Positively Disrupting Thoughts for Ad Agencies

Go Ahead and Take Your Eye Off the Ball

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Tom Martin Tom Martin
If you're like most companies today, you're scared. The economy sucks, the financial world is chaotic and your 401(k) is getting smaller, not bigger. So what is a boy to do? Well, for starters, stop doing what you're doing now. Why? Because I'm guessing it is what you've been doing all along and, frankly, that isn't going to cut it these days.

So here are a few thoughts of my own. You can decide if they are helpful or not. And do me the favor of adding a few more of your own in the comments section below. If we all practice a little Intellectual Darwinism, we'll be better for it -- don't you agree?

  • Customers are clueless.
    Thinking about launching a new product or maybe an ad campaign? Thinking about convening focus groups to figure out what you should do? Save your money. The consumer doesn't know what he wants. If he did, he'd be working in your client's R&D department or maybe for your ad agency. The consumer is paying you to solve his problems before he even realizes he has them. Seriously. Did you ever think you needed the ability to carry your entire music library in your pocket before Steve Jobs created the iPod? Like Henry Ford was purported to say, "If I had asked them what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." You're smarter than your customer. Act like it.

  • Ask the new guy.
    There are no new ideas, only people that can combine old ideas in new ways or connect dots in new and interesting configurations. Usually these "crazy" ideas come from folks who have no real experience in a category. Again, look at Apple and music. Lack of experience can be good because a newbie is often too dumb to know he isn't supposed to think that way. So invite smart new guys and girls into the conversation and then listen. You might just find your next big idea, product or strategy.

  • They're ambassadors, not customers.
    Customers are transactional. Ambassadors are for life. Just ask yourself how your business would act differently if the goal was to create ambassadors vs. customers. What would your product look like? What would your service look like? What about your pricing and your marketing? How would you respond to customer-services issues? Ambassadors have a lifetime value to your company and it isn't strictly about how much money they'll spend with you. It's about how much total value they can create directly and indirectly. Quit worrying about how you're going to sell to them and start thinking about how you're going to service them today and in the future.

  • Take your eye off the ball.
    Back in the mid-'90s, 3-D "Magic Eye" pictures were all the rage. I can remember standing in front of those framed pictures trying desperately to see the picture. But that was the trick. The harder you tried, the less likely you were to see it. The answer, as I soon learned, was to look not at the picture but instead at your reflection in the glass in front of the picture. As soon as you did that, presto! Picture popped into focus. Too many companies think the answer to more success lies in looking harder at the same picture. Instead, lift your eyes and take in the sites and sounds around you. Sometimes you need the help of an outside lens to bring the picture into focus. I promise you, it will be these moments when you take your eye off the ball that will fill you with insight and inspiration. So go to a ballgame, play with your kids, go for a run or throw a few back at the bar ... let your mind process the problem for you. And when it has the answer, it will let you know ... just make sure you have a pen and paper handy.

In closing, remember what Einstein said. "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." If you're going to win tomorrow, start by thinking differently today.

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Tom Martin is president of Zehnder Communications, with offices in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. He can be reached at [email protected]. Or follow him at @TomMartin.

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