can request a free copy of the classic Claude Hopkins book, Scientific Advertising. You get the ebook and audiobook. Free. There are 21 principles of effective advertising that will spark some creative breakthroughs if you seriously ponder on how to apply them.