Sparking Creativity When You’re Feeling Uninspired

Sparking creativity, whether it be to create a new app, propose a different business model, or rethink your social media strategy, is sometimes one of the hardest things to drum up during times where you feel uninspired.

I know that for a fact (take this blog post for example. SO. MUCH. COFFEE).

Joking aside, we all go through times of feeling stale in our creativity. And a lot of times, this staleness occurs at points where it’s very important for our creativity to flourish!

If you’re like the millions of working people out there who has trouble being creative and productive, we’ve got some helpful tips to get your innovative juices pumping to that all important creative muscle: your brain.

Listen To Some Tunes

I love listening to music. I try to fill up as much of my day with music as I can. In the shower, in the car, in my occasional quiet evenings alone, on my long commute back and forth to work, and most importantly, at work. Music has the amazing capability of sparking some of my most creative moments. I’ve found that listening to upbeat, pop or rock music helps me to push out ideas faster while deep instrumental post-rock tunes almost always help me to think about a goal more clearly and on a deeper level.

This idea is backed up by research from Glenn Schellenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, who found that when a person is listening to a type of music that they enjoy, they are far more likely to be more creative. Be sure to utilize whatever type of music sparks your creativity the most.

Besides the mood-boosting effects of music, it can also help you to focus on one sound: the music. It blocks out potentially distracting sounds if you work in a busy and loud environment.

Get Another Opinion On An Idea

Your ideas aren’t always the most creatives ones, and it certainly isn’t a good idea to always take your own word for something. If you’re stuck on an idea and find yourself simply unable to see it from a different angle, reach out to a trusted friend or colleague and see what they have to say. Their idea might be worse than your own, but it’s always better to combine creative minds to create something that’s even more imaginative than what one mind could accomplish by itself.

Do Some Research

I get stuck on ideas for blog posts a lot. It always feels like there’s something out there I need to be writing about, but I just can’t think of a subject! In those times of writer’s block, I usually seek out articles on the Internet that can help to fuel my creative writing abilities.

The same strategy can be used for business owners who are stuck on what to do about stagnant sales leads, or a lack of brand advocates, or even how to get more people to follow their social media accounts. There are hundreds of thousands of articles out there from marketing experts who know how to get results. You just have to do a little research to find them!

Do Something Uncomfortable

Here’s an interesting idea that I came across while practicing what I was just preaching in the previous point. According to an opinion column by Inc. Magazine columnist Tanner Christensen, one of the best ways to spark creativity is to get uncomfortable. That’s right. Purposefully put yourself into an uncomfortable position. 

The reason behind this thinking is simple: we get stuck creatively because we get used to the routine of everyday lives. This includes a routine of working through problems in the same way, and thinking about them through the same lenses, that we always have.

If you want to stimulate your brain into a more creative mindset, you need to shock it through unpredictable, sometimes uncomfortable, situations. Steve Jobs, Picasso, and Edison all practiced this and look what they accomplished.

Make yourself a little uncomfortable, and watch the creativity flow!

How To Prevent Killing Employee Motivation in the Workplace

Keeping your employees motivated in the workplace isn’t always the simplest task, but it is one that employers and managers need to focus more of their effort toward.

One of the duties of a manager is to make sure your employees are engaged, motivated, and working toward goals set up for them. A big, huge, gigantic factor in achieving this is making sure their workplace is comfortable and stress-free. And that all starts with the manager position.

Here are a few big no-no’s that you, as a manager, need to be avoiding in order to make sure your employees are satisfied and engaged in the workplace. And if you’re an employee dealing with these issues, make sure to let your manager, or HR department, know that these are issues preventing you from doing the best work you can do.

Micromanaging

Ugh, MICROMANAGING. This is one of the worst things that a manager can do. I mean, I just love to be watched over like a hungry vulture waiting for a dying animal to finally kick the bucket, so it can devour on the flesh of my failure! (insert sarcasm here). In all seriousness, micromanaging is one of the worst things you can do as a manager. Why? Because it tells your employee that you don’t trust their intellect, abilities, or problem solving skills. You hired that employee for a reason; because you think they can do the job well. Don’t watch their every move, to where it’s not even them working on the project anymore.

Meetings!!

Number 2 on my list of “Things That Make Me Want To Slam My Head On My Desk Repeatedly Until I Pass Out” is constant meetings. Not only that, but constant meetings that are completely unnecessary! “Attention everyone: important meeting today at 2 to discuss things that only pertain to a few people in the meeting. We like to hear ourselves talk, so be sure to take time out of your busy schedule to attend!” Wait, you interrupted my workflow, my work-groove, my work-tango, for this?? Nothing is worse than unannounced, unnecessary meetings that cut into an employee’s project deadline.

Dismissing Ideas

Your employees have good ideas, and you should listen to them! Nothing’s more motivation-killing than presenting an idea that you think is good, and then having it immediately dismissed as “bad” without giving it any thought.

Breaking Promises

Not being able to keep a promise is a bad habit no matter what position you are in. But it’s especially bad when you’re a manager who promises an employee time to speak with you only to constantly reschedule it, or promises a much-needed pay raise that never comes. Don’t make empty promises you can’t keep.

Inappropriate Conduct

Much more than just a motivation-killer, this one also has legal ramifications. Inappropriate behavior can include lewd jokes, sexual harassment, or inappropriate touching. There’s a point where the cool boss with the fun jokes becomes the creepy boss with the tasteless jokes. Don’t evolve into the latter.

Unrealistic Deadlines

Deadlines are given to make sure a task is completed in an appropriate amount of time. That doesn’t mean waiting until the last minute to give a project to an employee, and then expecting them to get it done in a few days, a few hours, or right this second! Make sure you always give your employees a good amount of time to finish an assignment.

Focusing on the Negatives, Instead of the Positives

No one likes a sad-sack boss. A negative attitude creates a negative work environment, so try to focus on the “wins” instead of the “losses.” This creates a positive work environment that increases employees’ loyalty to the brand’s vision.

Making Decisions Based On Emotion

Making a decision based on emotion can be advantageous sometimes, but more times than not a decision should be based on hard evidence and data, not how you feel about a situation. This can also relate to making a rash decision, such as immediately getting angry at an employee or a situation, before you know all the facts.

What’s Trending – Marketing Your Business

 

Marketing Tip of the Week – What Do Consumers Need

Focusing on giving what your customer wants isn’t always as effective as giving them what they need. These are two different things. How do you inform your customers what they actually need? For this week’s marketing tip, lets take a lesson from Seth Godin.

“Or you can dig in, take your time and invest in a process that helps people see what they truly need. When we change our culture in this direction, we’re doing work worth sharing.”

See more about this topic from Seth Godin.

How do you actually show your customers that they actually need a product in your store? The key is relationship marketing. Get to know your consumers. Learn how to market to them and this is how you’ll learn how to inform your customers exactly what they need.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Don’t Forget To Look Up

Unless the name of your business is Wal-Mart, there are probably other companies in your market with higher annual sales. And that’s a good thing! After all, when it comes to marketing techniques and strategies, there’s nothing better than using one that’s already proven itself successful!

Learn From the Leaders

Those businesses that lead the way in your industry are there because they’ve already perfected the marketing techniques required to make money and pique the interest of customers. That makes them perfect models for you. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You should be able to make a few small tweaks and simply adapt their plan to your own business.

Never be afraid to learn all you can from the leaders.

Identifying Your Models

But what makes a particular businesses marketing model viable for your business? The key is to look for similarities, not just in products you carry but also in markets you’re targeting.

For example: Wal-Mart is a large company that sells a variety of items. You are probably a bit more specific in the products that you carry, so their general marketing plan may not be the best model for your business. Even so, they have departments that most likely coincide with your own business, and seeing how they choose to use signage and marketing materials for those departments can be applied to your model.

You’re going to have to do more than a simple copy and paste, but using your industry leaders as marketing models is always a great idea!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Keep It Positive

When creating marketing content, you want to leave your customer with a good impression of you and your business. After all, a customer who respects the business is a customer ready to buy from that business.

You may believe achieving that result will take some special writing wizadry, but in actuality it’s a simple effect to achieve. Just maintain a positive tone!

The Power of Positive

Customers tend to be more receptive to positive content. Successful content marketers will tell you that negative images, even if directed at the competition, can still cause an association in the customer’s mind with your business. Conversely, positive images also form an association with your business.

That’s why a funny .gif or video is never remiss on your Facebook page or blog. It may not be talking about your company, but the positive feelings it generates will still be associated with your business.

But what about your writing? How do you write content that shows all the ways your business is better than the one down the street without making an explicit comparison?

Keep The Focus On What You Do Well

Write about all the things that you do well. For example: a local florist knows that big online flower stores require customers choose from a set of preselected floral arrangements. But rather than call out the impersonal nature of such a selection, she can comment on how her services allow for personalized customization.

By showing that she can make arrangements which speak directly to the customer’s need or the intended recipient’s tastes, she has effectively set herself apart from the online store without appearing to say anything negative about them in the process.

Staying positive isn’t hard. It just takes a little thought organization. Just remember that for everything negative you want to convey about your competition, it can better be said by focusing on something positive about yourself!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Keep Your Audience On The Hook

Valuable content marketing isn’t just about getting a customer to view one article or social media post. Single views might be great for whatever you’re promoting at that moment, but to build a successful business, you’ll need to keep those viewers coming back for more!

Setting The Hook

The secret to repeat views is setting the hook. That means never giving all the information in one post. The customer must always be left wanting more so they’ll return to get even more information. This can be accomplished most easily by placing a sentence or paragraph advertising your next post at the bottom of each new one. It may require some thinking ahead as you have to plan each article in advance, but it’s sure to keep your viewers thirsty for more!

For social media, teasers are definitely the way to go. Give your viewers a small tidbit of information, and then include a link that takes them to a larger post with even more information. If you place a teaser at the bottom of that piece, you can keep them coming back again and again!

Reeling Them In

Once you’ve given your viewers a reason to come back, you need to continue feeding them quality information. Hooks are great, but if you aren’t giving them value for their time, customers will find somewhere else to go for the knowledge they need. As a business owner, you are a specialist. Present your advice from that angle, and you’re sure to build even more repeat business!

Building and keeping an audience isn’t as hard as it sounds. It merely involves providing quality information and presenting it so that your viewer always has a reason to come back!

Have any tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below, and don’t forget to come back next week for another great marketing tip!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Beating those Post-Holiday Blues

Small businesses normally carry the chorus of the post-holiday blues. Sure big box stores may sing a verse or two as their sales dip, but they have high-paid marketers whose sole job is to make that dip as slight as possible. But how do small businesses ease their own blues burden?

It’s Okay To Borrow

All great blues singers borrow what works from the greats who’ve gone before, and you can do the same. First, you need to look at the big boys who have a business model similar to your own. What are they doing to keep sales going during the seasonal dip? Are they running a sale to get rid of excess holiday material? Are they focusing on the after-Christmas shoppers, advertising deals for the super thrifty? Maybe they are targeting customers who’ve received an early tax return.

Whatever their method, feel free to borrow from it heavily!

Personalize Your Story

So you’ve found a great tune from a successful business you can emulate. That’s great, but you don’t want to follow it note for note. First you’ll need to personalize the lyrics, and add a few notes of your own to truly make their tune your tune.

It doesn’t require an entire revamp, nor should you try to do one. They’ve done the legwork for you, just riff off their idea and change what’s necessary to make it fit your business.

Don’t settle for the blues this January. Use your resources and let the good times roll!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Inject Some Humanity

If there’s one universal truth, it’s that customers prefer to do business with people over nameless, faceless brands. Not that having a brand is bad. It’s actually quite beneficial, but the secret is in having a brand that evokes a personality. So what’s the best way to humanize your brand? Through your marketing, of course!

Involve Your Team

You probably don’t run your store alone, so why should you be the only one featured in your marketing? Do you have an employee or two that likes to write? Give them a go at a blog post to change up the voice a bit. Also, post photos of you and your team online so customers have faces to go with the brand name.

Even better would be to put up some candid shots of your team working behind the scenes. Let customers see the work they (and you) do so they can garner a greater respect for the effort you and your team put in!

Lighten Up

Not every post you make has to be filled with importance and gravitas. Feel free to lighten the mood now and again with the odd joke. You don’t want every post to be a laugh riot, but just like a first date, tossing in one now and again will help to break the ice.

And don’t be afraid to ask questions of your own. Use your customer engagement to get info you might not be able to find any other way.

Your online profile needs to be as personable and interesting as your in-store personality. Don’t drown your customers in branding, show them that there are people behind the curtain!

Marketing Tip of the Week: The Ever Important Call-To-Action

If you regularly read marketing blogs, you’ve already heard all about the call-to-action. It’s a phrase bandied about by all the greats in the business (the business of business?) that has been repeated so often, many no longer see a reason to explain its meaning.

Still, if you aren’t entirely sure what a call-to-action is or how to optimize its use, read on!

Defining the Call

A call-to-action is what you use to spur your customer to action. It can be a sentence at the end of your blog, a button on the bottom of your email, or a statement splashed across your latest ad. Whatever you choose to use, it needs to be clear and concise so the customer knows exactly what they’re supposed to do next. Simple, right?

Absolutely, but sometimes keeping it simple is the problem.

Don’t Over Think It

Your call-to-action doesn’t have to be a mind-blowing statement or even something your customer has never seen before. It’s just a cue to direct them to where you want them to go. It can simply be a button labeled “Buy Now!” a hyperlink that says “Click here to purchase!” or anything in between.

The goal is clarity of purpose. A confused customer is a customer that gives up and goes somewhere else. The call-to-action is like a road sign. It directs the customer where to go next.

You should be using a call-to-action in every piece of content that you write. Even if the post isn’t direct marketing for you business, you should still direct the customer to your products at the end.

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