9 Proven Techniques For Profitable Advertising Ideas
The copywriter’s job is to come up with words and ideas that sell the product or service being advertised. Where do these ideas come from? They come from an understanding of the product, the market, and the mission of the copy—which is to generate sales. However, even the best copywriters get stuck for ideas at times.
Here’s a proven 9-step procedure to come up with ideas for ads, headlines, marketing campaigns, or anything else!
Identify the Problem
The first step in solving a problem is to know what the problem is. But many of us forge ahead without knowing what it is we are trying to accomplish. Moral: Don’t apply a solution before you have taken the time to accurately define the problem.
Assemble Pertinent Facts
In crime stories, detectives spend most of their time looking for clues. They cannot solve a case with clever thinking alone; they must have the facts. You, too, must have the facts before you can solve a problem or make an informed decision.
Professionals in every field know the importance of gathering specific facts. A scientist planning an experiment checks the abstracts to see what similar experiments have been performed. An author writing a book collects everything he can on the subject: newspaper clippings, photos, official records, transcripts of interviews, diaries, magazine articles, and so on. A consultant may spend weeks or months digging around a company before coming up with a solution to a major problem.
Keep an organized file of the background material you collect on a project. Review the file before you begin to formulate your solution. Use your PC to take notes on your research materials. This step increases your familiarity with the background information, and can give you a fresh perspective on the problem. Also, when you type up notes you condense a mound of material into a few neat pages that show all the facts at a glance.
Gather General Knowledge
In copywriting, specific facts have to do with the project at hand. They include the product, the market, the competition, and the media. General knowledge has to do with the expertise you’ve developed in business and in life, and includes your storehouse of information concerning life, events, people, science, technology, management, and the world at large. Become a student in the many areas that relate to your job. Trade journals are the most valuable source of industry knowledge.
Subscribe to the journals that relate to your field. Scan them all, and clip and save articles that contain information that may be useful to you. Organize your clipping files for easy access to articles by subject. Read books in your field and start a reference library.
If a copywriter with twenty-five years of experience writes a book on radio advertising, and you buy the book, you can learn in a day or so of reading what it took him twenty years to accumulate. Take some night school courses. Attend seminars, conferences, trade shows. Make friends with people in your field and exchange information, stories, ideas, case histories, technical tips. Most of the successful professionals I know are compulsive information collectors. You should be one, too.
Look for Combinations
It has been said more than once, “There’s nothing new in the world. It’s all been done before.” Maybe. But an idea doesn’t have to be something completely new. Many ideas are simply a new combination of existing elements. By looking for combinations, for new relationships between old ideas, you can come up with a fresh approach. The clock radio, for example, was invented by someone who combined two existing technologies: the clock and the radio. Niels Bohr combined two separate ideas—Rutherford’s model of the atom as a nucleus orbited by electrons and Planck’s quantum theory—to create the modern conception of the atom. Look for synergistic combinations when you examine the facts. What two things can work together to form a third thing that is a new idea? If you have two devices, and each performs a function you need, can you link them together to create a new product?
Sleep on It
Putting the problem aside for a time can help you renew your idea-producing powers just when you think your creative well has run dry. But don’t resort to this method after only five minutes of puzzled thought.
First, you have to gather all the information you can. Next, you need to go over the information again and again as you try to come up with that one big idea. You’ll come to a point where you get bleary and punch-drunk, just hashing the same ideas over and over. This is the time to take a break, put the problem aside, sleep on it, and let your unconscious mind take over.
A solution may strike you as you sleep, shower, shave, or walk in the park. Even if it doesn’t, when you return to the problem, you will find you can attack it with renewed vigour and a fresh perspective. I use this technique in writing—I put aside what I have written and read it fresh the next day. Many times the things I thought were brilliant when I wrote them can be much improved at second glance.
Use a Checklist
Checklists can be used to stimulate creative thinking and as a starting point for new ideas. There are several checklists in this book you can use. But the best checklists are those you create yourself, because they are tailored to the problems that come up in your daily routine.
For example, Jill is a technical salesperson well versed in the technical features of her product, but she has trouble when it comes to closing a sale. She could overcome this weakness by making a checklist of typical customer objections and how to answer them. (The list of objections can be culled from sales calls made over the course of several weeks. Possible tactics for overcoming these objections can be garnered from fellow salespeople, from books on selling, and from her own trial-and- error efforts.)
Then, when faced with a tough customer, she doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, but will be prepared for all the standard objections because of her familiarity with the checklist. However, no checklist can contain an idea for every situation that comes up. Remember, a checklist should be used as a tool for creative thinking, not as a crutch.
Sherlock Holmes was a brilliant detective. But even he needed to bounce ideas off Dr. Watson at times. As a professional writer, I think I know how to write an engaging piece of copy. Some people prefer to work alone. I’m one of them, and maybe you are, too. But if you don’t work as part of a team, getting someone else’s opinion of your work can help you focus your thinking and produce ideas you hadn’t thought of.
Take the feedback for what it’s worth. If you feel you’re right, and the criticisms are off base, ignore them. But more often than not, feedback will provide useful information that can help you come up with the best, most profitable ideas. Of course, if you ask others to “take a look at this report,” you should be willing to do the same for them when they solicit your opinion. You’ll find that reviewing the work of others is fun; it’s easier to critique someone else’s work than create your own.
And you’ll be gratified by the improvements you come up with—things that are obvious to you but would never have occurred to the other person.
Some people think more creatively when working in groups. But how large should the group be? My opinion is that two is the ideal team. Any more and you’re in danger of ending up with a committee that spins its wheels and accomplishes nothing. The person you team up with should have skills and thought processes that balance and complement your own.
For example, in advertising, copywriters (the word people) team up with art directors (the picture people). In entrepreneurial firms, the idea person who started the company will often hire a professional manager from one of the Fortune 500 companies as the new venture grows; the entrepreneur knows how to make things happen, but the manager knows how to run a profitable, efficient corporation. As an engineer, you may invent a better microchip. But if you want to make a fortune selling it, you should team up with someone who has a strong sales and marketing background.
Give New Ideas a Chance
Many businesspeople, especially managerial types, develop their critical faculties more finely than their creative faculties. If creative engineers and inventors had listened to these people, we would not have personal computers, cars, airplanes, lightbulbs, or electricity. The creative process works in two stages.
The first is the idea-producing stage, when ideas flow freely. The second is the critical or “editing” stage, where you hold each idea up to the cold light of day and see if it is practical. Many of us make the mistake of mixing the stages together, especially during the idea-producing stage, when we are too eager to criticize an idea as soon as it is presented.
As a result, we shoot down ideas and make snap judgments when we should be encouraging the production of ideas. Avoid making this mistake, as many good ideas are killed this way. The tasks and procedures outlined in this chapter may seem like a tall order. But don’t worry. You can do it. Heed this advice from Lou Redmond, a former Ogilvy & Mather copywriter: “Advertising is one of the minor arts, so don’t be intimidated by it.”