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How to Legally Steal Great Ideas

Crackers

Crackers (Photo credit: elhombredenegro)

Even creative people get stumped occasionally.  Somehow, your brain just runs dry.  There are days when you think you may never have another great idea again.

It happens.  However, if you’re prepared, you’ll never run out of ideas again.

In fact, there are great ideas lying all around you. Other people’s ideas.  Even your  own ideas that you’ve completely forgotten about.

All you have to do is look around for them, and then steal them.  Here are six of my favorite completely legal ways to do that.

Keep a swipe file

A swipe file is an old copywriter’s trick.  When an article, a blog post, a an email promotion, an ad, or a headline catches your eye, put in in its own folder (virtual or real).  When you’re stuck, pull the folder out and look through it.

Steal from yourself

When you produce something yourself, keep a copy of it in its own folder, binder, or box (I have stacks of these).  When you need inspiration, pull them off the shelf and sort through them.  With some tweaking, that promotion you used for client A might just work for client B too.

Rearrange existing ideas

If you can’t get a headline or a tagline to work, write each word down on separate slips of paper.  Then move them around on your desk. That’s how GE came up with “we bring good things to life.”  Take the ideas, words, or concepts you already have (that don’t work on their own) and mix them up.  Move the pieces around.  The red bar at the top might look better on the bottom.  I find this works best with actual paper (physically holding it my hands, rather than moving it around digitally.

This works with both design and words, even longer pieces of copy.  Sometimes the best idea in your sales letter or your blog post is buried in the second paragraph.

“Scratching”

Scratching is what Twyla Tharp calls germs of ideas.  A few moves or steps that she files away for future use.  Since it’s hard to write down dance moves, she records herself on video.  When she needs an idea, she pulls out the file, runs through her ideas, and builds on them.

If you have a thought, an inspiration, or something catches  your eye, write it down, record it, send yourself a voice mail, or type it into a note file (I use Evernote for this).  When you need an idea, pull one out.

Combining 

Take two seemingly unrelated ideas and put them together.  People ate meat and baked bread for years, but it wasn’t until 1762 that someone thought to put them together and create the sandwich. Write down a random bunch of words or concepts, don’t think, just write. Then move them around and put them together (cats and space, aliens and cheeseburgers, movies and the internet).

Institutional memory

Your long-term staff is full of ideas; they’ve been around long enough to see the good, the bad, and the really hard.  Go ask them for their input, rather than trying to figure out everything yourself.

Try these out.  You may never feel stuck again.


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Tuesday Travels: 10 Best Android Productivity Apps

The official online color is: #A4C639 . ???: ?...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the best Mac productivity widgets.  I thought it only fair to give Android fans a similar post.  Here are five top apps.

Swiftkey – a virtual keyboard that can practically let you touch type on your phone.  The software predicts what you’re typing and learns as you use it.

File Explorer – misplaced a file?  this app will search through your phone, dropbox, Google Drive, and more to help you find documents, photos, and videos

Flipboard – Make your own personalized magazine, with just the stories you’re interested in (and the tablet version is gorgeous).  It’s great for inspiration for blog posts or sharing on social networks (and it’s free).

Evernote – if  you’re like me, you scribble ideas and notes on lots of little scraps of paper (and end up with a mess).  Evernote fixes that.  Everything in one place, neatly organized.  The standard version is free.

Titanium Backup – backup your data, your settings,  your memory card info, everything. Backup, it’s a good thing!

Voice Search – search without typing at all.  You can send text messages, navigate through menus, and find addresses (great for working while you drive).

Todo – syncs your to do list with Dropbox (for safe storage in the cloud). Files are in txt format so they’re easy to move and open with any editor.

Dropbox  – access your files, documents, and images wherever you are; or use it as backup.

 ES File Explorer -can’t find a file? This app will search your phone, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Amazon S3 and find the documents, photos, and videos you’re looking for.

Voice Recorder – easily record message and send them (no typing!)

 


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Tuesday Travels: How to Boost Your Conversion Rates

NASA Rocket

NASA Rocket Launched January 11 (Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

Get more conversions, increase your blog subscriptions, and improve the quality of your blog traffic. It’s the quality of the visitors that count, not the quantity!

Blogs Designed for Conversion – Sending people to your blog or landing page? Here’s how the experts get more conversions from their visitors.

Answers to questions about search, conversions, and more from SEO Moz Rand Fishkin – Check out the question from Adrian Pike about how requiring a credit card (or not) affects sales after a free trial.

Graphics and Web Conversions – Do images improve conversion? Or reduce it? And where should you put them?

Targeting Website Traffic – The more relevant your welcome and offer, the better (a cheat sheet infographic with targeting tips).

The Best Color for Conversions – What do you think it is?  Green? Red?  Orange?

Watch the video for the answer.


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Which is the Best Direct Marketing Campaign Channel?

Direct mail is dead. No postcards are dead.  Wrong, wrong, wrong postcards are no good, use a letter in an envelope. No, that’s not right,  you have to be on the internet to get anywhere.  That’s the best direct marketing campaign medium.  The rest are dead.

Postcard wall

Postcard wall (Photo credit: eperales)

Some form of direct marketing or another seems to be declared “extinct” nearly every week.

Well, which is it? Which is the right direct marketing (or online marketing) channel?

Before you pick a format, decide what it is you want to accomplish.  Are you trying to sell something complicated (like building a web site)?  Or, just get people to attend a free Mac user group meeting?

Can you get your message across quickly?

If you can say what you need to say in just a few words, then postcards will work.  They’re great for “save the date” notices, reminders, and coupon offers to existing customers.  Since there’s no envelope, your message is more likely to be seen.

Is it easy to visualize?

We’ve all heard the one about pictures and thousands of words, but if you’re selling something with a clear result (a fit body, a car, or clothing), then a postcard can work well.  The picture will do a lot of the talking for you. Something less tangible like accounting services or inventory management software is harder to describe in pictures.

Is there a simple call to action?

If the purpose is to encourage prospects to stop by your booth at the comics show, then a postcard will do nicely.  Or, if you want them to call for a free sample of your organic cat food.

Is the product complicated?

If you’re selling something complex, or with lots of variables, such as auto insurance or web development, then a letter is probably a better choice.  You’ve got more space to spell out the benefits of your services, explain your offer, and ask for a response.

Can you tease the product?

Adding a teaser to the outside of the envelope (lower your heating bills by 45%, details inside) can help improve envelope open rates.  Or, make your envelope “lumpy” (put a pen or a pad of post-it notes inside).  Lumpy mail gets opened at higher rates than flat mail (because people are curious to see what’s inside).

What’s your budget?

Postcards are cheaper, but letters give you more room to make your case.  If you’re on a tight budget, keep it simple and cheaper and use a postcard.

If you need more room to explain your products and your offer, try sending a letter to a smaller group of people.  Test it.  Does your audience respond better to pictures and few words?  Or many words and fewer pictures?


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Tuesday Travels: What Non-Designers Need to Know About Design

If you’re not a designer, trying to find the right fonts or colors can be pretty confusing.  Sometimes, it’s even confusing trying to understand what designers are saying.  Here are four web sites, and a book, that can help.

Gold... crossed & cropped

Gold… crossed & cropped (Photo credit: Brett Jordan)

iconfinder.com – a search engine just for icons; just type in the one you want (arrow, cat, map, etc).
myfonts.com/WhatTheFont – give them an image of the font and they’ll help you identify it
google.com/webfonts – free and constantly updated font source
kuler.adobe.com – get color scheme ideas and pull out colors from pictures

Also, a book (!) which is extremely useful…The Non-Designer’s Design Book (3rd Edition)Now in color, this book makes complicated design principles easy to understand (even if you’ve never designed anything in your life). Get the paper version (not the ebook, the formatting gets farkled in the e-version, which sort of spoils the whole point!).*

*Also, the law requires I tell you that if you buy a copy, I can toast you with half a beer.


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