One of the more challenging aspects of any career in B2B communication is creativity. There are many angles to this challenge (opportunity) and I’m often asked what fuels my ideas and what inspires me. I look at creativity as essentially a way to explore. Explore new ideas. Explore old ideas. Explore ways to be different. Explore ways to build.
Charles Day from The Lookinglass says that effective creative leaders use four methods to be successful: context, clearly defined values, trust and momentum. And to further fuel your creativity Zen Habits suggests you should find your voice.
Here are three ways I think about, well, thinking:
Read. I consume a lot of information and read a variety of publications daily. Because of this, I need to aggregate a lot of content, which draws me to use tools like Feedly, Flipboard and Delicious. I am constantly adding, deleting content as I go through it but keeping it organized is critical. For me, having it organized by themes helps to keep it manageable. As for how I do it, Feedly helps me track many of the blogs I read while I’m in the office; Flipboard has become my daily commute/business travel resource; and, Delicious helps me save articles and information that I want to reference later. I find it vitally important to have a variety of information, from information that is relevant to our industry as well as the global economy, marketing, management, technology and more. In my mind, you have to be reading every day to open your mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking.
Think like the customer. We often get caught up in our own world of brand and marketing, but it’s vital to think like your customers. In particular, B2B customers have a much longer sales cycle, which means they do a lot of research and have more time to deliberate about their decisions. What makes them even consider the products/services they want to purchase? What do you need to let them know? Would your planned campaign — as great as it seems to you — be something that brings action to your targets over time? If you are not actually talking with your customers much of what you are doing becomes a guessing game. Do whatever you can and take every opportunity at trade shows, industry events and client events to ask questions and talk with them about what they need. You won’t regret having a long list of resources who can help you understand the industry, but who can also function as a third-party advocates for your website, blog and with journalists.
Take a break. Having a daily routine that includes some downtime to recharge is important. My afternoon usually includes a walk to get a coffee and to take time to decompress from email and social media. It’s become a daily ritual and the time helps me to clear my mind and renew my energy. I never go without my Moleskine in order to sit down and brainstorm new ideas, work through existing programs and find arguments for why an idea just won’t work (you need to think of these too). If you’re looking for inspiration — and not necessarily coffee — here are eight other ideas to develop ideas.