Why you need to stop being so creative

Marketing is commonly regarded as a creative and uncertain process, something that cannot be structured or organised, but I think that’s a lazy cop-out that’s emerged because most marketers are by nature (and I have to include myself in this) a bit of a shambles.

Marketing is only creative when you don’t know what works. Often that’s unavoidable, but it should only be the absolute last resort when all other predictable avenues have been exhausted. Here are four steps to keeping your creativity to the absolute minimum!


1. Interrogate your client, their audience and the competition

The first stage of every campaign should be focused on learning:

The client:

  • What matters most to your point of contact?
  • What matters most to their boss?
  • What internal resources does the client have that your campaign should maximise the value from?

Their audience:

  • Who are they (demographics and psychographics)?
  • What are their motivations for buying?
  • What is their buying cycle? How often and what is their average lifetime value?

The competition:
For every channel there is almost always someone out there making it work. Find out who they are and what they’re doing to achieve their success. This is the most valuable time your will EVER spend on your marketing.


2. Focus on a small number of sectors

It’s such common advice and yet so few people in marketing actually take it.

Every time you step into a new market, you are starting all over again. Focus on a sector and you will find:

  • You already know what works
  • You will have existing networks to tap into at the push of a button
  • You will have instant credibility with prospective clients

Sector focus is possibly the smartest move we ever made.


3. Create models and measure them

People in marketing spend way too much time trying to get lucky. They focus all their energies on the task in front of them and forget that this is not about getting it right once, it’s about building a model that can be repeated time and time again, and everything they do is nothing more than an experiment aimed at improving that model.

  • When you’re on Facebook you are not trying to get likes, shares and comments for that one post. You are trying to build a model.
  • When you write content, you are not trying to get high click throughs on that one post. You are trying to build a model.

The key part that is most frequently missing is measurement. That’s how any experiment works. Not by how it felt at the time but by how the KPI (likes, visitors, opens, clicks, goals, etc) performed so if you are not measuring your efforts (and I mean daily, not monthly or quarterly) then you’re continuing to place your hopes on getting lucky.


4. Agile project management

I can’t pretend to be an expert in agile methodology but what I do know is that long planning cycles and digital marketing do not mix. Digital marketing is far too fast paced and unpredictable to rely upon a rigid twelve month plan, or even three month plan; it needs to be constantly adapting. If I’m responsible for a project I will review everything once a week to see what’s working and what isn’t. It’s a constant evolution.

So what does this have to do with reducing creativity? Well creativity is what you rely upon when you’re dealing with the unknown. Through agile project management, however, you are constantly experimenting; eliminating those things that don’t work and highlighting those things that do. Unlike traditional project management, agile project management responds earlier to feedback so that it becomes less about creative guesswork and more about rapid trial and error, greatly reducing risk in the process.


In summary…

It’s not that creativity is a bad thing, of course not. It’s just that it’s misunderstood. True creativity isn’t about a moment of genius, it’s about consistently using your eyes and ears to absorb what’s already going on around you and adapt your approach accordingly. As Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.“



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