By Carrie-ann | Jun 10, 2014 | Internet Marketing

How to be Creative with Online Marketing

Change your thinking and change your business. Could your marketing do with an injection of creativity?
Have you ever gasped in awe and admiration at a clever piece of marketing? I think most of us will. Certainly, with social media now reaching a new level of maturity, creativity is the order of the day. However there is a big but.  Your online marketing must be grounded in your customers’ persona. Fail to do this and frankly, you will be wasting your money. In other words, your marketing must strike a chord with your audience / customers.
All marketing starts with what you want to achieve. When you know what your goals are, you can craft a marketing campaign around your goal. Of course, if you plan to use more than one tool, then all your strategies have to link into a cohesive whole. Discord will hold your marketing back.
Let me start this by asking a question. What really gets your customers excited? The problem many small businesses have is they simply don’t know. If you have an arm’s length relationship with your customers and prospects you may not have grasped the importance of developing customer persona.

Customer personae are based on a good understanding of your customer groups. More than profiles, they are complete picture of your different customers as they relate to your business. Customer research, forums, interactive blogs and social media are the best tools for developing persona.  Once you have these in place, it will be much easier to develop initiatives your customers get excited about.  You may know where they shop, what new products they would like to see added to your range, how many kids if any they have on average and whether they travel or have pets and what really annoys them in relation to your generic product / service. You’ll also know where they hang out online. You can see where this is going, can’t you?
As well as being relevant to your customers, creative marketing should reinforce your brand values and definitely not detract from your brand in any way. Let’s think of some examples. Pet businesses often run photo and video competitions since different pet owner persona show pet owners enjoy taking pictures of their pets and sharing them on social media.  Alternatively, a business may donate to various animal charities if customers make a specific purchase. Travel magazines often run competitions where a travel package is naturally the prize. Brands may offer tokens linked to purchases so customers can buy related merchandise.
Traditionally, this kind of creative thinking has been the preserve of B2C firms, but there’s no reason B2B businesses can’t develop dramatic campaigns based on their customers’ persona, (although a small number of sectors are restricted in what they can do). The important thing here is to focus on your prospects and not yourself.  Let’s suppose you sell automotive components via distributors.  If you were going to run a competition to help attract new distributors you could run a prize draw for tickets for a Grand Prix or a visit to a prestige motor manufacturer or European car show.  Finding the best way to deliver the message, I would suggest is the main challenge.
It can be difficult to know what’s going to be cost effective if you don’t have much experience running campaigns. I would urge you to start with what you want to achieve and work backwards. No airy fairy goals though, quantify what you are aiming for.
There are various techniques you can use to generate ideas but I would suggest it’s difficult to be creative on your own (not impossible though). Proper brainstorming, which rarely happens, can be effective if you can pool a small number of people together who have different backgrounds. The key thing is not to be dismissive of any verbalised idea while the brain storming session is in progress. It’s my experience that sometimes daft ideas can eventually be reined in and reworked into something that will work. Judgement is crucial when assessing ideas that result from brainstorming, but no judgement should be exercised while brainstorming.
Sitting down with a colleague or consultant to share ideas can work well if you’re both in a non- stressed, open frame of mind. Stress closes down our thinking but when we relax, anyone is capable of lateral thinking. Lists, mind maps or idea walls can also help develop ideas.  Some people think visually, others don’t, you’ll find something that works for you. My experience is that two or three people brainstorming marketing ideas are effective long as one of the people really understands the business’s customers and is prepared to share.
A good way to progress is to develop a number of options in outline only and run them past some prospects or customers. That way, if you need professional help, you’ve already got something to discuss that clicks with your prospects.

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