Creativity isn't magic. Creativity is taking what you know to be true -- whether factual or instinctive -- and looking at it from a new perspective. It's rearranging what you know to solve problems, create new opportunities, influence established ways of thought.
And contrary to popular belief, being "creative" is not just the responsibility of copywriters and art directors. No matter what your job or profession, being creative is part of it. The following are some helpful pointers to get your creative juices flowing.
Borrow without embarrassment. No, I don't condone plagiarism, but I do encourage you to look for ideas in both usual and unusual places. Some of my best direct mail creativity has resulted from borrowing words, visuals, concepts from such unexpected sources as movies, construction signage, even my teenagers' conversations. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open.
Get more information than you need. You never know which piece of information will trigger your creativity. Ask for product sheets and test results. Review what the competition is doing. Read your company's "white mail"—both compliments and complaints. Talk to customer service representatives and sales people.
Talk to customers. Don't settle for written summaries of focus groups. Call customers and talk to them about their "dreams," their needs, their objections to buying. These are the folks you're trying to influence—not some brand or product manager sitting at headquarters.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Use the product yourself. Call the 800 number you've been writing about and see what actually happens. Create an obstacle to buying and think of five ways to handle the objection so everyone comes out a winner.
Just do it. When I first stared writing direct response copy, I couldn't bring myself to putting anything on paper until I knew exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. As you might have guessed, I spent a lot of time staring at a blank sheet of paper. Today, I start writing knowing full well that the first paragraph of my letter or the headline to my ad is probably going to appear after I've written a page or two.