Editor’s note: Beverly Murray is president and founder of R+M, a Cary-based brand development and management agency. This is latest in a series of Entrepreneurial Spirit guest columns for LTW from the membership of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED).
_______________________________________________________________________________________Whether you’re new to the marketing game or a world-weary veteran, chances are you’re in need of a little inspiration.

Take the following real world quiz and, by the end, you’ll have armed yourself with a fresh perspective, new ideas and some surprising truths that no marketing professor ever revealed.

Question 1:

Answer true or false — Marketing is one of a business’s most important departments.

Our answer: False. (OK, we admit it. We started out with a bit of a trick question.)

You see, marketing shouldn’t be seen as a department at all. Smart businesses understand that marketing is a culture … a company-wide focus and a shared responsibility.

Your best “outside consultants” may be right inside your own company. Start by stepping out of your cubicle and taking a walk down the hall. Visit your colleagues in accounting. Talk to the shipping department. Get the perspective from R&D. If you’re not effectively tapping your company’s collective knowledge, you’re missing out on an incredible source of information, ideas and solutions. And, it’s a great opportunity to educate your colleagues. (They really do wonder what you do.)

Question 2:

Answer true or false — Effective brand managers wield the power of positive thinking.

Our answer: False.

Sure, positive thinking can be a great ally in life. But, sometimes in brand management, taking a negative look at a situation can yield many more results. Take this example: You’re looking for a fresh way to solve a nagging problem. Instead of trying (again) to address the same old issue, try exploring its reverse.

So, rather than ask the age-old question: “How do we improve customer service issues?” ask:
“What can we do to make customer service worse?” After brainstorming (with some colleagues outside of your department … remember Question 1, challenge your team to put the opposites of some of these ideas into action.

Question 3:

Answer true or false — Marketing is an advanced science, requiring a sophisticated understanding of complex principles.

Our answer: False. (Yes, false, again. You’re catching on!)

Sometimes issues and ideas get overcomplicated by business theory and marketing speak. Want to really zero in on the value of your company or product brand? Seek some unlikely counsel: an average eight-year-old.

Instead of hiding behind lofty concepts, take the opportunity to simplify, simplify, simplify. If you can explain the value of your company or product to an elementary school student, chances are you can articulate it to your investors and customers.

Putting it into Action

As marketers, we’re confronted with unending problem solving. It’s easy to fall into the habit of reaching for the same old solutions. Instead, challenge yourself and your team to go for the unexpected. You’ll be surprised what new answers await you.

Beverly R. Murray is president and founder of R+M, a brand development and management agency focused on building healthcare, life science and lifestyle brands. Under Murray’s direction, the agency has been recognized regionally and nationally for its business practices, strategic development and creative execution. For more information, visit: www.rmagency.com