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The creative process

Recently, we presented our Radio Sales Essentials full-day training to another great group. Our next Sales Essentials is scheduled for March 21 . (Click to register.) I always learn so much from these sessions about what sellers are thinking, are afraid of and what they are struggling with. One of the questions that always comes up is on the subject of creativity. Where do we come up with the ideas for our clients that we turn into commercials?

The advice is always that the Customer Needs Analysis (C.N.A.) is the best place to start. As you learn about the business, you learn about the details of what's important to the business owner and their customers. You start to see patterns emerge — things that set that business apart. One of my favorite questions in a C.N.A. is asking the client how they got into the business, or why and how they got to where they are. Everyone has a story, and everyone loves to hear a good story.

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, once said: "We know nothing about motivation, all we can do is write books about it." I think the same can be said about creativity and the creative process. Thousands of books exist, yet we still struggle.

In Luke Sullivan's book: Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads, I uncovered a five-step process of creativity. At RAB, we teach the 7-Steps to Selling, because having a repeatable process makes the complex work we do easier.

James Webb Young, a copywriter from the 1940s, laid out his five-step process of idea generation that holds water today.

Gather. You gather as much information on the problem as you can. You read, you underline stuff, you ask questions, you visit the factory.

Attack. You sit down and actively attack the problem.

Walk away. You drop the whole thing and go do something else while your subconscious mind works on the problem.


Boom. You figure out how to implement your idea.

What really resonated with me was number three. Drop the whole thing and do something else. It seems the more we think about a problem, the less likely we are to solve it. Gather all your information, give it some thought, attack the problem, then walk away and let your mind go to work for you.

The next time you're stuck writing a piece of copy or coming up with a creative idea for your clients, walk away. Let it ruminate in your mind and you'll likely be amazed when you have that "Eureka" moment.

Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at Jeff.Schmidt@RAB.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, SVP of Professional Development, RAB