Sure, marketing will take some of your time, but if you ignore it, your business won’t prosper and grow. You need to be using, or at least trying, all of your creative ideas to make your business unique in your marketplace. But what are those creative ideas and where do they come from? Creative ideas will come to you when you least expect them. Always be ready and write them down. Here are some ways to make sure that you get those new creative ideas flowing:
- Be aware of things going on around you 24/7/365.
- Regularly read or scan all the business publications, trade magazines, and newspapers you can. Some offer free subscriptions, or you can check them at the library.
- Monitor your competitors. Check out their stores, websites, ads, and promotions.
- Attend at least 50 percent of the trade shows that pertain to your company and industry. Find the time to seek out new products and suppliers.
- Watch for changing market trends in your industry and in related areas.
- Observe big companies in your industry for changes and new ideas.
- Join trade associations and regularly read their publications, newsletters, and bulletins.
- Ask your customers what new products or services they want and find a way to provide these products or services profitably.
- In retail, watch demographic changes in your area and new businesses.
- Read business books and listen to self-help CDs and tapes.
- Ask your employees for their opinions and suggestions—they will have them.
- Ask suppliers what’s new and coming or what’s phasing out.
- Watch TV commercials (oh no!) and see whether you can get ideas for your business.
- Read the direct mail you receive for ideas you can use in your business.
- Listen instead of talking! Absorb all you can, all the time.
- Network with other businesspeople and exchange ideas.
Here’s a little exercise you can do to select your best ideas and decide which to try first. Take a piece of copy paper or a legal pad and draw a line down the middle vertically. On the left side, write down at least 10 new products or services you would like to add to your company. Ten should not be difficult—just think of what your competitors or related businesses are doing that you are not. Now, circle two ideas that would be the most appealing to your customers and that might sell right away. These are the ones you will want to try first.
On the right side of the paper, write down as many conditions as you can think of to bring these new ideas to market. These might be things such as cost of materials, new equipment, whether you can make it yourself or buy it wholesale, whether you need to hire more staff, how long it will be before it’s ready to sell, what literature you need to print, what ads you need to place, what guarantees are necessary, mailings announcing availability, and so on.
Circle the conditions that are necessary for the two ideas you selected on the left side of the paper. Now you need to select the best idea to try first. Once you have made a commitment, stick with it until you see some results. Even the best new ideas take a little time to catch on. If you are convinced that you can’t make a profit, then stop and go to the next idea, but don’t give up too early. Make it a goal to try new ideas for products and services at least twice a year. Some will work quickly and some will not, but don’t stop testing.
Your ideas could also be a way to enhance or improve current products or to find new ways of offering them. Regardless of how you look at it, you want the ideas to be working for your business. Don’t just think about them—get them out of your mind and start using them. Use them before competitors come up with something similar and beat you to the market. If your competitors beat you to the punch, you’ll be the follower instead of the leader, and the leader always gets the biggest share of the business.
Smaller businesses can use new ideas much faster than bigger corporations can; cash in on that advantage and make it work for you. Smaller businesses don’t have to go through all the meetings and red tape to get an idea approved. They can test their ideas right away, and if an idea works, they can put it into the mainstream operations of their business right away.