Here's a challenge for all the open-minded marketers out there: The next time you are tasked with marketing a product, service or idea, do not run toward traditional tactics such as advertising or sponsorships.
Pretend they don't exist.
But if they don't exist, how will you do your job?
Marketing should be fluid and have impact, but it becomes rigid when approached merely as a set of tactics. If you are forced to address your marketing needs without using these conventional tactics, you must engage in creative problem solving to create something unique and highly customized.
The conventional marketer versus the creative problem solver
It is important to realize that there is nothing wrong with traditional marketing tactics as long as they perform. If they produce great results and a good return on investment, by all means continue with them. For those who find they are not getting great results from their marketing, perhaps a new approach would be advantageous.
Below are two examples from the perspectives of the more common conventional marketer who relies on traditional tactics and a creative problem solver who relies on imagination. Look at how each marketer approaches a problem and the types of solutions they develop.
Problem No. 1: "I sell software services and cannot differentiate because everyone else does the same thing. What should I do to break apart from my competitors?"
Conventional marketer: If your targets are chief information officers (CIOs), it is important to increase advertising frequency in publications that CIOs read, sponsor events CIOs attend, and send direct mail to CIOs letting them know where you'll be and how to get in touch with you.
Creative problem solver: Software projects are notorious for taking too much time to develop and constantly run significantly over budget. Instead of increasing advertising, let's discover why this happens and construct a solution to address it. One could be conducting a full-requirements gathering right at the beginning to keep the team and the client focused and then identify a process of development to build efficiently with little surprise. Test this approach, measure performance against the old method and then communicate the results to the market through presentations, a white paper and seminars.
Problem No. 2: "I created a new line of beauty products for men and I am having a difficult time breaking into the market because there is so much out there and men typically are not interested in beauty products."
Conventional marketer: Advertise to your main demographics using magazine ads, radio ads and television - if the funds are available. Use humour as an element to grab their attention and hold it. Sweeten the offer by providing rebates and coupons for the entire line of products.
Creative problem solver: The goal is to get men using the product. So do not do any advertising! Get the product in the hands of potential customers. The best way to get men interested is to get them to use it. If the product is that good they will buy it and tell their friends. To do this, build rapport with local pubs, lounges and other establishments frequented by men. Offer the establishment free product for their male customers by placing the product in the bathroom. Include small sample bottles to take with them that can be spread around. Be sure to have a website address on every bottle and an online store set up to ensure they can buy the product when they want it. Measure the results of each location and adjust as time goes on.
It is now up to you
Far too many marketers forget about finding a more influential, credible, meaningful way to impact the market. By engaging in some creative problem solving this can all change. While some may say this is obvious and common sense, it is not. It is rare to see marketers using their creativity this way. Most marketers are being creative within the confines of an advertisement or a marketing sheet but that does not have enough impact.
I challenge you to take a risk and to try marketing beyond the conventional means. I challenge you to try something outside of your comfort zone. I challenge you to do something none of your peers or competitors are doing. And I challenge you to be a creative problem solver and develop a solution specifically tailored for the current problem facing you or your business.
I am always interested in hearing how this process turns out for those willing to give it a try. Contact me to share any experiences or problems you may have with the process.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based marketing specialist who has worked for companies of all sizes. He has collaborated with sales teams and marketing departments to introduce new ideas that he argues have refreshed the way people think about marketing. Engage with him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ryancaligiuri.