Friday, March 27, 2009

Attention small business owners - this book is for you.

All You Need is A Good Idea
, a new book written by Jay H. Heyman. Reviewed by Karin Koonings of The Essential Orange as part of the Post2Post Book Tour

How many times have you thought… can I build my business more effectively? Should I advertise on the radio? Should I do a direct-mail campaign? Or is an email campaign more cost effective? Have you often hired an ad agency or “marketing guy” and wondered….is this ad going to do it for me? How do you evaluate if it’s a really good piece of communication? Or are you guilty of telling your agency to add yet another key message to the perfect ad they’ve presented...?

To create marketing messages that actually get results, all you need is a good idea - and that truly is the key takeaway of Jay Heyman’s book. Entrepreneurs often have good product ideas – but a good idea without an effective marketing message or strategy is dead in the water.

What I love about this book is that it is written in a very conversational style, yet, the thinking is grounded in classical marketing strategy. The author gives real-life examples and tips that are very practical and don’t require large budgets. It’s an easy and entertaining read and unlike many business books, the ideas actually stick.

One of my favourite examples in the book of a good idea is of a New York sightseeing company that uses double-decker buses. Instead of the traditional red, the buses are painted yellow and black to resemble a New York taxi. A simple yet creative idea that made this tour company stand out from their competition.

Heyman’s whole mission is to give business owners the confidence to create or evaluate good ideas so they get sales results. Good ideas are fresh, often taking something familiar and giving it a new twist, something unexpected yet relevant. Good ideas differentiate and build a brand and also have the strength to carry a campaign. They have the power to make you smile and they are single-minded.

If there’s one thing I missed in the book, it was examples or tips on how small business can leverage the digital or social media channel. The success story of Blendtec comes to mind as a great example of a powerful idea well communicated. Nonetheless, this book is a great guide for small business and to prove this out, I thought it would be a good idea to test drive some of Heyman’s suggestions to see how they worked.

Test Driving the Book, Part I - Mythic Paint

I used the print ad evaluation exercise on p 78 and expanded it to create a “creative check-list” incorporating many of the concepts found in the book. I’ve applied the check-list below to the first print ad I found in my October 2008 issue of Dwell magazine which so happened to be for Mythic Paint. Here are my findings:

Could I understand the strategy in the headline?
• Not really unless it was that Mythic Paint was brought to earth by aliens

Was the idea unexpected yet relevant?
• Unexpected yes, relevant to me, not so much

Did it have the power to make me smile?
• It had to power to make me go “huh?” and flip the page

Was the ad single-minded? No
• Mythic Paint = aliens
• Highly durable
• Zero VOCs and zero toxins
• Uncanny combination of beauty and safety
• The world’s only high performance, non-toxic paint
• The legend (what legend?) goes on
• Dumbstruck/frowning woman a definite turn-off

Does the ad help differentiate the brand from competitors? Yes
• It is certainly different, but I’m not convinced that it’s memorable

Is the idea brand building & campaignable?
• Not in my opinion
• The ad does not build credibility or trust to support product claims
• Painting is hard work and there does not seem to be any payoff in the imagery

Test Driving the Book Part II - Safecoat Paint

Let’s look at another paint ad (perhaps it’s a tough category). In the same magazine I found an ad for Safecoat Paint that used one third of a page.

Could I understand the strategy in the headline? Yes
• Breathe easy (no fumes, non toxic)

Was the idea unexpected yet relevant? Yes
• The use of canary (think: coal mine) metaphor was very relevant

Did it have the power to make me smile? Yes
• It recognized my intelligence and gave a twist to the familiar

Was the ad single-minded? Yes
• It’s a safe paint – for you and for the environment
• The certification allows me to trust the product claims
• And hats off to whoever came up with the name and the packaging – it reinforces the message of safe and eco-friendly

Does the ad help differentiate the brand from competitors?
• yes, although I believe there is more opportunity to bring more emotion and energy into the ads

Is the idea brand building and campaignable?
Yes – it definitely has legs.

This exercise shows how “All you need is a Good Idea” can help the small business owner recognize, create and evaluate effective marketing messages.

It's a great book. Well done, Mr. Heyman!

Visit Jay's blog here
Check out more book reviews hosted by Idea Sandbox here

1 comment:

  1. Karin,

    Neat way to put the filters in the book to use. Thanks for participating in the book tour!