October 3, 2015
October 3, 2015
The Importance of the IDEA FACTORY
Ideas are the lifeblood of our business.
I learned in my first year at a Washington, D.C., public and government relations shop that ideas generated from credible, insightful information and translated into creative, measurable strategy separated the pretenders from the ladder climbers. That is still the case!
I was fortunate 25 years ago when I moved from Capitol Hill public servant to communications and lobbying. My first boss was masterful at conceptualizing strategic tactics to advance clients’ priorities. One day he handed out T-shirts with the words “The Idea Factory” and a graphic featuring a large golden light bulb being pulled out of a factory by many smaller light bulbs, excited by their collaboration. Our company logo was featured on the large light bulb.
Since then I continue to strive to offer my clients the “big idea” that will help catapult them forward. Every consultant should focus on connecting the dots for clients and generating ideas that inspire, persuade and build lasting relationships.
Here are a few things you can do to lay the groundwork:
- Know your clients and their businesses as well as they do themselves.
- Follow multiple sources that impact your clients’ business.
- Meet with or talk to experts and key influencers in your clients’ fields.
- Visit the clients’ offices and meet with as many people as you can.
- Listen more initially and resist the urge to offer quick feedback.
- Do not always wait for regularly scheduled client meetings or conference calls to share “breaking information” that could assist them.
- Always be thinking of other services in which you could interest your clients.
- Try to anticipate how your ideas will be received by the client and be prepared to leap into action.
- Make proactive information gathering and idea generation a part of your personal and corporate culture.
Here are several scenarios when the “big idea,” strategic thinking or research made a difference:
- When the pressure was on: A global corporate client with multiple, complex products needed it boiled down to a simple concept that anyone could understand. A brainstorming session on a federal holiday led to the winning theme, which landed our agency a $7 million annual account.
- When listening paid dividends: We pitched a statewide community college system for a comprehensive marketing campaign and, because we listened carefully, we heard the chancellor begging for help on a smaller project. Doing a great job on that project got us closer to winning the statewide campaign.
- When partnerships were forged: Leveraging a Veterans History Project and bringing in college journalism students to assist, we created an award-winning “Take a Veteran to School Day” campaign for the cable industry that we also replicated in another state.
Following these key principles and adding your brand value may help you retain some clients beyond the original contract, gain repeat business from decision-makers, and maintain trusted relationships for decades.