We’re taught from a very young age to follow rules and fall in line so it’s no wonder we’re a little timid when it comes to questioning the rules and stepping outside the box. My favorite story that teaches us the importance of thinking for ourselves is about a mother and a ham. Yes. A lot can be learned from ham 😉 There are several versions of the tale but the basics are:
A mother is cooking a ham and cuts the ends off before putting it in the pan. Her daughter asks why she cut the ends off and the mother replies because that’s what my mother always did. The daughter asks her grandmother why she cuts the ends off the ham and she replies because that’s what my mother did. The daughter asks her great grandmother why she cut the ends off the ham and she explains that her pan was never big enough to fit the full ham.
Had the daughter not asked, this ritual of cutting the ends off would have continued to be passed down, wasting a perfectly good slice of meat and letting all the flavorful juices drip out during cooking 🙁
So when it comes to your business, ask yourself:
Is there a method to your madness? Is it the tried and true, best way of doing things or have you just always done it that way?
The next question to ask after “why?” is:
Maybe the great grandmother had a good reason for cutting the ends off the ham that applies to future generations, regardless of pan size. But does that mean the ham can’t be improved upon? Why mess with a good thing right? I get it. But unfortunately in this fast paced world, when it comes to business, you need to adapt or you’ll become extinct, just like Blockbuster.
The last important question to ask is:
When we’re running a small business, we have a tendency to look to the big dogs for how it’s done. But I want to encourage you to break that habit and the mold on best practices. Instead of checking out their products, the way they tweet, how their website is set up, etc. in an attempt to mimic them, check them out to see how you can differentiate your brand.
Sure there are some rules that everyone follows because it’s the best way but it’s worth exploring whether it’s the best way for you and if all of the rules apply. Maybe a website’s pages are best displayed in the header of the site but do you need the same categories as everyone else? Can you play around with the wording, order or nesting? If you sell jewelry and rings are your best sellers, you may consider having a tab for each type of ring and nest all other jewelry categories under one tab so that your rings have prime real estate. You don’t want to go so far out of the box that you confuse your shoppers, but be sure you’re adapting to get results.
Are you inspired? Keep reading and follow the steps below to brainstorm how to better your business and stand out from your competition.
First, look around the room. Focus on a common household object and ask yourself “what if?” to discover how it could be different. What do you wish the item could do? What are the issues you have with the item? Come up with 3 – 5 ideas to completely change it. They don’t need to make sense and you don’t have to worry about logistics. This is just to get you thinking outside of the box.
Common object: a coiled notebook
Next, brainstorm some answers. How would the object have to change in order to have a solution to your question?
What fun shapes could notebooks come in? Which materials would make it more environmentally friendly? Maybe notebooks could be sold with a wick and wax so you could roll the notebook up once you’re done with it, dip it in melted wax and burn it as a candle.
Go as far as possible outside of the box to get your mind loosey goosey for the next step.
Now let’s look at your work. Write down all areas of your business you work in, day to day, to create its main categories. I would suggest you take a close look at each category by breaking it into subcategories. You don’t need to bite it all off at once. Work on one area per week, month or quarter.
Consider the way you currently run the show in each area and ask why it’s done that way, if it needs to be done that way and how it could be different.
If you were the customer and anything was possible, what would you wish for? Imagine there were no limits. Again, start as far outside of the box as possible, you can always reel an idea back in to make it more realistic but don’t let norms and how it’s always been done hold you back.
Now go through each area of your business again and look at businesses similar to yours. Write down similarities between them all. What’s the norm when it comes to your field?
Do they all offer similar products? Are they all aimed towards the same type of customer? Maybe their websites tend to use the same colors, have the same vibe or use really similar wording. Is their branding or packaging lackluster or maybe even non-existent?
Once you have some similarities listed, swing your ideas in the complete opposite direction. How can you be different?
For example, if you checked out 5 of your competitor’s websites and they all use soft pastels, delicate fonts and are lacking personality, you may consider making your website bold and colorful with copy that might not appeal to everyone but definitely catches your ideal customer’s attention.
Again, it doesn’t need to make complete sense at this stage, just get crazy with your ideas and think of what the exact opposite of your competitors would be.
The last step is to analyze each idea and consider whether it’s a viable option. Read over the ideas you jotted down in step 3 and 4 and see if any could actually work for your business. Would they work with your brand? Will they be profitable? Will they appeal to your ideal customer?
Take any viable ideas and write them down to either research more, implement at a later date or get started on right away!
If you’re looking for some more ideas to get your creative juices flowing, check out our CREATIVE PACKAGING board on Pinterest. This board is full of really fun ideas when it comes to the packaging of (mostly) ordinary products and shows us how you can make something as basic as water, interesting.
Although packaging is just one area of a business, I think it’s a great one to explore, get the wheels turning and have fun with.
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