Use the word “Creativity” around business owners, and at least half of them will groan. Why? Because a majority of business owners are technicians: dentists, plumbers, landscapers, etc. They wouldn’t consider themselves artists and “creativity” is a word used most frequently by artistic types.

What most business owners don’t realize is that creativity is not unique to a certain group of people. Anyone can, and nearly everyone does, experience creative sparks.

Here’s how:

Creativity does not require you to reinvent the wheel.

None of your thoughts, information, or content has to be original. You simply have to share it with your audience in a way that gets them to sit up and pay attention. And if you can do that…then it doesn’t matter if you are creatively stunted.

If you can pull inspiration from your prospects’ REAL LIFE situations, then you too can be a “creative” marketer. And quickly generate an exciting amount of revenue.

It’s just a matter of figuring out a message your prospects can relate to.

Back in the 90’s there was a “preview” at the beginning of several VHS movies. A family is sitting around the dinner table, having the following conversation:

Dad: So, what should we do tonight?
Son: Anything’s better than last night.
Dad: Well, what did we do last night?
Son/Daughter: Nothing.
Dad: Alright, alright then we should do something.
Mom: Something sounds good.
Dad: I know. How about we all sing a round of sea shanties?
Daughter: What’s a sea shanty?
Mom: We could all learn Portuguese.
Son: I don’t want to learn Portuguese.

It’s at this point that the family dog grabs a video in his mouth and plops it in the dad’s lap. Then come the screenshots of the family at the video rental store. (Hopefully you’re old enough to remember what those are.)

Do you see how easy this marketing scenario is? The creators took a very common situation, and, with some serious overacting to make it comical, the conversations families were having around the dinner table became a promotion for video rentals.

It’s worth repeating: when it comes to small business marketing, “creativity” is about finding a way to get your contacts to pay attention to your message. That’s all.

Here’s another example of how the simplest idea can lead to massive profits:  

In Salt Lake City, there is a jewelry store – The Shane Company. Their most successful form of marketing was a very, very boring script they played on the radio. The owner of the store, Tom Shane, was so monotone, that even when he tried to have inflection in his voice, it came out flat.

But somehow, his radio ads worked! Anyone who heard the ad listened because it was such a surprising, different voice.

After years of using himself to promote his business, Mr. Shane hired a marketing company to create radio ads for him. They let the new ads (complete with music and special promotions) run about 4 months, but after that short run,once again the voice of Mr. Shane was on the air. He informed his audience that the quality of their product spoke for itself and Mr. Shane was permanently back to doing the radio ads.

He all but said the marketing company they hired had failed them. And they went back to doing what they knew would work.  

A simple, straight-forward, boring message delivered by a monotone man made this company millions. And, again, 20+ years later, almost anyone from the Salt Lake area can still say this from memory:

The Shane Company…at the corner of State Street and 7200 S. Open Monday through Friday ‘til 8. Saturday ‘til 5. Closed Sunday.

Assimilate, Interrupt, or Entertain to Get Attention

One really awesome  marketer is Joe Vitale. In his book on Hypnotic Writing, he discusses how busy our minds are. He says, if you want someone to pay attention to you, you either have to:

1) Assimilate into what they’re already thinking/doing.

Or, you have to:

2) Interrupt their thoughts with enough impact that they start thinking about your message instead.

In the marketing world, there is one more technique to getting someone’s attention that doesn’t quite fit either of these strategies. That is to be entertaining. If you can successfully entertain your prospects or customers, they’ll give you a few minutes of their time.

Read on to break these down a little bit further.

How to Assimilate

Assimilation requires echoing the thoughts of your prospect. You’ve got to present them with a message they are already thinking about. Once you’ve accomplished that, you can guide their thoughts to your offering.

For example, in the spring, most women start worrying about swimsuit season. It’s the reason weight loss companies and fitness centers talk about bikinis and swimsuits so often in April and May. They know what women are thinking, and they want to use those thoughts to their advantage.

Want to see how prevalent this is? Type the phrase “bikini season” into Google and thousands of articles will pop up. Including:

  • How to Prepare for Swimsuit Season
  • 30 Ways to Get a Flat Belly for Summer and Bikini Season
  • 8 Ways to Prepare for Bikini Season
  • 7 Things You Can Do NOW to Get Ready for Bikini Season

If it’s springtime, and you offer any sort of fitness product or program, you barely have to try and you’ll get thousands of prospects flocking to your offering. You simply have to tap into what women are already thinking.

Chances are, you’re not in the fitness industry and you don’t have a “free pass”. But you can still figure out what your prospects are thinking/doing and merge with it.

Here’s an example:

A few years ago, a local dentist, needed some copy for a postcard he was planning on sending out. He’d found a guy that would take postcards door-to-door for just 10 cents a card. So he wanted to try it.

His copywriter was skeptical that a postcard on the door (as opposed to mailing it) was going to produce results. The area he works in just happens to have more dentists per capita than just about any other area in the country. The competition is fierce.

He allowed his copy writer free reign to create a marketing piece for him.

This was the first week of December. And what are people doing in December? Shopping for gifts. Decorating. Sending out Christmas cards. And attending parties. In the month of December, that’s about all people have time to think about.

His copy writer wrote a quick sales letter about the importance of taking care of your teeth around the holidays. Then, she printed the letter on red paper, folded up the paper into a tri-fold, and attached mailing labels directly to it. Anyone flipping through their mail was likely to mistake it for a Christmas party invite. (Assimilating into what they were anticipating receiving in the mail.)

To avoid the feeling of a bait-and-switch, she included a poem on the back side of the tri-folded paper. It was based on The Night Before Christmas, and said something like this:

‘Twas the night before the dentist
And all through the house
Every person was brushing – had
Floss in their mouth.

Her objective was not to deceive. The  objective was to use assimilation to get someone’s attention long enough that they’d be willing to read the sales letter.

And it worked!

This was years ago. And this dentist says that letter still has a far higher success rate than any of his other marketing efforts.

If you understand assimilation, then shift your focus to the next attention-grabbing activity: interruption.

How to Interrupt

With all the thoughts going through your prospects head, the last thing they want is to be thinking about you. Interruption is something so loud and clear, they can’t help but pay attention.

Here’s another mailer example to show the contrast between assimilation and interruption.

One of the best marketing campaigns was at a company called Infusionsoft. Infusionsoft is a SAAS company, providing small business owners with powerful marketing software.

At one point, the executives pulled statistics from their customers. What they discovered was that nearly 30% of the people who were subscribing to Infusionsoft weren’t using it. They were paying a monthly fee but not using the software.

The marketing team was tasked with getting these customers to start using the software again. But how do you get the attention of business owners who don’t even have time to use a system they are paying $200 a month for?

This is where the “interruption” comes in….

“Okay,” thought the head marketer. “They won’t read any messages I write to them. They’re too busy. So I won’t write anything. That will get their attention.”

Oh, it did! Got her boss’s attention, too when she told him she wanted to send a blank postcard to non-users.

But she put herself in the prospects’ shoes and imagined how it would play out. The business owner would be quickly sorting through their mail, not really paying attention. They’d grab the blank postcard, turn it over, and discover it was blank on the other side as well! Whatever thoughts were going through their head would vanish as they contemplated the blank postcard.  

So that’s exactly what Infusionsoft did. They sent an oversized postcard that was blank on both sides except for these words written in tiny lettering “You wouldn’t send a blank postcard. But according to our records you’re not sending much of anything.”

Risky. But it worked! They got about a 20% response. Which means 20% of the people who had been ignoring them for months finally started interacting again.

When you’re fighting someone’s thoughts, what you offer has to be compelling enough to break through those thoughts. It has to be scary enough, exciting enough, painful enough to get their full attention focused on you.

How to Entertain

This technique is a little tougher to explain. But you probably don’t need much explanation. As a human being, you know how exhausting day-to-day living is. Because people are  so busy, because they have so much on their minds, anything someone can do to give their minds a “break” will get at least a little bit of attention.

One client ran a martial arts studio. His copywriter was writing several follow up marketing campaigns for him. When the emails started sounding redundant, she went and found her husband.

“Why would you sign up for martial arts?” she asked him.

Without any hesitation, he said, “So I’ll be ready for the Zombie Apocalypse.”

After laughing, she remembered seeing a meme on Facebook that said: The hardest part of the zombie apocalypse will be pretending I’m not excited!

She sat down and wrote an email that included the subject line: How to avoid a zombie apocalypse. If nothing else, it was entertaining enough as a subject line to get people to open the email.

The Walking Dead - AMC
The Walking Dead – AMC

Think Like Your Prospect

One of the first rules of copywriting/marketing is to know your prospect. And the reason for this is easy to understand. The more you can anticipate your prospect’s reactions, the easier it is to come up with marketing pieces that assimilate, interrupt, and entertain.

If you’ve never filled out a profile on your perfect prospect, that would be the first step in becoming truly creative.

Here is some of the information you’ll want to gather from your prospects for any marketing purposes:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Income Level
  • Education Level
  • Interests
  • Concerns

When you want to be more creative with your marketing, you’ll want to think through the following information:

  • Where will my prospect be when they first see my marketing message?
  • What will my prospect be thinking about when they see my message?
  • How can I make my message look different so it grabs attention?
  • Why haven’t my prospects paid attention to the message before?
  • Is there something appealing about my message I haven’t thought of before?
  • Why do people, ultimately, buy from me?
  • How do I make someone’s life better, easier, more fun, etc?

There are certainly more questions to add to this list. But it’s not a matter of asking the right question as much as thinking about how your message (and it’s delivery) will be received.

If you’re as busy as most small business owners, then the temptation to skip over this exercise will be there. But take some real time to dig in. Remember, you’re waiting for the creative part of your marketing to kick in.  

Once you’ve taken the time to answer questions about your prospect, you may want to sit down and read through testimonials. This is a great way to figure out why people are finding you and what they love about your offering.

Armed with all that information, start thinking.

It takes time to zero in on something that will work. It takes quite a lot of effort as well. And, most busy entrepreneurs find it hard to just sit still and think. But it is in quiet contemplation that you will likely come up with your most “creative” work.

Look at these two examples.

Example #1: A fitness center’s slowest month is December. Holiday activities trump going to the gym. And, with the gift-buying, people rarely spend money on themselves. Selling a personal training package is next to impossible.

That’s the “problem” in a nutshell. Now what? What other information is relevant here?

How about…

  • There are a LOT of guilty feelings once the holidays are over (too many sweets, too much money spent, etc.)
  • Most people include fitness in their New Year’s resolutions
  • There’s a LOT of stress and depression during this month
  • Women (and men) are attending parties where they’d like to look good

You can come up with more thoughts, but these were enough to inspire one gym to run a special holiday promotion:

Work Out In the Month of December For Free –
Our Gift to You!

Not only did this gym grant free access in December, they extended their hours to compensate for the busy season. AND…they sent out special holiday emails to help their prospects get through the holidays just a little bit easier.

New clients wrapped up their year on a high note and already had a jump-start on their New Year’s resolutions.

You don’t have to choose losing out on profits to secure new clients. You can come up with other creative ideas that work for you. But hopefully you can see how thinking through the problem helped this business owner fill his rooms.

Here’s the next example:

This time, an accountant needed some help. He was collecting leads with a whitepaper. A whitepaper that he said prospects would download and not read. He also mentioned that while he was getting clients, it was usually only around tax time. What he had to offer was so much more than an average accountant or a bookkeeper. His focus was helping small business owners use systems to actually grow their revenue (stuff outside the scope of just making a sale.)

However, nothing he tried brought in the right client.

What questions would you have? How would you dig deeper into this issue?

Ultimately, this man was not interested in being an accountant for anyone other than small business owners. So…bottom line, this became a branding issue. He needed to call out, with his name/brand who he was serving and why they needed him.

He was The Entrepreneur’s Accountant.

This idea was nothing flashy, or what anyone would consider particularly “creative,” but it helped him attract those he wanted to pull in. And he could finally share his message with the right people.

Keep Your “Creative” Focus on Sales
(Brand-Awareness Comes Later)

As you read this report, you might be wondering when the part comes in about croaking frogs (Budweiser) or phrases like “You’re Not You” (Snickers). And if that’s the case, then you’re definitely going to be disappointed. The focus of this report is on using creativity to close more sales. Brand-awareness, on the other hand, is about promoting yourself (through whatever crazy ideas possible) so you stay the clear leader in your industry.  

Focus on closing sales first. Once you’ve figured out how to “creatively” close more sales, you’ll have plenty of money to hire a marketing agency for creating brand awareness.

Too many entrepreneurs want to put the cart before the horse. They’re so determined to make a name for themselves that they put a ton of energy, and a ton of money behind outlandish marketing ideas.

There was one small company, who, although they were growing quickly, was determined to make a splash. They has several meetings where they discussed getting a blimp to fly over the city with a banner, driving a bus across the country and randomly surprising business owners, and even creating a Super Bowl commercial.

During a critical time in this company’s growth stages, money was wasted on activities that produced zero sales. And it’s arguable whether those activities did anything to build brand awareness.

Again, stay focused.

You’re not competing with big businesses. You’re simply trying to get the attention of your prospects and customers. And now, you know how easy it is to do.

Creative Marketing is a Daily Effort – Just Keep Swimming, and You Will See Results

Here is  one last thought. Far too many business owners try to come up with great ideas without any context. If you don’t have experiences to pull from, customer comments to review, or prospects to share their feelings, thoughts, and fears with, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to come up with something “creative”.

Keep a journal or ideas board where you can write down phrases you hear or impressions you get. Then, as you explore your marketing pieces, you’ll have a place to start.

Having another person to bounce ideas off is also a great idea. Sometimes, all you need is a soundboard. Maybe just call a friend or fellow business owner and  explore ideas. Dig into one thought, explore it as much as you can, and then wipe the board and start over with another idea.

Because you have thousands of possible ways to promote your offering, the last piece of advice is this – just try something. You’re not going to hit a homerun every time. But when you do, it will be well worth any effort you put into it.
And if you want more help with creative thinking and closing those much-desired sales – sign up for a membership with Ready To Go Copy today! Now get those creative juices flowing!

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