As of this moment, I’ve spent over 1,600 days (4+ years to the lay person) as the proud co-owner of a marketing agency. That experience has awarded me many perks. For starters, I have my own parking space. Right by the front door. Sure, it’s unmarked and “unofficial,” but as long as I get to the office before anyone else, it’s wide open – just for me. Good luck making that happen at your corporate gig.
The biggest perks, though, come in the form of interesting little life lessons that present themselves along the way. As thick-minded as I might be, at times, I generally recognize the noteworthy nuggets of knowledge. And here’s one of the good ones: “Every good idea has at least one person who won’t like it. And sometimes, that person is your client.” It’s true. And it stings.
When you work internally for a corporation or business, you get used to the way things have always been done. ACME’s Homework Machine has been running for years and years, making them money and supporting their employees and 401K balances along the way. When that’s the case, they’re happy as a clam. And we don’t hear from them often. But when there’s a hitch in their giddy-up, well, that’s when people like me get excited. Because when things aren’t working, businesses become open to change – and open to new ideas. And when our phone rings, it’s usually because someone’s looking for us to provide just that. Or... it’s a telemarketer, which can also be cool, because we get to try out our pirate impressions. “Aargh!”
When we do get calls from a business looking for help, it signals a chance for us to wear our brainstorming caps. And boy, do we look sexy! We get to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients, in the pants of their customers, and if we’re lucky, in the socks of their neighbors. OK, the last one was a lie, but I needed a third for that list. Either way, playing dress-up is pretty cool. And fun. And we’re good at it. Because we can come up with some pretty effective ideas at The Quilted Squirrel. We get to find out where that line is between awesome and over-the-top, and we get to trample on that line. It’s almost as fun as playing Twister.
The result of these meetings is generally a couple ideas that we think could grab the attention of our client’s customers. Maybe even change the behavior. And that’s the goal we seek. Whether we’re developing a marketing plan, a video concept, or an idea for a print mailer, we try to be as engaging as possible. After all, that’s what we like to receive when we’re the targets of marketing ourselves – something that engages and interests us. As odd as we are, we’re still more like other humans than we are different. It’s science. Maybe not, but I’m fairly certain that’s at least a meme or something.
However, as fun as those ideas may be, nothing’s going to see daylight until the client is on board. And sometimes, they can stand in your way. Like a goalie to our penalty kick. Or a hall monitor to our bathroom break. Or Tom Brady to our hopes of ever winning the AFC East. And that’s the worst. Now, I don’t think it’s always the clients’ fault. Usually, but not always. And it’s not just because they can’t digest the earth-shattering magnitude of our perception-changing concepts. Sometimes, people are just locked into the “we’ve always done it that way” routine. To a fault? Sure, but it’s understandable. Many of these business executives have handled their companies with kid gloves. They’ve cared for them like Mathias Willemijns did his 2,600 lb. pumpkin. They’ve seen the company through growth and success, and as much as they’re looking for change, they’re afraid of changing too much. That’s where we must have thick skin. Like old men. It helps to absorb the sting of that feeling.
The good news? We have lots of ideas. Like, over 60 of them! Some are tamer than others, and sometimes we have to resort to our second favorites. It’s OK, though. For starters, I’m pretty sure our team has more creativity in our pants than most agencies have in their entire wardrobe (the secret is cargo pockets). And we’re not deterred just because a client thinks their logo is too small (and they always think it’s too small) or because they don’t think they need a kangaroo in their commercial.
The secret to this process is resiliency. You have to be able to tap back into the idea well as often as you can, and you have to realize that a successful idea is one that gets to see the light of day – not just one that makes one of your employees snort (one of our designers has a nasal thing). Nolan Ryan didn’t get all his strikeouts with fastballs. Peyton Manning had to run in a few touchdowns. And John Goodman was once the Marlboro Man. Again, the last one doesn’t apply, but the first two do. The point is that you need to be able to keep tossing out ideas after some have been rejected. Even good ones.
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