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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Ten ways to encourage creative thinking

Inspiring greater creativity in your business can help spur innovation. You need to create a culture in which all employees are actively encouraged to put ideas forward. But how do you get the best from people and help them to be creative?

1. Stress the importance of creativity for the business

Ensure all your staff know that you want to hear their ideas. Make sure they understand how innovation keeps your firm competitive.

2. Make time for new ideas

Allocate time for thinking about different approaches. For example:

  • set aside time for brainstorming;
  • hold regular group workshops;
  • arrange team days out;
  • give individuals the space to reflect privately on their work.

3. Actively solicit creative suggestions

Place suggestion boxes around the workplace. Appeal for original ways to solve particular problems. Keep your door open to anyone with new ideas.

Encourage people to work together and share ideas. Individuals within the team can feed off each other – exploring, testing and refining new approaches.

4. Train staff in innovation techniques

Your staff may be unfamiliar with the skills involved in creative problem-solving. Consider training sessions in techniques such as brainstorming, lateral thinking and mind-mapping.

5. Cross-fertilise

Broadening people's experiences can be a great way to kickstart innovation.

  • Short-term job swaps and shadowing in-house can introduce a fresh perspective.
  • Encourage people to look at how other businesses do things, even in other sectors. Consider how different approaches can be adapted or improved.

6. Challenge the way staff work

Encourage employees to keep looking anew at the way they approach their work. Ask people what works well and what doesn't.

7. Be supportive

Respond enthusiastically to all ideas. Never make someone offering an idea, however hopeless, feel foolish. Give even the most apparently outlandish of ideas a chance to be aired.

8. Tolerate mistakes

A certain amount of risk-taking is inevitable with creative thinking. Allow people to learn from their mistakes. Don't put off the creative flow by penalising those whose ideas don't work out.

9. Reward creativity

Motivate individuals or teams who come up with winning ideas by actively recognising creativity, for example through an awards scheme.

10. Act on ideas

Creativity is only worthwhile if it results in action. Provide the time and resources to develop and implement those ideas that are worth acting upon.

Following through on good ideas is a powerful way of encouraging staff to keep being creative, coming up with more new ideas to improve the business.

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