Marketing Creativity For Your Own Good

Why, asks Ian Summers, do creative people spend so much time thinking up ways to creatively solve problems for their clients, but then, when it comes to getting new business for themselves, just send out a boring postcard?

Many creative professionals have trouble marketing themselves, says Summers, a commercial photographer and creative consultant from Easton, Pennsylvania, He suggests that instead of using tired traditional methods, invent new ways to gain attention and create a desire for your work.

“I think of myself as a good problem solver,” says Summers. “As a consultant I traveled the country helping clients maximize their creative potential via creative problem solving.” In fact, he says, he made an excellent living this way until he realized that “problem solving is the antithesis of creativity.”

In order to grow a business in today’s market photographers and other creative people must have the courage to let go of many old beliefs.” He calls these “the myths that thwart creativity, and prevent change and growth.”

Myth 1: Do only one thing. “Who made that rule? Who says all of your passions except one must be set aside?” asks Summers. He uses his own life as an example. “I gain energy from both teaching and painting. If you can do many things well, why not?”

Myth 2: You can’t earn a living. Many people believe that only a few “superstars” actually earn a creative living while the rest starve and struggle. Not true, says Summers. Many photographers, writers, artists, and other creative professionals earn a comfortable living. However, “it does mean we are constantly reinventing ourselves,” in order to present creative abilities to a changing marketplace.

Myth 3: Creative work isn’t fun anymore. The idea that creative jobs are a drag is true only for people who become too reactive, rather than being who they are, Summers says. People who are jumping from trend to trend can become “self-help junkies” moving from one seminar or self-help book to another in search of the “right” method to be more creative, get more business, or just figure out who they are. By the end of the year they have a meltdown.

His suggestion? Instead of being reactive, be outrageous. “Remember, that’s why your clients hired a creative person in the first place.”

Summers mentions a client who was sending out those old, tired postcards. He decided to try something a little different. Since his website featured a fishbowl he went with the fish theme and packaged the marketing materials for his own company in a sardine can. “No one forgets him. When he calls up a prospect the line he uses is, ‘I want to talk sardines.’”

Not only does he usually make it past the secretary, everyone remembers him. “Now when he meets someone who has seen his stuff they say, ‘You’re the fish guy.’” He has more business and he’s having more fun, too.

The bottom line: “If you make the claim to be creative — do it creatively.”

— Karen Hodges Miller

Excerpted from the September 17, 2008, issue of U.S. 1.

Nonprofit Marketing: Big Bang, Little Buck

From her extensive experience with public relations and libraries, Virginia Baeckler, director of the Plainsboro Public Library, has a few tips about creative ways for companies to get their names into the public eye without spending millions on sophisticated advertising campaigns:

Put mentors out in the community, libraries, and schools. When a scientific company like FMC sends mentors to the library over an extended lunch hour or when volunteers from Siemens come to mentor the library’s robotics program, employees go back to work sky high and reinvigorated

Although the corporation may not benefit in dollar value, it gets its name out as a company that contributes to the community, and both the employees and the students they work with benefit personally.

Create an educational center or other entity related to your company’s mission. Bristol-Myers Squibb, says Baeckler, is helping the Plainsboro Public Library create a health education center, and every person who enters the library will see the company’s name on the wall.

Support a community program and gain social capital. Richard Bilotti, former publisher of the Trenton Times, endorses the arts wholeheartedly and has created a program that affects every school child in the Trenton system through dance. “It is of course an advertisement for the Trenton Times,” says Baeckler, “but it is also benefiting a segment of Trenton that would otherwise not have access to high-quality art.”

Provide a visible gift at an outdoor festival. PNC Bank gave everybody a bright blue balloon at the Plainsboro town festival. It was inexpensive, but something everyone could see, says Baeckler.

Baeckler advises companies to look in their communities and see what is needed, in health, math/science education, the arts, or whatever interests them. She encourages them to get out of the mode of just operating a business, where they are thinking only about themselves and how to sell more and make more money.

— Michele Alperin

Excerpted from the May 21, 2008, issue of U.S. 1.

Turning Prospects Into Good Clients

If you’re in business, you’re in sales. Whether you are an artist or an accountant, to make money you must continue to find prospective buyers and turn them into clients.

Lorette Pruden, a Team Nimbus business coach, has been a business owner for the past eight years. She opened Inventive Strategies, a small business and management consulting firm in Montgomery, in 2000 after over 20 years in the corporate world.

Finding the right prospects. “Many small business people are not successful because they don’t have enough sales, so they take a sales training course,” Pruden says. “Now there is nothing wrong with learning how to close a sale, but often closing the sale isn’t the real problem. Finding enough of the right prospects to approach in the first place is.”

Business owners and sales people need to really understand exactly who a good prospect is for their business. While some people see everyone they meet as a potential prospect, others have too narrow a focus. “Not everyone is a prospect, but you also have to keep in mind that just because someone doesn’t need your services today doesn’t mean that you should not bother to develop a relationship with them,” says Pruden.

Go where your clients are. These days it is difficult to find a person in business who isn’t aware of networking. But who are you networking with? “Trade organizations are important for many reasons — continuing education, meeting people in your field, or enhancing your credentials as an expert,” says Pruden. “Trade organizations are not a good place to meet prospects, though.”

Depending on your business, trade shows, chambers of commerce, and even trade organizations for your prospects’ business are better places to look for clients. “I have one client who has literally quadrupled his business by attending meetings not of a trade organization in his own field, but in a related field,” she says. He is meeting people who need his services.

For example, a real estate agent may find clients at a builders’ association, while a mortgage banker might do well by attending a real estate association meeting. Look for the unexpected places to find clients. A personal chef might go to a Newcomers Club or Welcome Wagon, or even a daycare center — all places where busy people with little time to cook might be found.

Developing relationships. Meeting people once or twice at a networking event is not developing a relationship. “Developing relationships is really very simple but many people are reluctant to do it because it takes time. They don’t see it as a direct pathway to revenue,” says Pruden.

Ideally, she says, getting new business should be like a faucet that can be turned on and off. “When you are busy, you can slow the faucet to a drip. When you need more business you can turn up the flow.” — Karen Hodges Miller

Excerpted from the July 2, 2008, issue of U.S. 1.

Advertising Tipsfor Small Businesses

Economies fluctuate, but the need for advertising is constant. For Alan Yarnoff of the Advertising Consultancy, located on Amy Drive in East Windsor the transition from a $30,000 photography shoot to a $500 one does not mean a change in basic business principles. You still need a business plan, a clear sense of the product or service you’re selling, and an idea of who your target market is.

Build advertising around the target audience. “You can’t have a shotgun approach if you’re in business,” says Yarnoff. “You need to know who the target audience is and make a strategy to reach that audience.”

Reach out to the most likely markets. A small accounting firm was brainstorming with Yarnoff on how to expand its business. “It was an Indian firm that had neglected the Indian market,” he says.

Find the best media outlets. Many small businesses are still spending much of their advertising dollars on ads in the Yellow Pages, says Yarnoff. But those ads are extremely expensive and do not offer the bang they did six or seven years ago. If the target is women from 24 to 35, the advertising dollars might do well going to the show “Grey’s Anatomy,” since much of its audience is in that target market.

Rethink the obvious. Say you own a day-care center and want to advertise in a local paper. You might think that a business weekly would not be a good match for your advertising dollars because it’s subject matter is not family oriented. But if it is an upscale day-care center, a business journal might be the perfect place to advertise. Why? Because the children who populate upscale centers are usually the offspring of two working parents, who might read the business paper regularly.

Pay the experts if you want high quality. Everyone in a small business wants a website, but to be effective it must be done and promoted properly. “Once you get people there, you don’t want to lose them,” says Yarnoff.

Make sure the product or service is central in the ad. Remember the Super Bowl commercial for Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover? The one in which an interviewer was so distracted by the stain on a job candidate’s shirt that he could not concentrate and started to babble? That one stayed on message, Yarnoff says. It didn’t commit a common, fatal sin — getting lost in the art.

Find out whether your advertising is working. Including a coupon or quiz in your ad is a good way to test whether the ad works. If you offer something in an ad and no one takes you up on it, the ad is not working.

You also could just ask people, “How did you know about us?” An exterminator business Yarnoff worked with had been advertising in nine publications in several towns. When Yarnoff suggested analyzing the responses, the owner realized responses were coming only from two of the towns. He’d wasted money he didn’t have.

Set your advertising budget for the year on January 1. Advertising dollars need to be allocated based on ups and downs, says Yarnoff. Say the owner of a hypothetical rose business has set aside $100,000 for promotional advertising. The owner should be allotting the most dollars to seasons with the most business: around Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas.

Contact Yarnoff at 609-448-2451.

— Michele Alperin

Excerpted from the March 5, 2008, issue of U.S. 1.

Social Networking As A Business Tool

Peter Shankman, CEO of marketing and public relations strategy firm the Geek Factory, is a networker par excellence, and he works his FaceBook page for all its worth. But he warns that even all the social networking possibilities of the Internet do not automatically help. “A bad carpenter going out and buying the latest power saw,” he says, “is not going to become a better carpenter.”

Much of what Shankman likes to share about networking are his own experiences in hopes of inspiring others to go off on their own.

Create a FaceBook page that lets it all hang out. Shankman has crafted a FaceBook page that does everything it can to let people know exactly who he is. His site is full of pictures, links, details, and random thoughts that give visitors an excellent idea of who they are dealing with. “You want to introduce yourself to people you can help,” he says. It’s not just conveying who you are and what you do. “It’s more about karma.”

Link up. Create a newsletter for visitors to read or including a news feed with current stories about the industry a person works in. Or a business owner might want to invite others from the same industry to become “friends” on FaceBook (meaning they can visit your page and you can visit theirs).

Create a free service to help other people. As a publicist, Shankman found that he got a lot of requests from journalists and created a service he called “Help a reporter,” which requires about 15 minutes a day of his time. Journalists are always calling him up and E-mailing him looking for sources for stories. So what Shankman does is to send out these requests, several to an E-mail, to people who are willing to receive them and be or provide sources if they know of any.

“It proves you are trustworthy and willing to go on the line for people when they need help,” he says.

Use FaceBook to arrange

real-life get-togethers. This is something kids do all the time, and Shankman created what he calls a “gathering of useful thinkers,” a calendar item on his page for a face-to-face networking drink night at a hot spot. “I foot the bill and meet tons of people in different cities,” he says.

Develop a set of FaceBook friends. “Start with people you know,” he says, and try to find the kinds of groups where people like you are hanging out. Then join them. “There is a group out there doing whatever you can imagine,” says Shankman, “and people who want to buy whatever you can sell.”

Use FaceBook information to reach out to people. Every morning Shankman checks his FaceBook to see who in his network has a birthday. Then he always takes three seconds to write, “I see it is your birthday today; have a great day.” He muses about why more people don’t do this and his answer is a little sobering. “We live in a society of the least possible amount of work being done to get what you want,” he says. “My whole take is that doing one-half percent more than the rest of the masses gets you everything.”

Visit the Geek Factory at

— Michele Alperin

Excerpted from the May 7, 2008, issue of U.S. 1.

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