In fields like marketing and sales, there are those magical days when creative inspiration strikes us, and then there are those other 360 days a year we must go hunting for it. Here are four simple strategies for generating ideas and inspiration for anyone looking to grow their business with women consumers:
1. Get out of the office and go analog
Early in my career, my favorite boss told me that he hated seeing me at my desk. He said, “Nothing exciting ever happens at a desk. Go out into the world and discover something and bring it back.” I’ve been going on field trips ever since. Here are a few thought starters for crafting your own expeditions:
• Spend a morning or afternoon in brick-and-mortar retailers that are popular with your customer base, and notice the ways that these stores communicate through language, visuals, merchandising and customer service.
• Visit stores outside your industry that cater overwhelmingly to women. For example, if you’re in the automotive industry, consider visiting a women’s fashion or beauty retailer, and study the way they’ve crafted the experience. What lessons can be learned?
• Attend a play that features women as primary characters, from any period in history.
• Catch a live comedy set that includes women comedians, to witness first-hand how humor is evolving.
• Read autobiographies by contemporary women authors. These books provide an invaluable lens into the female experience. There are far too many fantastic authors to list here, but if you don’t know where to start, try Bossypants by Tina Fey.
• This suggestion isn’t necessarily women-specific, but it’s a good one – go see live music of any kind, by anyone. And while you’re there, study the crowd. Chances are, you’ll wake up the next morning feeling inspired and creative.
Are these incredibly simple ideas? Yes. Are they commonly practiced? No. The stimuli from “analog” activities like these – and you can probably come up with a dozen others – are likely to take your mind in directions you never anticipated. Work them into your schedule to stay fresh, current and sharp.
2. Read online editions of foreign newspapers and magazines
Armchair travelers can get a healthy dose of insight by reading the online editions of foreign media. If you’re a native English speaker, for example, there is no shortage of Anglophone media outlets, from Australia to Zambia, and many places in between. The different points of view, the distinctive use of color, visuals and language – even when it’s your own mother tongue – can be rich sources of inspiration and thought provocation. Ads and lifestyle sections can provide a new lens on global pop culture. Bookmark your favorite publications and return to them whenever you want to get your mind shifting in a different direction. And on a related note, be sure to subscribe to as many women’s magazines (online and traditional) as you can, and follow their social media accounts for up-to-the-minute examples of the real-time language, topics and trends occurring in female culture.
3. Study macro demographic trends, not just marketing trends
Demographic changes create needs for new products and services that are only beginning to be tapped . Do you know the major trends? From more women in the labor force to fewer children and an aging population (dominated by women), to name just three, macro trends provide important anchors in a sea of fast-moving marketing trends. Keep your eyes on news stories about demographic changes and brainstorm around them to get your mind thinking in new directions.
4. Strive for gender balance on your internal and external teams
Research shows that gender-balanced teams achieve greater results. McKinsey and Company has demonstrated that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
Despite this data, too often, women’s voices are missing from strategy sessions for products and services aimed at female buyers. The absence of a female lens on marketing decisions is a gender “blind spot” that companies often discover too late – after they’ve failed to connect with their audience and understand the nuances that impact how their communication is perceived.
So whether you pack your bags figuratively or literally, be sure to actively get out of the office, actively participate in the culture, take a global view and include women in senior-level strategy sessions. Inspiration may be closer than you think.
Article originally published on Forbes.com
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