To market your product or service successfully, you’ve got to have a unique positioning concept. A “big idea” that sets you apart in a world drowning in me, too.
There are world-class examples of successful concepts, like FedEx’s iconic slogan, “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”
Or Nyquil’s long-standing tagline, “The nighttime, coughing, achy, sniffling, stuffy head, fever, so-you-can-rest medicine.”
When you come up with the perfect concept for your product — the best angle from which to sell it — everything else falls into place.
Your headlines, subheads, and even your attention-getting opening sentence all become easier to write.
Combine a great concept with the right offer and a decent call to action, and you’re starting to get somewhere.
The importance of insight
But how do you get that brilliant flash of insight that allows you to discover the best angle from which to sell your product? Most of the time when we sit down to figure out new marketing ideas, it’s anything but a magical experience.
It feels more like we’re pack mules, carrying heavy loads on our backs, plodding up a very steep mountain trail.
But every now and then — if we’re really, really lucky — we experience a day when we feel like we’re reaching up to the sky and placing our hand in a rushing current of creativity that’s always flowing in the clouds.
We feel like we can just plug in and let the ideas flow from our hands to the page. Those are the really spectacular days.
And to do successful copywriting — to figure out a perfect concept for every blog post you write and every product you sell — you need more of those spectacular days.
So, when you’re trying to figure out the best positioning for your new product, how do you get that all-important flash of insight?
The creative process for finding big ideas
Your first step in figuring out the best angle for selling your product is to always thoughtfully and exhaustively study your topic. Take your research seriously, and learn everything you can about your subject.
Legendary “mad man” David Ogilvy began every one of his campaigns with intensive research into exactly who he was trying to reach. He then took that insight and came up with the BIG IDEA that fueled many a homerun advertisement, such as The Man in the Hathaway Shirt.
(You might be more familiar with the modern knock off, The Most Interesting Man in the World for Dos Equis).
When you feel like you’re finished with your research, write down some possible big ideas. If you’re feeling ambitious, write out a basic outline, perhaps in the form of a manifesto of how you’re going to shake up the status quo.
If the inspiration isn’t quite there yet, jot down a couple of general ideas — or some thoughts on your target market — and how they could benefit from the product.
Next, give yourself room to have a flash of insight that leads to the big idea. Here are six suggestions on how to invite more breakthroughs …
1. Allow yourself an incubation period
Set aside your notes and go do something fun. Walk your dog, watch a movie, have coffee with a friend, or go dancing. And don’t think about your copywriting project.
Our brains are still working on our copy, even when we’re taking a break and doing something completely unrelated. An incubation period gives you distance from your work, and allows you to make connections that would have been impossible if you were just staring at your notes and chewing on the end of your pen.
When you’re stuck for a brilliant concept for your product, take a break and then come back to it. A flash of insight will likely come in the middle of your break.
2. Collaborate with a diverse team
Some of the world’s best creative work is coming from companies that consciously cross-pollinate their teams.
3M, the Scotch Tape and Post-It wizards, periodically rotate all their engineers to different teams, so they regularly get new (and fresh) eyes looking at a project.
The 3M management team noticed that this practice regularly increases invention and innovation. The technique is called “conceptual blending,” and it’s been shown to work in a variety of situations.
Conceptual blending is so important to the movie-making geniuses at Pixar that they built it right into the layout plan for their main office in Emeryville, California.
The only restrooms in the massive Pixar building are in the very center of the building — and since everyone has to visit the bathroom, different people from Pixar’s various teams run into each other all the time.
Why does conceptual blending work? It works because “outsiders” typically have a higher willingness to mull over information and ideas that don’t initially seem worthy of consideration. Project newcomers will look at distantly related analogies and anecdotes, and make unusual connections that people immersed in the problem typically cannot.
So hang out in groups of people who are different from you, and discuss your questions with them. Ask them how you might market your product or service, and what unusual and remarkable angle you might use.
3. Move your body
Swimming, running, yoga, weight lifting, or any practice that regularly challenges you physically will also help you gain insight and make new connections.
Cynthia Morris of Original Impulse, creativity coach and facilitator, says, “The break from work gives valuable mental space,” and encourages her clients to add exercise as an important component of their creative process.
4. Don’t rush it
Give yourself some time to think about your product, your audience, and your ideas. If you only give yourself a day to come up with your Big Idea, you will likely fail. Give yourself the space to play around, to incubate, to percolate, and to round up your team to discuss things.
5. On the flip side — apply a little pressure
Creativity does work better under a little pressure. Don’t give yourself months (or years) to come up with a concept — long lead times will tempt you into procrastination.
If you can travel — get out of your house, your city, or even your country — your creativity will soar. Cynthia Morris says this about the link between travel and insight:
My favorite style of exploring is to wander with little or no plan … I almost always encounter something remarkable that sparks a new idea for my work. Random or unplanned occurrences are gold for the creative process.
So push back that chair and take a little trip — by foot, car, train, ship or plane. You’ll be amazed at what bubbles up to the surface.
Letting Inspiration In
It’s so important that it is worth putting regular, conscious effort into inviting your muse to visit you on a regular basis. If you consistently create a welcoming environment for insight and innovation, your big ideas will get better and your business will soar.
So roll out the red carpet for those BIG ideas. They’re out there, just waiting for the right moment to knock on your door.