By Tony Attwood
How being creative will double your sales rates and make you feel ever more happy at home and at work.
My prime purpose in writing this article and putting it on the Schools.co.uk website is to urge you to consider being ever more varied and stimulating in the way you write your advertisements.
And yes, I know from conversations had over the years, that it is possible that you might respond, “OK but how?” or “What I sell doesn’t lend itself to creative advertising.”
Of course, you might alternatively feel inclined to say, “tried that,” but if so I’d still beg you to stay with me for another couple of minutes, because I might be able to get you to change your mind. And my thoughts here are based on the experience of writing (and seeing the response rates to) rather a large number of emails sent to teachers in the last 20 years or so.
So this little piece is about how you can stimulate your own creativity, and why it is good both for you personally (in that being creative is for most people a route to an improved feeling of well-being, and an ever greater ability to get things done), and for your business, because inventive emails which are different from those of your rivals, always work best.
In short, being creative is good for your mind and your spirit, and good for your business. Which raises the question, how do we increase our levels of creativity, and why do so few people seek to do it?
To go into reverse and answer the second question first, most of us tend to believe there are “creative people” out there and to be such a person one needs to be born with a gift in a certain field. Personally, having earned my living in the theatre, as a musician and as a writer, having previously just scraped through English and music A level with basic grades, I know that’s nonsense. I have done what I do because I like doing it and anyway being at a party and saying “I work in the theatre,” tends to get a more positive response than saying, “I work for the council.”
In fact for most of us, creativity isn’t something we are born with, or have by having parents who are great artists, designers or whatever. How creative you are is, in fact, up to you. You can become ever more creative if that’s what you want, or you can become ever more repetitive if you prefer certainty to uncertainty.
It’s just that the benefit of being extra creative is different; if you are creative you are more likely to say, write or do something that generates a sale, and some people do suggest that others will tend to find you that little bit more interesting, which is always nice.
So, let’s suppose for a moment that you want to be more creative in order to write advertisements that generate more sales of your product or service. What do you do?
One of the approaches that most people find useful if they do want to increase their success rates in writing advertisements, is that of focussing on the issue of creativity regularly. In short, by trying to be creative in all aspects of life one actually becomes more creative.
As a result, thinking, “how might this be handled differently?” rather than “how did I do this last time?” really can change who you are.
In the same way, “let’s do something different today,” really can bring about a change to one’s lifestyle. (Although I must admit, when I worked in the West End and decided to go to work via a different route each day across London, my boss did warn me after a few days that if I turned up late once more, I’d be free to look for work nearer my home.)
Of course, in business there is always the worry that one’s creative efforts in terms of advertising might actually reduce sales rather than enhance them. That rarely happens, because people rarely remember the emails they get but don’t respond to.
But if you are trying to write more inventive advertisements to teachers what you can do is send me a draft of an email which has been written, and I’ll let you know what I think. No charge. And I am always very polite. (Tony@schools.co.uk usually works).
But here’s the big point. Being creative boosts your creativity. Put another way, the more often you try to become more creative, the more you succeed, until it becomes a habit. It won’t happen on day one, but enjoy the process, give it a few tries across a few weeks, and don’t despair.
As for me, as part of my work, I write about half a dozen articles a day, across three different subject areas and because I have done this for years, they all come out differently. On hearing this people often ask, “how do you get your ideas?” and yes, in reply I do sometimes flippantly modify PG Wodehouse’s answer, by saying, “I just sit at the computer and curse a bit.”
But that’s my little joke. The fact is that because I write articles and advertisements a lot, I’ve learned what works for me and for those who read what I write. And I’ve built a lifestyle around doing that.
And yet, one big problem remains when writing advertisements, and that is the self-doubt that can follow a piece of particularly creative writing. While being composed the work might feel as if it really is going somewhere, saying something different, only for a few doubts to kick in, as one starts to wonder.
If that is a concern, then one solution is to write a standard advertisement which half the potential customers get, while the other half get the creative variant. You can then measure the response from each group. (If they both work, you can reverse the groups and next week’s promotion is already done).
However perhaps most important of all, remember that creativity is a way of thinking, and like all other ways of thinking one can get better at it, the more one does it. Which does mean that taking creativity beyond the notion of writing advertisements and putting it into your daily life can be beneficial.
To do this one might consider one’s own habits; the order in which one does things, the time at which one does things, the route one takes driving to work (but see note above), the radio station listened to in the car, the time one has lunch, how bright and chirpy one is first thing in the morning, what one does of an evening…
In short, reconsidering aspects of one’s life – even trivial aspects – can enhance creative thinking. Plus, you will find many other helpful issues relating to creativity if you start reading up on the subject. Keeping a dream diary is one approach (notebook by the bed, write down any dream you remember, upon wakening, don’t give into the thought that one never dreams…). Asking customers what the main thing is that they think about when considering your product or service is another completely different approach…
And here’s one more thing about creativity: it has nothing to do with being perfect. Creativity can be used to help one change and come up with new ideas. Perfection is about reaching a level and staying there. Creativity eternally grows. Perfection stands still.
And above all remember this. Many people do say, “I’m not very creative.” Another, generally smaller group says, “I love being creative; I never know what is going to pop up next.” Which shows these are two quite different ways of thinking.
Creativity in advertising can result in one finding an advertisement that really does send sales through the roof. For those who insist on the notion that they are simply “not very creative” that opportunity is out of reach. And for those who overcome that tendency and try to find out how creative they can be, there is an extra bonus. Creative people are seen as more interesting than non-creative people, and so get invited to more parties.
So, if you are experimenting with your advertising and want to get a second opinion on your work, by all means, send it to me, and I’ll write back with my thoughts.
Alternatively, if you want to undertake an experiment, book into a 4-email programme and write two very different emails advertising your product or service. Then have them booked in to reach the same person in the schools a few weeks apart and look at the responses.
In short, the Guaranteed 4-email service was created in part to encourage advertisers to be more creative in their advertising. You don’t have to be of course, but it is there if you want to.
Please see here for more information, or call 01604 880 927 or email Stephen@schools.co.uk To try out your own creative approach and get an opinion, write the advert out as a Word document, attach it to an email, and send it to me Tony@schools.co.uk with a note saying that it is in response to this little piece on creativity in advertising. (I do get over 100 emails a day many of which are nonsense, so please do say at the top “Tony I’d like your opinion on an advert”.)
*In response to the comment about meeting new people and going to new places, I often get the reply, “that just doesn’t happen in my life”, and I must say it never used to happen to me, but the fact is I have made it happen in my life. By circumstances, rather than choice, I now live alone, but I’ve built into my life three hobbies all of which involve meeting a lot of people whose company I find stimulating. For myself this involves going to football matches with friends, and through that meeting their friends, walking with the Ramblers, and learning to dance a dance style in which everyone changes dance partners after each dance. These are just things I’ve found I like; if one wants to add creativity to one’s life one just has to find one’s own activities. And just to be clear, before I took up dancing, I thought, like most people, that I had two left feet, and before I took up walking I thought walking was boring. The football was different. That’s all down to my dad. And his dad. But you probably get what I’m saying.