Just because you're a copywriter, or developer, or a social media strategist that doesn’t mean you’re not creative. Likewise, if you’re a photographer, designer, or a stylist, that doesn’t mean you are creative.
What do I mean? I mean, that being creative doesn’t come from your title or from your job description, being creative means that you find imaginative solutions to pressing problems for your customers.
So how can you be more creative in your business if you’re a photographer? Or if you’re a coach? Well that’s what we’re diving into today, so let’s jump in.
1. Create a New Category
When you started your business, did you look around and check out how everyone else in your industry was doing things and planned accordingly? Or was that just me?
When you start your business or venture it's easy to see what's being done and follow suit but that's not what being creative is all about.
Dictionary.com defines "creative" as expressing original imagination or thought. The key word in there is originality.
Being creative in your industry is a must for you to move forward and make a lasting impression on your audience. It means coming up with a whole new market, a whole new solution, or a whole new way of doing things and when you do that will you stand out from the rest in your industry.
Take for instance, the Ruhlin Group. The Ruhlin Group is a strategic gifting service geared towards helping clients ditch the fruit basket and give world class gifts to make a lasting impression and build a relationship with current and potential customers.
You may be thinking, how did that get started? It all began when the founder, John Ruhlin learned that "radical generosity" as he calls it, skyrocketed his marketing efforts more than any paid advertising or form of self-promotion.
John had a mentor early on in his college days that showed him true radical generosity. This man was incredibly generous and every business deal seemed to go his way and he was always front of mind when an opportunity arose.
So when John started to intern at Cutco knife company one summer, he asked his mentor if he wanted to buy pocket knives to give to his employees, knowing that his employees were outdoorsy men and all. His mentor told him that he didn't just want to give them pocket knives, instead he wanted to give them engraved pairing knives.
The principle being that if you take care of the family in your generosity, all the rest falls into place with your business.
John took hold of this practice and he invested all he had, $200, into a carving set and sent it to the CEO of a 50 million dollar company with a handwritten note saying "Please carve out 15 min of your time and I guarantee it'll be worth it."
He landed the meeting and when the CEO asked if he was going to sell him knives he said "no, I'm going to help your one thousand sales reps open doors with your biggest clients and your dream one hundred list and I'm here to help you drive referrals" and instead of selling one set he would sell a thousand sets based on the principle that you can build an incredibly faithful and lasting customer base and have doors open in a whole new way by adopting this practice of radical generosity.
John’s newfound discovery through thoughtful, planned gifts to clients made the impact and impression that a cheese plate or flowers never could. Through this experience he was the most successful sales person in Cutco's 70 year history, he wrote a book called Giftology and he founded The Ruhlin Group, a dedicated gifting service that has since been widely successful.
Talk about changing the landscape. This was a completely new idea and goes against the grain of society, but with his new perspective he capitalized on the fact that companies need his expertise to stand out in a crowded market and be seen and remembered for years to come.
This is something anyone can learn something for their own business. Finding a way to be completely original can not only make you remarkable and stand out, it can make you memorable, and keep you front of mind.
I do want to stress that being memorable for the sake of being memorable isn’t the key here. Coupled with truly connecting with your clients and audience is the magic sauce which brings me to my next point, creating an experience for your clients.
2. Create an Experience
Anyone can start a business, get the normal logo, and set about by marketing the normal way, post to Instagram and Twitter occasionally, spread the news of your venture by word of mouth, and work to get those first few clients in the door.
But what if you focused primarily on the clients you're currently serving by giving them an unforgettable experience.
An example of someone who really mastered this was The Mullikin Studio, a husband and wife photography team. I had the privilege of working for them for a couple years before they moved to Jacksonville Florida.
During the time I worked with Jen and Jeff, I learned so many things about customer service from crafting a unique experience to cultivating the client relationship.
I was impressed with each step of their client process. It was never just a photoshoot or a job, it was always an invitation and a privilege to document life's most memorable moments with people who they came to care about.
The first step in their client process was to invite the inquirer to their studio. Not only did this give them a place to chat with their potential clients in relaxed environment, they also showed their professionalism and expertise as they toured the studio space showing them their portfolio which was displayed on a beautiful gallery wall near the front of their studio.
Jen and Jeff were always the ones to meet the clients. They would take time to answer questions and they were an open book about their process and how they worked.
photos by the Mullikin Studio
They created a welcoming, relaxed, open conversation to their work style, their values, and how their process flowed with each couple who came in to chat about an upcoming wedding day or a newborn shoot.
They didn't create just an experience, they created a friendship, so their clients would come back after their wedding for anniversary shoots, maternity, newborn, and family photos. Their process showed me how to connect and how to share in their client’s lives.
I remember, Jen telling me that after they shot a wedding they would invite the couple to come back to their studio several weeks later where Jeff and Jen would present them with a surprise gift of an 8X10 matted and framed photo of their wedding day, and they would have a glass of champagne, and be excited about their new life together and celebrate it.
This is what creating an experience looks like. It looks like going above and beyond, connecting on a human level, and sharing in the celebration of the life stage of your client and giving them an unforgettable experience.
3. Create the Desired Outcome
Businesses don't just sell a service, they sell a feeling. Whether it be peace of mind, relaxation, happiness, or confidence, businesses market on emotion.
For me, a huge part of my branding process is making my clients feel “less stressed." One of the reasons branding can be so overwhelming and challenging is because there are a lot of moving parts and it's hard to think through each thing you need.
So in my process I take care of all the different aspects of their branding including logo design, inspiration board, brand board, custom photos, website design, Instagram branding and Facebook design… all these elements I provide isn’t just to provide them, it’s so my clients feel like they can be relaxed and have less stress knowing that I am taking care of all their marketing and branding needs.
I also communicate a lot during the my branding process which adds to them feeling at ease. I may over communicate, but it’s something I strive to do because it shows my clients I have things under control. I’m following a schedule, I have a process in place and I want to keep them informed and in the loop of all I'm getting done.
If I were to not communicate with my client for several days, they may think I forgot them or am not working and I don't want to give them any room to think that. During our project I also schedule phone calls and Google Hangout calls where we can connect in real time and talk through what’s happening. This not only keeps them involved but it keeps a collaborative environment that is built on trust, which is ultimately a huge component of any service you provide.
I hope all these examples help you become more creative and memorable in your own business. Even if you’re in a saturated field like I am, there is a way that you can stand out and create an experience for your clients they aren’t likely to forget.
Think outside the box, make connections, and focus on the desired outcome you want for your clients and you are sure to be the one people remember.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, do you feel like your industry is saturated?
How are you making yourself stand out?
What are some things you feel challenged where you can be more creative?