Creative heads in the clouds

Creativity in advertising can help catch people’s attention and win customers. Yet some advertisers’ heads seem to be in the clouds when they don’t pay attention to the conversation taking place in their market. Creative approaches need to link with the customer’s world to provide returns.

 Sometimes you just wonder how “creative” advertising can be so detached from its real world surroundings. It’s much too easy to criticize someone else’s advertising so I will mention just one short falling of an advert I saw in a national business weekly. It totally missed a big opportunity.

The advert was about cloud computing and gave examples of its applications in society and ended by mentioning the company’s contribution to global computing. All very good except that this ad was run on the Sunday midway through the COP 17 climate change negotiations in Durban. Surrounding pages in the business section were plastered with ads about climate change and solutions for a low-carbon future. Now, how possibly could the advert fail to mention any reference about climate change? It’s sort of like walking up the road from King’s Cross Station and not being aware that the place has social problems (which we won’t go into here).

After reading the advert on a flight to Durban I asked the passenger sitting next to me: “What do you make of this?” He took a look and said, “They could at least have mentioned something about their e-waste and what they are doing about it.” Later the passenger mentioned that he was the climate and environmental advisor to the presidency of a country in Africa.

Being present to the conversation already taking place

So what is the real message for marketers – off-line and online – with this advert? Simply put, to be present and listen to the conversations already taking place among customers. Surely, the team that put together this advert could have thought about what would be going on when the ad would appear? If they had, they might have recognised that COP 17 would be a major topic of discussion in the papers and online during the negotiations taking place in Durban.

They could have come up with a quick short-list of examples of solutions that their computing is bringing about to help mitigate climate change. It would have then been easy for them to join their customers’ conversation which would have certainly included climate change and the global climate change negotiations. The other advertisers had thought about their timing – some even used leaves symbolically acting as the blades for wind turbines to promote renewable energy.

Creativity doesn’t mean generating ideas that are detached from people and the marketplace. Products of creativity are meant to inspire, entertain, influence perhaps and ultimately sell. Even a five-minute session with a basic idea generation tool would have assisted in this instance with developing the original idea and making it so much more powerful.

Loosen up and fire your imagination

By joining the customer’s conversation, understanding their interests, problems and aspirations, businesses become more relevant and real when they try to connect with customers. Communicating with worn-out come-ons or unsupported authority in a competitive marketplace is just not authentic or meaningful. But to get there companies need to loosen up and become more creative.

The problem is that the words “creative” and “creativity” are such catch-all terms that they have come to even have negative connotations. What we mean here by these words is to come up with new ideas that will profit your business. It involves a search for ideas using creative and innovation tools that help you generate a range of possibilities that hold the potential to produce amazing results whether for your product, service or business.

Encourage expansive thinking

Such expansive thinking may itself sound like needing to put your “head in the clouds” but it is vital when your business is under threat or you need innovation to compete against increasingly strong competition, especially in 2012. Innovation, coming up with new products, services and new ways of doing business, is essential for responding and anticipating a changing business environment. For smaller businesses that are much closer to their customers whether on main street or in industrial parks innovation is critical for maximizing returns on any investment.

More ideas, better ideas – innovate now

Dealing with the challenges in your business has become increasingly urgent with the economy as it is. Yet we know that some business people thrive under any circumstances. These far-sighted business people take measures to innovate their business despite prevailing circumstances.

A business owner* who runs a media and website business was experiencing a gradual drop in his conversion rate from quotation to sales, which was leading to lower revenues. At ideaaccelerator.co.za we jump at such challenges and offered to help solve the problem using the idea-generation and ideation expertise we’ve developed over a number of years.

At first he was skeptical. “But how can creativity and new ideas work for my business when all I have is a sales conversion problem?” he asked. Our reply was, “Why not give it a try and see what happens. You haven’t come up with a solution now and who knows when you’ll stop the decline so using these idea generation techniques and processes could help you right now, wouldn’t they?”

Steps to produce amazing ideas

We started with a closer enquiry into the possible cause of the lower quotes to sales conversion. Next, we took the business owner through a series of steps to produce ideas that were imaginative and energizing. We tried to disturb the usual thinking patterns that keeps us stuck in familiar thinking ruts – the same tired ideas that get raised in brainstorm meetings that never seem to fire inspiration or let alone work.

He had an initial resistance to these new approaches but we guided him into the processes we have developed. We’ve found that it is often better to just get on with following the tools and processes and finding new solutions than to get into detailed, arcane explanations that will only really be understood once they are experienced when the results start flowing.

The tools and techniques used to assist this business person to generate ideas were suited to his temperament and natural curiosity. Knowing what works best with individual customers is important so that they remain motivated to complete the necessary steps.

 Astounded at the quality of ideas

The business owner was astounded by the number and quality of ideas produced. His problem became how to sort through all the ideas and prioritise them. We gave him a simple prioritization grid which quickly helped him select the best ideas with the fastest and biggest payback that he could action in his business right away.

 The result of the ideas produced and implemented was a 200% increase in quotes to sales conversion. All this was achieved through working on tangible and intangible parts of his service and increasing benefits for customers.

 “We increased our sales conversion by 200%”

“Using ideaaccelerator.co.za’s ideation process, we came up with new ideas for our business that helped us increase our sales conversation by 200%,” the business owner told us afterwards. “We generated so many ideas that it will take a year to implement them all. We’re already started on actioning just three and the results are amazing.”

 Leapfrog competitors

By generating more and better ideas small businesses can leapfrog their competitors through innovative ways to do business. Unless idea generation is purposeful and directed towards a clear, definite end goal the results will be less than spectacular. The idea generation facilitator needs to be experienced or very familiar with business and the success factors for small business because a high level of experience is required. While business is often considered a science by the business schools, it’s more of an art that requires a high level of judgement and ingenuity to activate the levers that will produce the best results.

Businesses faced with the challenges in the marketplace today with lower demand, varying customer buying patterns and price-sensitive customers have a choice to wait and do nothing until disaster strikes or innovate their businesses to produce stronger profits and stay ahead of their competition.

* Details of the business owner and managing director of this case study can be made on request to chesney@ideaaccelerator.co.za

Win your inner creative war

Creating anything of value requires getting started. But many things can get in the way. Who is the real enemy? What prevents us from achieving our best work?

It’s a problem we all face – getting started. Your idea for a business, a website, a sales letter, a charity, an e-book, a song, a poem, a painting lies dormant in your imagination waiting for you to bring it to life.

Someday you’ll get around to it. Or on the weekend … The weekend comes and goes and you’re still don’t have anything to show for it. What’s stopping you? How can you get started? Why can it be so hard to create what you feel in your bones you can do or long to do?

The answers to these questions and more can be found in a book titled “The War of Art” (not to be confused with “The Art of War, the ancient Chinese book on strategy) by Steven Pressfield (Grand Central Publishing, New York).

Facing the real enemy

In the first part of the book Pressfield defines the enemy: Resistance. “Resistance,” he says, “cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled.” It can be felt and its aim is to prevent us from doing our work whether it is to launch an entrepreneurial venture, pursue any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, a diet or health regimen and even an act that takes commitment of the heart such as to get married, have a child or weather a rocky patch in a relationship.”

Resistance, or self-sabotage, is often fuelled by fear (a good indicator as it tells us what to do) but has many forms such as drugs, shopping, TV, gossip and consuming unhealthy foods. Just about anything can keep us from starting our work. Resistance can involve the choice of a mate, choosing someone who has it or is successfully overcoming resistance. “Maybe it’s easier to endow our partner with the power that we in fact possess but are afraid to act upon,” he says.

Putting things off can be fatal

Procrastination, when it becomes a habit, can be fatal to our life’s work, putting of things until we reach our deathbed. But Pressfield says we are never without the power to alter our destiny. “This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

Qualities that distinguish the pro

In his chapters on combating resistance, Pressfield covers turning pro which means, among other things, to show up every day, show up no matter what, stay on the job all day, master the techniques of our job and receive praise or blame in the real world. He discusses the qualities of a professional such as acting in the face of fear, accepting no excuses, preparing, not showing off and not hesitating to ask for help. It’s tough advice but turning pro requires discipline and self mastery.

Know the territory

An intriguing concept that Pressfield deals with in some length is that of territory and hierarchy. In a hierarchical orientation an individual competes against others, measures her achievement by rank within the hierarchy and acts for others. The artist, or creator, can’t look for others to evaluate her work. The artist or creator needs to operate territorially which means “he must do his work for its own sake”. Working in the territory, gives birth to the artist’s original creation that add to our lives, regardless of the obstacles faced.

Even though some of the advice can be daunting, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s not only for those who wish to get started on bringing whatever is important to them to life but also for those who work on projects for weeks, months or even years to bring their gifts to the world.

Is your business personality out of whack with your customers?

When the personality of a business matches its customer profile success follows. But a mismatch can spell trouble. Find out what business personality disorders to watch out for before they hurt your business performance.

A small business reflects the personality of its owner. This can be advantageous when the business owner’s personality enhances the business by attracting customers. But when the personality of the owner and the business are out of sync with prospective customers, poor performance is often the unfortunate consequence.

The personality of a business maybe isn’t so important when it has little competition but when competitive intensity increases, business owners need to examine and assess their business personality. They need to make plans to shape it into a clear, deliberate and visible identity that carefully selects the customers they wish to attract.

A match made in restaurant heaven
Let me show you an example of a business owner whose personality is working for his business. I’ll take you to a restaurant in a competitive main street where many similar restaurants are competing for the same market. The owner, a young chef who recently bought the business, decided not to make sudden changes when taking over the restaurant. He first wanted to get a feel for what his customers want. Yet his personality, friendly and enthusiastic is already projecting a fresh vibe, retaining existing customers and attracting new ones.

When personalities clash
Take the opposite end of the spectrum. Here’s another restaurant that had an attractive name, fresh approach and was growing until the new owners decided to change everything – the name, décor and menu — to match their personalities. Don’t get me wrong, the restaurant is a wonderful eatery with a New Age vibe of harmony and colour. But the problem is that it is located in an area where they don’t have customers to fit this profile. Competition is brutal leaving no room for mistakes like this. A trickle of customers frequents this restaurant and it’s sad to see their live musician in the early evenings playing to no-one.

How long can they go on this way? This is the kind of business that adds to the high small and medium size business casualty rate of more than 70% business failures in the first five years.

Projecting your personality onto your business without conscious awareness of your market can backfire badly.

Compare this restaurant to another that is quiet, clean, well kept with instrumental music from yesteryear playing and an efficient, attentive, old style service restaurant owner. Many people would find this place boring. But he’s selected his customers. By 10:00 am the place is packed with patrons, mostly retired women.

This restaurant owner has matched his business personality to his customers perfectly. He has created the ambience his customers want. It feels like being in a time-warp with crack sharp service, soothing old music and pristine cleanliness but it is working.

A business can establish its personality to attract the customers it wants. The right approach can entice a profitable section of the market. For example, a new band has broken into an overtraded market with a unique three-piece instrumental outfit. It is working, having drawn a niche from the younger customers looking for something different. But this strategy could have easily backfired. The risk is knowing that the market has the right type of customers in sufficient numbers.

Coherence counts when customers have much choice
Whatever your business personality, you need a unified through-line across your business so that it has a coherence in the mind of your customers and prospects. All the little inconsistencies can add up to a pretty disjointed, chaotic business personality which will be off-putting to customers. If you have these inconsistencies, they will stand out for all to see. For example, if your business projects friendliness but you are rude to customers and keep them waiting for their orders, then your business personality is inconsistent.

Putting it all together
How does a small business owner, once aware of their business personality, manage all these elements? It all starts with a close inspection of everything that makes up their business. Sometimes it would be good money spent to bring in a pair of fresh eyes to assist. But the consultant would need to have a proven track record, and more importantly, a passion for this type of work. For small and even medium size businesses managing all these elements can be challenging at first. But once the business owner understands what personality their business is projecting and how it affects customer buying, they are well on their way to make the necessary adjustments to match their business to their customer profile.

Jealously guard your reputation

In today’s economy it’s important to look after your reputation. Mistrust of business has grown with broken promises, shaky advice, inflated prices and job losses. The idea of reputation is simple – it’s what people think of you. Can they trust you? Can they believe you and your products or services?

It all started out innocently enough. I visited the pay channel TV store to exchange an old decoder for a new one. The assistant said they couldn’t replace my old unit because it was reconditioned and out of guarantee. She told me I needed a new decoder and a new card. Three months later, I’m checking my bank statement and I see a double charge from the TV pay channel. I call them and find out they’ve charged me a monthly rental for my old card and my new card — for three months! They say it’s my fault and won’t pay a back a cent. I’m in for a long fight to get my money back.

How often do we get ripped off like this?

Our biggest fear in dealing with businesses is being ripped off.

But it happens so often you almost expect it.

Ripping off customers causes reputation damage that businesses can ill afford during an economic storm. But this is just one form of reputational damage that corrodes trust in businesses. 

What is business reputation? How important is it for small businesses? How do you build reputation and what can you do to prevent losing it?

A promise you keep with your customers

Reputation is based on the promise you keep with your customers and other people you interact within your sphere of influence: suppliers, the community, local authorities and so on. Small businesses gain a reputation for honesty and integrity when they have no hesitation over ethics.

In these economic times where there is pressure to shove flagging sales, drive increased productivity of staff and make profit figures, the danger exists of pushing too hard and cutting corners. Managers and employees want to reach their targets and make bonuses, sometimes at any cost.

To prevent loss of reputation it’s important that a business, whether retailing on the main street or online, does not lie to customers, badly treat employees, cover up mistakes and short-change customers.

How many businesses do this?

Small businesses can build their reputation by practicing truthfulness and honesty, taking a stand for what they believe is morally right (such as the environment), practicing what they preach and accepting the blame when they are wrong. Reputation can build trust, influence good behavior in others and creates high standards.

The value of reputation in the tough economy is priceless because it allows businesses to keep and gain more customers and to prosper even when other businesses are experiencing declining sales or, sadly, closing down. Word spreads quickly. Unscrupulous treatment of customers, employees and suppliers spreads like a raging mountain fire when the wind blows gale force.

Customers are tired of being kicked in the teeth. They are much more cautious about spending their money and certainly won’t part with hard-earned cash to make sub-par companies with rat-like reputations rich. As a business owner be alert to any potential reputational risks. Don’t wait for cracks to appear because by then it’s often too late to win back trust.

When to hire a publicist? Try this quiz

Deciding when to hire a publicist is an important step for a small business owner. This quiz can help you better understand when it’s time to involve an experienced pro to really make your publicity work for your business.  

In this economy small businesses are faced with increased competition and slower sales. If you have a store or home business, it may be difficult to keep a steady flow of leads. Yes, you can advertise but advertising can be expensive and you may not always be able to measure the results unless you go online. Even if you have an on-line business and know how to generate interest through e-mails, on-line newsletters, blogs, forums and social media, you still need to know how to generate publicity for your business. Publicity can help you extend your reach as a small business beyond what you are able to do through sales and advertising.

The Internet and social media have greatly expanded the opportunities for small businesses to gain attention in the media whether on-line or in print. DIY publicity strategies allow anyone to generate publicity and support their profile as an expert in their field at low cost. But there are many valid reasons why turning to a publicist with a proven track record and expertise in your market or area of expertise makes business sense. Find out some of the reasons why by spending a few minutes on the publicist quiz below.

 True/False Quiz

 1  I need to hire a publicity agent to get my name in the newspapers.

  · True

  · False

 2   I want to obtain credibility and authority for my business and the products and services I sell.

  · True

  · False

 3  Calling reporters and editors on the phone is as enjoyable as calling a close business associate.

  · True

  · False

 4  The Internet means I can quickly know how publicity works, how to handle media interviews and run my own publicity campaigns.

  · True

  · False

   5  I do basic publicity myself but need help from a publicist who has knowledge in a specialized area.

  · True

  · False

 Answers

 1  I need to hire a publicity agent to get my name in the newspapers. False

If you only need to get your name into the newspapers you can quite easily do it yourself. You can write a letter to the editor, send a press release on a newsworthy event or milestone in your business to an editor. DIY publicity can work for your business especially if you send out press releases infrequently. But if you want to gain credibility, position yourself as an expert or broaden your audience, a publicist can help you do all this and more.

2   I want to obtain credibility and authority for my business and the products and services I sell. True

A publicist can help you lift your business and its products and services from obscurity and position you as an authoritative and credible leader in your marketplace. Publicity must, of course, be based on performance. Your business needs to be doing the things that you are saying it does. For example, if you have introduced meaningful environmentally friendly practices in your business, your story will be credible. But if you aren’t, then it’s merely greenwash. A publicist with a track record will help ensure that your messages are fact-based and believable.

3   Calling reporters and editors on the phone is as enjoyable as calling a close business associate. False

Business people are comfortable dealing with customers and suppliers. Some may find it interesting to contact the media but sometimes things can become difficult when there is suspicion about advertising dressed up as news. A seasoned publicist, often having spent time as a reporter in a newsroom, can act as a bridge between both worlds, business and the media. When difficult questions are asked or things get tricky, a publicist acts as an intermediary, diplomatically handling issues that would otherwise lead to negative publicity.

4   The Internet means I can quickly know how publicity works, how to handle media interviews and run my own publicity campaigns. False

The Internet has made it possible for small business owners to generate their own publicity. Press release templates abound, some websites even offer DIY templates where you simply type in your information and you instantly can generate a press release ready to send out. Press release distribution services send out bulk releases instantaneously. A professional publicist can help you target your message, prepare you for difficult interviews and conceptualise campaigns customised for various types of media.

 5   I do basic publicity myself but need help from a publicist who has knowledge in a specialized area.

 For simple public relations work such as a news release or brief on a store milestone, customer event or achievement, business owners can mostly handle their public relations needs. But when your business needs to target a specialized market, a new industry or more sophisticated customer segment, a publicist with experience communicating to these audiences would be of great value. Their knowledge is available straight away for your business instead of you needing to acquire it over a long period through trial and error.

Knowing when to cross over from DIY publicity to using a publicist is key for small business owners who wish to advance their strategies for gaining and holding an audience’s attention. Building credibility and authority involves much planning, conceptualizing, implementing and trouble shooting. A publicist with a track record can help businesses get up to speed in writing effective news releases, positioning their business, products and services, producing newsletters, media kits, fact sheets, presentations and speeches that will generate publicity. They can also provide opportunities through their contacts for valuable media exposure.

Generate publicity without breaking the bank

Recent reports reveal that small business closures are up dramatically. Publicity plays a vital role in gaining the right sort of attention for your business to keep existing customers and win over new ones.

Winning the attention of customers and prospective customers is one of the more important priorities as small businesses fight for survival in these difficult economic times. Publicity helps businesses get noticed without forking out a lot of money. Though the attractive thing about publicity is that you don’t need to invest a lot of marketing cash to get results, you need to invest your time. Doing publicity yourself involves thinking about your strategy, coming up with unusual ideas that fit your business and implementing them with consistent follow-through.

How to generate embarrassingly low-cost ideas to promote your business

Activate your thinking with these seven low-cost, no cost ideas relevant to your marketplace whether you run your business from home, retail on a main street or shopping mall or trade online. Learn how to position your products and services in a price-driven environment.

In tough, competitive markets, businesses need to come up with fresh ways to promote their products and services. Promotions attract attention to your products and services, help make them stand out from your competitors and give your sales a much-needed boost when customers are looking for strong reasons why they should buy from you.

Rethink your positioning

Some entrepreneurs think promotions mean discounts. They baulk at offering discounts when sales are down more than a third on the previous year, and larger chains are offering incredibly low-priced deals. Promotion doesn’t have to equal discounts. Assess the value of your offer, the quality of your service and guarantee. Think low costs, high impact.

How can you change your offer to a market that is cautious about spending? If you have been selling expensive products and services in the good times, you’ll need to rethink your strategy in a price-driven environment. Your marketing materials also need to reflect and reinforce your cost-value proposition.

Think through your positioning strategy carefully because positioning moves are like those you make on a chessboard. Your move may prompt your competitors to make counter moves. So you need to think about not only your next move but the one you’ll need to make after your competitors have responded to your repositioning.

Quick promotional ideas brainstorm

Use idea generation tools and techniques to come up with new ideas to promote your business. Brainstorm ideas and keep them in a notebook, a journal or on record cards (3 x 5 cards). Choose your best three and try one out.

Check what other businesses are doing by reading magazines, dropping in on stores unrelated to your business and speaking to business people you trust. Listen to customers because they can be your best source of promotional idea.

Gold in mailing lists

Do you have a customer mailing list with both postal and e-mail addresses? How quickly can you mail out a special offer to your customers? A physical sales letter is personalised and can stand out in a crowded market.

Consider acquiring marketing “assets” from businesses that are closing down. Perhaps they have a customer mailing list that you can purchase for a fraction of the cost it took the original business to acquire. Such a list is valuable because it represents people who have bought products before — and may need your products or service.

Social media strategy

Social media such as FaceBook, Twitter and other Internet-based social networking offer low-cost promotional opportunities. But you need to know what you are doing. You must know how to promote your business without turning off prospects. You need to devote time to keep your content fresh. Will your social media marketing provide any follow through for conversion? A FaceBook page may not convert any new business but customers may ask why you don’t have one.

Professionalise your communications

Poorly written and designed marketing materials are a recipe for disaster. Getting in well-meaning family members, friends and secretaries to write with no knowledge of business or marketing is just plain short-sighted. Even blogs for small businesses can be better handled by a professional copywriter or ghostwriter. You may especially need such services if you are in your store or business the whole day and can’t find the time to write blog posts and publish them. You also need to learn how to promote your blog because there are gazillions of then out there (get a number for how many blogs there are).

Network face to face

Networking with your customers at your local chamber or commerce or business organisation is often the last thing on the entrepreneur’s mind. But it provides a strong opportunity to promote your business face to face. Think carefully about driving customers to your business through FaceBook, Twitter or LinkedIn when you aren’t even doing some direct selling by calling on businesses in your town or city.

A low-cost prospecting idea

While everyone is blasting out e-mails, FaceBook posts and Tweets, track down names that you spot in newspapers, magazines and even advertising flyers if you think those people will make good prospects. Call them or pay them a visit — personal contact will stand out from the electronic blizzard.

Arrange a promotional ideas swop meet

Share your promotional ideas with your fellow business people. Perhaps organise an idea swap meet group which involves meeting like-minded business people once a month to share new sales and promotional ideas that have worked.

Promotion helps your products and services jump out in a competitive, tight marketplace. By generating your own promotional ideas, you may not only save costs but you will breath life into your sales when your business needs it most.


Sources:

“Marketing on a Shoestring: Low-cost Tips for Marketing your Products or Services”, Jeffrey Davidson, Wiley Small Business

“Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”, Al Ries and Jack Trout, Warner Books

The power of generating low-cost promotional ideas: a fight-back strategy

Come up with your own free, easy and low-cost promotion ideas that can help you to lift sales in a difficult economy

In this rough and tumble economy, some business people sit, like frogs in a pot immobilised with the water temperature rising. Even when the temperature hits boiling point, they remain in the pot. If the frogs suddenly stumbled into the pot of boiling water, they wouldn’t hesitate to jump right out. Why then don’t small business people react quickly when they recognize warning signs?  

Many business people seem to stubbornly believe that they can rough it through the difficult economy doing business in the same familiar way, despite turnovers in some cases plummeting by a third or more. Small business has such a high mortality rate in “normal” economic conditions but when economic activity declines, the mortality rate rises.

Riding high and spending less

During the good times small business owners were riding high. They spent less on their marketing as customers walked in and bought whatever they wanted. Small business owners were spoilt as they had to do little personal selling or advertising.

Now, when times are tough and small business owners and entrepreneurs are more concerned with meeting personnel expenses and covering overheads they are even more reluctant to spend money on promotion. Yet clients and customers are holding onto their cash, waiting for times improve, hanging onto their homes, cars, computers, household appliances for longer, repairing them instead of replacing them.What should store owners and small service businesses do?

Ignore selling and promotion at your peril

Even though small business owners have seen turnovers drop many are wary of spending money on promotion. Some are trying to play it cheap by bringing in well meaning family and friends to help them promote their products and services. Other owners knuckle down on the technical areas and processes in their business, ignoring selling and promotion at their peril.Promotional ideas need to work

Little do those businesses who use retail space or have high visibility and walk-in customers realise that if they don’t do something to promote their business and lift sales, they will be forced into operating the business from home to chop overhead. Running a business from home ironically means needing to acquire a whole set of new marketing skills.

How do you go about promoting your business in a stormy economy where every cent counts? Small businesses and entrepreneurial enterprises cannot pour vast sums on vague institutional (image) advertising with no way to measure sales. Entrepreneurs need to generate sales — even when advertising in traditional print media, adverts have to be “keyed” and have special phone numbers specific to adverts. This way they can measure their advertising conversion. A small travel agent told me recently that she had a separate phone number for each advert to measure response. If the newspaper, magazine, radio or television advertising didn’t pull, it had to go.

Test, test, test

Promotional ideas that work are specific to each business and the mind or emotional triggers of their customers. Small business owners need to brainstorm ideas that they think will work for their business. Try some no-cost, low-cost ideas out first and see how they work. Remember to test, test, test. As Claude Hopkins said, “Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign.”

To get fighting fit in this economy small business owners and entrepreneurs need to focus their attention on attracting customers to their business through a variety of low-cost, no-cost promotional ideas. Idea generation techniques can be effective as can meeting with fellow business people to share and swop ideas. In the next article on www.ideaaccelerator.co.za we’ll look at tips, strategies and other ideas to promote your business. In the meantime, take a look at what your competitors are doing as well try to spot other businesses that seem to be doing well no matter how hard the harsh economic winds blow.

Ways to generate ideas for income opportunities in your spare time

Growing an income opportunity starts with an idea. Try these proven idea generation methods to stimulate your imagination and come up with money-making opportunities you can run from home in your spare time

The lousy economy may give you a shove into thinking about coming up with ideas for income opportunities in your spare time. But it shouldn’t be the only reason. Imagine how it would be to have a second income that flows into your banking account proving your self-reliance, passion and providing you with greater peace of mind.

Though there are many tools for generating ideas, we will help you get started with some of the more creative and powerful methods.

 This method stretches your creativity

If you want to explore techniques and tools for generating your own ideas for products and services, one of the easiest is to quickly come up with a list of 101 ideas. You may think it’s a lot but when you try it out you will find that this technique forces you to stretch your creative juices to the limit. Often your best idea is hidden in the last 10 ideas that you list. Try it out. Don’t censor or judge your ideas – just write them as quickly as they come to you. You can review your list after a few days. Select your best three ideas and see how you could expand on them.

A tool to produce ideas at any time

Another tool is the 20 Idea Method. Write down 20 ideas quickly to a problem you may have. Don’t overcomplicate things. You may want to focus your idea generation session with a question like, “In what ways could I increase my income this year by 25%?” Review your ideas after a day or two. When you’ve completed your list, choose your best idea and write down a plan to implement it. Put your plan away and review it after a few days.

Try these for amazing results

Try out other methods such as brainstorming on your own. Drawing mind maps (write a central subject or theme in the centre of the page and add related thoughts as quickly as you can for 10 min). Freewrite 10 minutes without consideration of grammar and punctuation. Try a random process such as selecting a word from a dictionary (use nouns) and free associate them with your problem at hand.

Income opportunity ideas to spur your own

Once you get started on idea generation your income opportunity ideas will flow. For example, you may have an idea for offering to copy records to a DVD or making MP3 files. What about a photography service with a twist such as updating photographs for small businesses such as restaurants? Check Twitter for ideas. Randomly link trends to your topic.

You could consider a jewellery business, computer support business, pet sitter or cleaning business, or offer a virtual assistant service for home-bases businesses such as updating websites for small (even one-person) businesses, typing documents, transcribing audio files, uploading podcasts, calling people to build up a mailing list (a valuable asset for on-line promotion). Think of who these services would be offered to – check your online Yellow Pages, local Chamber of Commerce, speak to friends. You just need one customer to get started.

If you’re interested in serving the woman’s beauty market you could, for example, think about taking your service to working women. A mobile hairdressing service in our city involves the hairdresser riding a motor bike to your home any day of the week, including Saturday afternoons. The service is so excellent it rivals any regular store-based salons at a competitive price. But the personal attention and convenience outrivals conventional hairdressers. A similar service could be nail salon business for manicures, pedicures, polish changes and nail art.

For those with an interest in the automotive world, generate ideas for services such as mobile minor repairs, emergency services, battery replacements and hand wash car cleaning.

Training is a big market and anything from computer skills to on-line courses offer opportunities for you to apply to your idea generation session.

Questions for the reality check

But whatever business idea you come up with you need to ask yourself:

  • Does a need exist for the business?
  • What is the profit potential for this business?
  • How long will it take to reach the level of sales to make this profit?
  • How many hours in a day will I need to give to this business?
  • What is the experience required for the business?
  • Does the business require hiring specialised skills?
  • What is the capital required to start and run the business?

The Internet provides many opportunities for small home-based businesses. Take a look at the Internet and see how many businesses are selling health products, information products, marketing services, package businesses. Biz-op type kits abound.

Sleep better at night

Generate your own ideas using these idea methods and come up with income opportunities that will help you sleep better at night. Don’t be discouraged if nothing happens immediately. You have planted seeds that will eventually allow ideas to pop from seemingly nowhere. Use the same idea generating methods to brainstorm an implementation plan. Before you know it you will be on your way, whether you are man or woman, old, young, to turning your ideas into money making opportunities.