Category Archives: Innovation

The Joy of Six – Creative Tips for Idea Generation

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

Without creativity, small businesses lose their competitive advantage in a tight marketplace.  The ability to review, quickly analyze, gather feedback and make creative decisions that impact the way you do business is critical for smaller businesses.

The problem is that those of us who consider ourselves creative are often stifled by others around us, or our managers, who feel that the only good idea is their own. In a previous blog, I wrote about Bad Bosses, and their tendency to limit the amount of free thinking that their employees can do, which in turn limits the potential growth and development of great business concepts.

In the Creativity workshops I facilitate, it is quite surprising that most people don’t think of themselves as creative at all.  In fact they believe they may possess an infertile mind when it comes to the weird and wonderful. It only takes one or two questions before they realize just how creative they can be, when they are “allowed” and in fact encouraged.

Here are 6 quick tips that will assist you in performing mental origami.jb gami

  1. Do not accept a single answer to any problem, there are always alternatives.
  2. Do not accept what has always been accepted as correct.  Sacred cows make great steaks!
  3. Always ask yourself “What if” instead of “Why can’t …”
  4. Don’t be afraid to play. Be silly. Bring out the child within.  Kids can play for hours with the simplest of toys because they make it up as they go along. Don’t you wish someone would tell you to “just go out and play”
  5. If it ain’t broke …. You aren’t trying hard enough to break it!
  6. Don’t take negative comments about your ideas to heart.  Those naysayers didn’t go through the same creative process you did, so they can’t possibly see all the great positive aspects.  I call it the “you’ll fall off the edge of the world” syndrome

All of us are creative in some way.  You can’t tell me that you don’t have a creative thought every single day! The true nature of the creative person is shown by what they do with the idea, not just letting it die on the vine. Using the six tips above every day will allow your fertile mind to be bountiful.  The most important tip is #6. The Joy of Six!  As I was once told “premature evaluation prevents conception”!

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Filed under Communications, Innovation, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Training and Development

Price “fixing”

 By Jeff Bowman

This past weekend, I ventured out and attended several “amateur” sales events close to my home.  Better known as garage sales, these mini one day retail ventures offer some great insights into how prices are set and negotiated in the business world. Similar products at different locations varied greatly in price and other products displayed prices that seemed to have no rhyme or reason to them. A good example was paperback books, 4 for a $1.00 at one house, $1.00 each at another on the same street! I don’t need to tell you where the dollars were going.

Translated to the business world, that equates to two different stores setting their price using 2 divergent formulas for sales. “Entrepreneurs tend to keep prices too low,” according to business author Reed K. Holden.  In experience, sometimes we don’t see ourselves as a contributor to the value proposition, or take fully into account the real value the product or service brings to the customer. Larger companies may have a tendency to utilize the “mark up on cost” tactic which incorporates a variety of costs involved in bringing the product or service to market, then simply adding on a viable profit margin, sometimes with little regard to the competitive environment.

Setting your price is a critical part of the marketing mix and all things need to be considered such as your total costs including time, marketing, sales expenditures and transportion to name a few, the competition, the aggregate need, the decision making process of the buyer, the elasticity of demand (which in simple terms means the change in demand at various price points) and the position that it will be delivered to the market in, those positions being: is it new and “revolutionary”, is it an improvement or “evolutionary” or is it a similar product or service to many in the market already or ”an also ran”

In considering all of the above, the most important factor has to be the overall value that your product or service provides to the buyer. As a sales coach I constantly reinforce the value proposition in the sales process, and it is no different in the pricing approach. Businesses need to put dollar figures to the benefits the features provide. By monetizing the value to the customer the pricing consideration can be more clearly evaluated. A real quick example would be, if I introduce a product similar to others in the market, with improvements that are proven to save maintenance, shut downs and costly delays, is it wise to price it only a few dollars above the current market value, or is it worth much more in dollar savings over time for the customer?

Garage sale economics may dictate put the “stuff” out, price it to sell and close at noon to enjoy the Saturday, but if your price is too high it may need some fixing to avoid a long day standing on the driveway and a future trip to the dump.

Jeff Bowman, the “Attitude” in The Marketing PAD, provides workshops and sales consultations for businesses looking to grow.

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Filed under B2B, Innovation, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, Marketing, Sales, Strategic Planning

Macho Man Marketing

By Jeff Bowman

Professional wresting has been an interest of mine for over 40 years.  From the days of Lord Athol Layton, The Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher to most recently, the baby faces and heels of the 90’s including Hulk Hogan, Brett Hart and Macho Man Randy Savage. I have witnessed the sport grow from headlocks and spinning toe holds to the flying acrobatics and high-speed action that you witness today.  What is the difference between the 60’s and the 90’s? Marketing!

I have 5 rules for effective marketing that I use to build campaigns and programs for clients.

  1. Create a recognized brand
  2. Stay in touch with the consumer
  3. Deliver what your customers want and expect
  4. Outthink your competitors
  5. Support your product using your strengths.

Macho Man Randy Savage, who passed away recently in a car accident embodied the marketing strategy to a tee, and helped to build the WWE  (formerly WWF) to astounding heights of popularity. His deep gravelly voice, his ornate studded capes, cowboy hats, the sunglasses, and the phrases, “Ohh Yeahhh!, and “Freak Out” were his trademarks. He created the Macho Man brand and maintained it for over a decade. Even in his ads for Slim Jims, he re-enforces his own brand while promoting someone else’s.

Known as one of the best interviews in wrestling, he would often adlib, turn his back to the camera, shake his hand as if he was ridding himself of excess energy and talk about the type of beating he was going to administer to opponents.  He was quoted in a “real” interview when asked what his best match was, that it was the one that the fans loved the most. He truly had his finger on the wrestling consumer’s pulse. As far as delivering what the customers want, Savage was absolutely electric when he entered the ring. Jumping from turnbuckle to turnbuckle spreading his capes like wings encouraging either cheers or jeers from the throng.  I remember a match that he started wearing his sunglasses, and won without ever taking them off! WWE fans wanted action, Savage delivered in spades.

Many before him donned gowns and capes, but never had the expansive wardrobe Savage owned. In the ring, Savage was a high flyer, delivering flying elbows from the top rope getting more height than anyone before, and landing with precision choreographed perfection. He wasn’t the biggest, or the strongest but I don’t think his athleticism was matched by any competitor, and he used that to rise to the top of the wrestling world.  In an interview after Savage left the WWE, he makes a comment which epitomizes his dedication to being the best and marketing the organization for which he worked. “It’s not just winning the belt, it’s how you wear it”

Randy Savage recognized the potential he had to manufacture an image in an industry where gimmicks were manufactured by the thousands. It never changed for Savage.  He worked hard every night, every interview was a sales pitch and win or lose he always vowed to come back, and did.  The wrestling world lost a true competitor

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Filed under Branding, Innovation, Jeff Bowman, Marketing, Sales

Is There Still Innovation in Marketing?

By Jeff Bowman

Is it possible that all forms of innovation in marketing will eventually come to a grinding halt? When will the ideas stop, or in some cases when will innovative thinking be challenged enough on any front that creativity will cease and companies will choose to do something dull and mundane but tried and true in generating results.

Let me explain what I am talking about.  There are two main fronts of innovation that I consider to be critical in marketing.  The first is the creative front which would include those brilliant ideas, slogans, pictures etc which make up a great promotional piece.  The second is the technology front or what I prefer to call the delivery method. Even the most brilliant creative marketing concept will remain forever a mystery to the masses, if there is no delivery process to bring it to the forefront.

Technology has totally changed the marketing process, what with electronic media, Facebook to spread opinions, YouTube to spread viral messages and cell phone apps that can tell you product specs and sale prices of stores within a five-minute drive from wherever you are.  You can’t be anywhere anymore it seems without having some form of marketing or intrusive messaging beeping you, flashing in your face, tweeted on your device.

Today the big thinkers have developed ways of creating billboards that show you one thing, but if you snap it on your cell phone, show you another.  Stores can notify you of sales as you walk by them, and the pressure of peers to view, listen or meet is unmatched.  Cool can last for mere seconds in this day and age. Where will all this lead, and at what point will privacy and security factors outweigh innovation?

On the creative side, I must admit that in some areas we have become more permissive as to what images and messages are acceptable.  I grew up in the sixties when images  of Fred Flintstone smoking, and wives  dressed in Sunday best cooking and cleaning and other blatant sexual or discriminatory marketing tactics were  acceptable means of promoting a product.

Innovation occurred as attitudes began to morph and ideology changed. It’s difficult to determine if we have become more acceptable or less tolerant of creative marketing. In many ways there has been a complete reversal. We seem to accept things like nudity in ads today but will fight against portrayal of stereotypes. Targeting adults with well produced marketing campaigns for beer is okay, but targeting kids with friendly animals and characters is a violation of the parental rights to be parents!

Therein lies the rub. We are at a stage where proliferation of messages is rampant through ever- changing technology, so getting people to hear or see the marketing has become relatively easy.  On the reverse side, we have come to place where we accept that everyone has an undeniable right to find something offensive and have it removed from public viewing or launch a nationwide Facebook campaign against the company that put it out. In marketing circles, it is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

In my mind marketing is at a point where innovation will die from the disease of apathy, creating something that won’t offend anyone in order to satisfy the few who make a career out of being offended, and letting everyone else know about it. As a creative marketer, that really offends me!

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Innovation, Jeff Bowman, Marketing, Media, Online marketing

When Convenient Becomes Inconvenient?

By Jeff Bowman

Product innovation began when someone chipped off the corners of blocks to make them round, making the transport of items a little easier. I am proud of my cavemen ancestors for being so creative because the wheel has led to cars, petrochemical refining, industrialization and the marketing of millions of convenience items to make ones life so much more simplistic.

I remember the Jetsons from when I was a kid. Meals came in pills, everyone lived and worked in skyscrapers, flew to work, and had machines that cleaned their house, made the meals, disposed of the dishes and even got them showered and dressed in the morning. Wow, what a life.  Think of the manufacturing innovation that has to happen to make all that great stuff a reality.

One of my first jobs out of school was working for a division of a large pulp and paper mill.  We were warned back in the 80’s that our industry was in decline and that the paperless society was a scant few years away. Well, here we are 30 years later, and paper is still here, mountains of it everywhere you look. I look around at the innovations that were supposed to make our lives so much easier and I really start to ask myself “is this really product innovation or marketing spin?’

From frozen dinners back in the 50’s to fast food and high caloric, high cholesterol delights in a box today. We all lead busy lives what with cell phones enabling us to communicate anywhere, anytime with anyone, blackberries notifying us of every e-mail or sports score, computers that allow us the pleasure of working 60 + hours a week from the comfort of our home office (which used to be referred to as a family dwelling) and drive through coffee to keep the caffeine pulsing through our veins.  Home chores are now a snap.  I can quickly wipe my floors with waste site filling disposable rags, far easier than a standard mop.  I no longer need to rake, I can just blow my leaves and grass clippings onto the road or my neighbor’s yard with smoke spewing or electrical blowers, and hope nature doesn’t decide to blow them back on my lawn a day later. No worries, I can just get into my car and just a mile or two to one of several branded coffee shops where my desire for any flavour of coffee imaginable might be satisfied for a few bucks, and I don’t even have to wash the cup, I can throw it away. Now if I can just remember what size a Grande is. Ah, the convenience!

Cavemen never envisioned how society might morph from simple innovations.  Dr. Suess nailed it with “The Lorax”!

I ponder as I drink my fresh-bought tea, why it needs to be so damn hot that it burns my lips, so hot that they need two paper cups to hold it.  Wouldn’t it be more earth friendly to lower the temp a couple of degrees and use a single cup like coffee? A small start to a massive innovation aimed at environmental and sociological changes. Maybe there was a reason the cartoon men in the Jetsons were a little paunchy and out of shape, right Mr. Spacely?

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Environmental, Innovation, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, Marketing