Business Advice from Ansel Adams

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. ~ Ansel Adams

I came across this great quote recently – and it reminded me immediately of some of the initial conversations I’ve had with people who eventually became regular clients… and a few who didn’t.

Everyone has ideas about how to sell their own services or products… whether you’re an independent book publisher, or the founder of a new athletic wear company, or the creator of a tasty new health-food snack, or a restaurateur opening a new location. Entrepreneurs are inherently passionate about what they have created. (Those who aren’t generally don’t have the energy to go the distance, to overcome the obstacles facing anyone starting a new business endeavor. ) And passion fuels ideas.

Yet most people have no idea how to go about executing those ideas. That’s why the big guys have entire departments devoted to getting the message out.

For the rest of us small-business owners, farming out our marketing campaigns is a must. (And even the big guys farm out specific marketing projects when they need regional knowledge of a market, or just some fresh ideas. That’s how a creative design firm like mine can end up with some major marketing campaigns for household-name companies in its portfolio!)

When I first sit down with a client (and I do mean sit down – no “Facebooking” important conversations here at Infusion Studio), I want to hear about every single one of that person’s goofy, far-fetched, and/or completely-out-of-the-budget ideas for spreading the word. Hey, I’ll throw a few of my own onto the table! It’s called brainstorming. And the concepts when brainstorming are supposed to be fuzzy. After I clear away the mist from some of these foggy ideas, I’m able to see what is most important to the client. And from there, I start developing specific design concepts and the framework for a cohesive marketing plan.

It’s no different when I sit with my own internal team to work on plans for marketing our talents and services.

Problems only arise during this process when people embrace an initial brainstorming idea to the point that modifying it becomes unthinkable. That passion I mentioned above can sometimes blind small-business owners to the need for compromise.

Let’s take for example a computer consulting group that wants to put together an ad to run on local cable channels. They’ve even got ideas sketched out for incorporating a few humorous anecdotes from their experience with clients. To the owner of the firm, being able to run TV advertising says “We’ve arrived!” Other companies doing similar ads are obviously doing well – so goes his thinking – and we’re just as much a successful local business as they are!

Even if that business owner had a good idea of the costs involved in producing a television ad (unlikely), the medium is totally inappropriate for his firm. Far better to put together a multi-front campaign targeted to reach the most likely customers for this business. Such a campaign might include a simple but professionally designed B2B trade show booth for regional events… an eye-catching, well-written marketing brochure… perhaps used in combination with the purchase of a business-specific mailing list… and those humorous anecdotes that seemed so perfect for televised portrayal? Just the thing to wrap a professionally written press release around! Pay big bucks for local cable advertising, or make a good play for free publicity in the form of attention in the local papers? I know which I’d choose.

So, embrace those fuzzy concepts as you prepare your next marketing project! Just don’t cling to such a sharp image of them that you’re blind to the potential for creative compromise.