Humans are naturally their worst critics. Too often, people think they’re not pretty enough or smart enough, and we criticize what we just ate or said way too much. This tendency tends to follow us into our business endeavors. We’re looking at likes, followers, etc. And this comparison kills the soul well before it kills the spirit. This is why I tell my audience to stop looking around. Many times, it’s not good for us.
No Such Thing as a Bad Idea
However, I make an exception. If you’re going to look around, do so to learn. This habit can be highly beneficial for business owners. In fact, there’s a pretty simple word for this concept: inspiration. As they say, there are not a ton of original ideas. Instead, there are modifications of pre-existing ideas. Honestly, I’m down for this. I don’t have 12154781245475 hours—and I may not have the brain capacity—to come up with ideas that are truly original. Instead, much of what I do is inspired. My design is inspired. My writing is inspired. Many of my marketing tactics are inspired.
There’s a pretty simple word for this concept: inspiration.
I also embrace the concept that there’s no such thing as a bad idea when brainstorming. Yes, there will be that time when someone says what seems to be the most asinine, unrelated. Stick around long enough, though, and something really good results. There are two reasons behind this. 1) You reduced the fear factor by creating a safe space to explore. When others see that the person with the seemingly not-so-great ideas was allowed the floor and not criticized, those who may have been hesitant to speak may begin to speak up. 2) Even though one idea may seem REALLY bad, the concept may have inspired a REALLY good idea. Combining the idea of looking around for inspiration with the idea of no such thing as a bad idea is a recipe for success.
Whiteboards + Inspiration = Ingenius Ideas
One of my favorite places to brainstorm is the whiteboard. The marriage of ideas, notes, and lots of chicken scratch in various colors gets me going. It’s a messy process, but the consequential brilliance (and sheer adrenaline rush) is worth the madness.
I’m in the process of developing a couple of branding elements and have found myself at the whiteboard once again. It’s easy to look at the whiteboard in its current state and think “that’s is a bad idea” or “what does that have to do with anything.” From a distance, this is a reasonable judgment. From the lens of inspiration, there’s a level of ingenious that comes with looking outside of the expected.
Instead of looking at competitors, I’m looking at industries that are similar but not the same. I’m looking at how these industries address topics and how customers’ mindset and spending potential overlap. I’m looking at branding, tone, and storytelling. Doing this drives inspiration for fresh thinking which will ultimately help the brand I’m working on stand out from competitors.
Make Magic Happen
You don’t have to be a seasoned marketer to do this. You don’t even need a whiteboard. You just need to give yourself permission to explore.
You don’t even need a whiteboard. You just need to give yourself permission to explore.
Here are a few examples to get the ideas flowing:
Real estate agents. Pay attention to how home decor organizations position themselves. What types of imagery do they use? Who do you believe is their target market? How can this information be used in your advertising?
Personal Chef. How do personal service organizations (dry cleaners, care.com, etc.) position themselves? Both require a high level of trust and access to items that are near and dear to the customer.
Hair distributors. Beauty magazines, beauty YouTubers, and fashion shows are your friends. All are about personal style and appearance. Instead of simply displaying hair extensions, you may choose to focus on confidence or the trend-appeal.
This is a very short list. In the spirit of community, list additional ideas in the comments. If you stumped and want ideas of what types of businesses are similar but not competing, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.