I want to start by stating something that I think most of you will, at first, be wary of. You will never be successful at marketing until you can become creative. I realize this may be a daunting task to some if not all of us, but it is true that being creative will add value to what you are currently doing.

Being creative involves a lot of stuff, whether it’s developing slick ads, using pictures, graphs, content or writing a killer headline. Problem is – picture in your mind a playground – there is a seesaw there with you as a little kid way high up, about ten feet up (or at least it seems like it). And on the other end is the 200 pound bully, grinning and laughing at you squirming up there. Because he knows if you try and jump, he just gets off and you get hurt. He also knows you can’t get down until he lets you. You are in a huge elementary school catch-22.

Our lives as marketers are kind of like that. On the one hand, we have this (very healthy) obsessive focus on content, information, and the words we say. And there is nothing wrong in that; Caples says that the right approach wins all. But that does not mean we should forget and shove aside all other demands.

I want to protect you from that. Just to further nail the point home, you want to create advertising that brings results. To ignore a portion of that – the visual aspects of the ad – well, that is ignorance of the higher order. If you think the text and content you create is so great, why not give it a pleasing visage too? Why not double up on the power and effectiveness of the ad? Why not get all you can out of an ad? Demand greatness in everything you do!!!

Now that being said, most of us are creative plonks. I could not draw a horse if my life depended on it. In fact, my 12 year old nephew is a better artist than I am. But that is okay. I know how to be imaginative; I have an inherent aesthetic sense and can be pleased by a good-looking painting, ad, or movie.

Which brings up a marvelous point, being creative requires – demands – that you be disciplined. A few of the exercises I will give you later are going to take some time or the sacrifice of time. And that takes discipline.

So let’s look at the cycle of creativity. There are eight steps, or eight processes, eight actions that one must go through. These are broken down into four rough categories. Let me give you those categories first:

There are eight steps in total; eight steps that fall into those rough categories.

Living with IT. This step is relatively easy. As a marketer, your job is to create powerful strategies, communication, ads that get results. Well, that is your IT. So you begin to be aware of this, your reticular system picks up on stuff and that leads to…

Observation. Here you actively search out advertising. You gather information about companies, what they say, how good they are. This is where you do surveys; you just start gathering intelligence, information – anything you can get your hands on. And I would suggest you begin to DEVOUR anything you can get your hands on. Become a rabid fan of everything!!! And then on a subconscious level, if not out loud, you begin to…

Analyze. You look at the stuff and on one level you either decide it is good or bad. You may read the text and puzzle over what it means. You compare styles; you evaluate it in terms of what you know. This process inevitably leads to you saying, “I could write this crap!!” Which leads to…

Idea Generation. Your mind begins come up with various solutions or ways that you could say this or that. Your mind takes what you know (all your “stuff”) and it puts things together. Generally, this is where most people stop. And please realize why you generally will stop here because the next steps take a measure of discipline and that is why most people won’t ever be successful…because they won’t take a few minutes to really be creative.

So your mind starts giving you stuff; it just hands over ideas and thoughts you could use, if you just spent some time…

Harvesting. In the first of our “disciplined” parts, a really creative person will want to keep those ideas. They recognize how powerful those ideas are. So they keep a record. A journal is great for this stuff. This is one of the premises behind the Buyer’s Journal, keeping those thoughts. As Jim Rohn says, “Get the stuff!!! I got the stuff.” You MUST record your thoughts and ideas. Without them you are nothing. Stop flying by the seat of your pants!!! Your mind will automatically, if you train it, spit all sorts of stuff out, great stuff, stuff that will make you rich.

This is the basis behind Napoleon Hill’s autosuggestion. Get good at recording your thoughts. No, don’t just get good, get FLAWLESS at recording it, don’t miss a thing. Because the next step is a real bugger, you must begin to…

Enhance Your Ideas. What to do with your ideas? At first, the thoughts might be snippets of something. Three, four words penciled in by a picture you cut out of a magazine, a phrase or two. This step requires you to revisit those ideas. To look at them and add to them later, after the heat of the moment is gone. I would put forward that you spend time at the end of the week in enhancement. Add to the ideas, do some research, beef them up. Take those quick phrases and add some detail. Only then can you really begin to…

Evaluate. After you add to the idea, put it to a practical evaluation. Really scrutinize this idea, see if it would be feasible. If needed, bring someone into your idea world and see if it pans out. Then you begin the process of…

Implementation. Lastly, put your idea into action. It is not enough just to have creative thoughts; ideas have no value until we put in the work to implement them. Every new idea put into practice (that is, every innovation) changes the world we live in. Strive to use what you have generated, whether that be in your most recent ad or a new line in a script the receptionist uses.

Now that you have a basic understanding of this cycle, let me give you four easy things, four simple habits that will really begin to add value to your marketing this week.

FIRST, begin with the project you are currently working on; use images. Now these images can be charts, graphs, or tables. They can even be photos. One, it will make you a better writer. You will be able to use images in a more effective fashion; rather than having them as static chunks of information, you will help the reader understand and realize the value of the information you are providing.

SECOND, begin collecting ads, pictures, story layouts – anything – today. The trick is to collect both the stuff you think is fantastic and the stuff you think stinks. This way you will begin to see the difference. You will see the patterns emerge.

THIRD, mimic, mimic, and mimic the good stuff you find. Until you get good, use what you are given. If a layout appeals to you, then use it on your next ad. You are not a creative genius (YET).

FOURTH and last, visit the library. Check out some books on design, layout, and commercial art, anything that you can get your hands on. Learn how to perfect your craft.

Each of us can be better, no matter where we are at in this life. Using this method and those four simple steps will improve your marketing immensely.