I’m currently pregnant with baby number two (gender unknown, as was the first: I like surprises!), so I’ve been spending a lot of time the last couple months on Pinterest, looking for nursery inspiration, maternity photo inspiration, newborn photo inspiration, etc. Pinterest is fantastic for this kind of personal-life inspiration, but it got me thinking about how important inspiration is for small businesses, too!
I love creative marketing. Good puns and witty play on words are sure-fire ways to get me to follow you. I like seeing good case studies of effective an actionable social media marketing campaigns.
But that doesn’t mean I actively look for them anymore, and that’s a shame.
Often, small business owners get so bogged down in the day-to-day running of their business (and in taking care of their customers!), they lose sight of what inspired them to begin with. Some of you may be wondering, “Is this really a bad thing? If I’m busy enough to have constant clients and business details to attend to, what do I need to be looking for inspiration for?”
Of course business keeping you busy is a good thing. But deep down, the answer is that not looking for inspiration IS a bad thing. There is always going to be someone younger, more nimble, and who is spending the time. Sure, you have experience to offer, but if someone else’s bid is so creative it blows potential clients away while yours is still form-filled from five years ago, you don’t stand a chance.
Who do you think people follow on social media? Creative companies, not stale ones. I follow a professional proofreader/editor because her posts are so witty and full of just the right amount of satire. I follow a Canadian National Park mascot because he makes me laugh. I like a local aquarium’s social media accounts because they never fail to engage me.
I have had no need to use the proofreader’s services yet: but if I do, she’ll be the first person I call. I haven’t been to that National Park since I was 20, but I’m always reminded how much I loved it, and when people are asking for recommendations of places to travel, it’s usually on my list. I can’t go to the aquarium more than once a year or so, but whenever anyone asks for fun things to do, it tops my list of recommended places.
This, in marketing speak, is known as brand recognition. It is often the primary purpose behind social media marketing, as it is a way to get your brand remembered by consumers. And because I specialize in social media marketing, it is also considered research and inspiration for me.
Of course, directly copying or stealing the work of others is wrong (and illegal), but people get inspiration all the time to use as a springboard for their activities. Photographers follow other photographers; artists follow other artists. Part of it is for the pure joy and pleasure in seeing someone else do something well. But the other part of it is to see what kind of inspiration they can gather.
So, if you haven’t been looking for inspiration to keep your business offerings fresh, I challenge you to do so today. At the very least schedule time once or twice a year to do so.