“One does not set out to catch a panther with a mousetrap.” – Sean Flannery
This is partially about businesses and business thinking … partially about marketing … but totally about risk.
Risk and maybe refinding your ‘mojo’ in business.
Risk is always an interesting topic when discussing business.
But add in the topic of marketing it takes on aspects I not only believe we do not discuss enough … but there are so many varieties of risk to consider almost every day it could make your head spin.
Let me focus on what I would consider the big two.
There is risk of doing the right thing <or choosing what to do>.
And then there is risk that it will actually work.
Too many people in marketing <and business in general I imagine> forget to realize that everything we do <day in and day out> can matter . . . and should be better.
Because, in the end, marketing is not just about persuasion.
It’s about the stories we tell and how they connect with real people and what those real people do with those stories.
And those stories compel people to do things.
Interestingly … while we use those words with marketing all the time they can also be used with businesses.
Business owners are fooling themselves if they simply believe they are a manufacturing firm or a service company or a “I sell shit want to sell more shit’ company.
Business is about persuading someone to take a risk on you <and your business>.
Honestly … the best persuasion is almost a whisper in your ear … so faint you barely know it’s there. There is an art of being noticed with purpose without … well … being noticeable.
It is an art and science because you do want to be noticed … just without being noticeable.
There is a challenge, huh?
How challenging? Things don’t always go smoothly.
Beyond the fact the people doing the persuading are doing a lot of things that suck <and don’t persuade> the real issue is that businesses are not taking any risks. No risks on a variety of levels <because relaxing and settling back and being noticed without being noticeable not only takes some kahones but is also taking a risk>.
They are asking people to take a risk on them and their products.
We <in business> are less willing these days to show any risk but demand the opposite <and some blind faith to go along with it> of consumers/buyers/users.
How fair is that?
Is there any wonder trust is at an all-time low?
Someone once said, and I believe, that if you don’t risk anything, you risk everything.
It’s certainly true on a personal level, and in the communications business, or business in general, it is actually the only way to grow and be successful.
The problem is that most businesses operate more by intimidation than inspired insightful risk.
Trying the new and different and taking risks gets squeezed out by a let’s-play-it-safe attitude.
Behaviorally this inevitably leads to business without true meaningful convictions … or maybe I could say instead … a business that follows rather than leads.
By the way.
A business operating without convictions won’t sell anything.
I say this to suggest that we in business begin to refind risk.
To refind their risk mojo.
I know his is a difficult suggestion. It is always much better to do the sure thing. The safe business decision.
The problem is if you really want any progress or growth … meaningful progress and growth … risk cannot be avoided.
Meaningful progress and growth … in other words … greater sales results more economically achieved.
Notice nowhere so far I have said anything about creative marketing nor have I discussed brands or branding.
Creativity is far too often been used inaccurately, irresponsibly and exploited through deliberate misrepresentation by some relatively unscrupulous pontificators trying to make a buck here and there.
As all the buzzwords buzz around some good, honest talented businesspeople <with true convictions> have gotten wrapped up in the snake oil salesman speak.
That’s unfortunate, because when understood and properly practiced, creativity does result in greater sales more economically achieved.
Properly practiced, creativity can do wonderful things in business … it can create new ways of doing things that make a business more economical <but still effective>, create new products and innovations … and in advertising … make one piece of communication do the work of a dozen which are playing it safe.
Properly done creativity can lift your claims out of the swamp of sameness and make them accepted, believed, persuasive, urgent and distinct in the minds of people.
Simple facts you discuss around the boardroom table come alive in fresh, memorable and persuasive ways.
Being creative is good business. It compels people to think about and try products & services. At it’s best … it makes your business get noticed without being noticeable.
The real question everyone has to ask is why everyone isn’t doing it.
Because it involves risk.
That nasty risk is … well … sly.
Despite how many people have tried to create a ‘process for implementing effective creativity’ … it cannot be done.
There are boatloads of ‘experts’ who work by and extol magical formulas to limit risk and enhance creativity.
They know and have all the rules in their pocket <or wallets>.
They can pound away <and chip away> with fact after fact after fact.
They are the mad scientists of creativity selling a formula to eliminate <or limit> risk under the guise of ‘how to be effectively creative.’
Well. That is bullshit.
“Persuasion happens to be an art, not a science” said the inimitable Bill Bernbach.
There is no scientist who can tell you how to create an idea.
As someone wrote once … ‘they can build the body, but they cannot send the blood coursing through the veins. ‘
The great insight or imagination or intuition that breaks the rules and makes meaningful progress doesn’t come from a formula or from something tried and true.
The biggest business rewards are in the untried … the new.
As a corollary.
The biggest failures <costs> reside in the untried and new.
<insert “DOH!” here>
As Bernbach also said “safe marketing is the riskiest marketing you can do.”
I would change it to simply say … ‘safe business is the riskiest business you can do.’
Today’s world offers an almost overwhelming amount of choices and pieces of information and businesses offering almost indiscernible offerings.
Just to insure I don’t lose sight of the issue … if you speak with any business anywhere at any time … they will certainly perceive they are distinct and discernible … and in some cases will actually be different <and SHOULD be discernible>.
Originality is a real thing … a challenging thing … and a risky thing.
And to be truly original … in some ways … you must ignore what exists and what has been done before.
You must abandon the safe and secure.
All great ideas have two things in common.
- It’s effective
- It’s always preceded by a meeting in which you will hear ‘are you nuts?’
Maybe we all need to be a little more nuts.
Maybe we all need to be a little less afraid of the different.
Maybe instead we should focus on what I believe almost all business people really do know … the new and untried can generate the big gains.
We shouldn’t just talk about seeking the exceptional we should actually do the exceptional.
The root of that word?
<please note … that is a significantly different word than acceptable … or safe …>
We are comfortable in our cocoon of what is acceptable and sameness but it is risk that truly pays off.
If you have nothing to offer but used ideas than you are simply a used car salesman.
And does anyone in business really want to be that? <unless they are in that business of course>
Take the risk of being yourself.
Each business has their own style and own way of thinking and, in many cases, their own way of doing things.
I imagine I could simply suggest that each business has ownable attitudes and behaviors. They have an inner soul that is theirs.
“Do not let your soul be lazy.” – Nikolai Zabolotsky
To end on a more philosophical note.
It is our innate desire to grow, to explore, and to be creative.
Yet many business souls have become caged by fear and doubt and insecurity. Rather than embrace change and uncertainty with poise and confidence these business souls have become inactive.
I have met the enemy and it is I.
Maybe a way to do what I am suggesting is to rather than resist what is, we accept it, feel it, examine it, learn from it, and then let it go.
We seem to only see that when we fight against that which is <the safe> … it only seems to make that which we are fighting against stronger <safer seems even safer>.
Push back invites push back.
In the end … rationalization and defensiveness wins … obstructs progress … and attaches you to what appears safe and comfortable.
Do not allow your soul to be lazy.
Refdinding your risk muscle is really all about refinding some semblance of a sense of fearlessness and your peak productivity where peak is accessed by shedding all the non essential crap holding you back from going forward.
Refinding risk is about insuring your business soul is not lazy.
The essence of business is risk.
The essence of being and your soul is risk.
The day business ceases to take risks … that day it ceases to be a business.
The day you cease to take risk … that day your business soul becomes caged in some form or fashion.
Either that day … or some day in the future … that’s for sure.
Refind risk. Refind your business mojo.