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Aug 25, 2003
How To

5 Steps to Boosting Your Marketing Creativity - How art.com Raised Poster Sales 800%

SUMMARY: Here is a quick step-by-step plan from creativity expert Michael Kahn of Adaptation, to turn your brainstorming into action items that result in high-impact marketing campaigns. Unrestricted, unmeasured "creativity" can result in truly awful marketing results. Here is how to do it correctly:
Recently art.com launched a series of "Artist's Birthday" marketing promotional campaigns that offered buyers 15% off discounts on the birthdays of the 35 top-selling artists.

Result: This seemingly simple program and saw sales of artist prints and posters increase by 800-1,000%.

How did they come up with the idea?

It is a matter of looking at the business in a creative way and making the most of the assets that already exist, says Michael Kahn, President of Adaptation Inc., who helped art.com with the program.

Here are Kahn's seven tips to using creativity to generate new marketing ideas and tactics that can be applied immediately to increase profits.

Tip #1. Do an "equities audit"

Look at your marketing department objectively and pinpoint where you excel and where you have work to do. Then review some of your key statistics:

o Who are your customers?
o What are they buying and how much are they buying?
o Do you have a customer and prospect database?
o If not, can you get one?
o Do you have research on what customers think of your products and services?
o Do you know customers' lifetime value?

When Kahn worked with art.com to improve business, he had the company produce monthly metrics report cards. These reports recorded site visitations, where visitors were going, average orders, what they were buying, and more. In all, about 26 different data fields.

Tip # 2. Brainstorm based on prior results data

Using data from the monthly metrics report, Kahn and art.com gathered to brainstorm.

"From the reports, ideas bubbled up," Kahn says. For example, the reports showed that people searched the site by artist, not genre. This knowledge led to the artist birthday program.

They also learned from the metrics reports that people felt passionately about their favorite artists. Using that knowledge, they came up with a new application called My Gallery.

My Gallery allows users to create a place to store selections before they purchase them, to save favorite prints and posters, or to create a wish list. They can even visit friends' Galleries.

"We created this whole application and now we have tens of thousands of people creating their own gallery," he says.

From there, they came up with a monthly sweep of My Gallery files. This gives users the opportunity to purchase the saved items and empty out their galleries. "It became a huge ROI opportunity," says Kahn.

To actually begin the brainstorming process, "Get hermetically sealed with a cross-functional team in a conference room or off campus." Your goal is to leave with a creative business plan you can actually use based on the assets that already exist.

Tip #3. Only attack the most realistic ideas

Once creative brainstorming runs its course, look at the ideas realistically. Acknowledge that, within budgets and time constraints, you can not implement every idea.

Instead, just choose the one, two or three things you can do well within the next 90 to 120 days based on the highest possible ROI.

Kahn's suggests that you use existing metrics to estimate results rather than invest in costly and timely predictive modeling.

"For anything that you're going to invest in, you can find metrics associated with marketing dollars," he says. "There's research on what you can expect for any effort."

Tip #4. Test, track, and optimize.

Properly set up, says Kahn, "you'd do a test over six months, tracking on a monthly basis, optimizing the program as you go. At end you have real results. This one works, this one doesn't: now let's add some more programs and test further."

Needless to say, never implement a brainstormed idea without first having a method to track its effectiveness.

Tip #5. Make sure the CEO "greases the skids"

To avoid losing momentum once you have generated ideas, you need organizational buy-in. "The CEO needs to champion the cause on an ongoing basis, letting everyone know that they have an obligation and necessity to take action and grow the business," he says.
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