Think Outside the Box

By: Scott Harris
Posted: 02/08/2012

I just returned from a new business meeting with a potential client who wanted to replace their current agency with an agency that was willing to "think outside the box."

This prospective client was very focused and very clear that for her, inside the box was no longer good enough and that their next agency was going to present ideas outside of this "box," which would, of course, be the answer to their marketing problems.

The phrase "outside the box" is cliché for a reason: we've heard it a lot and for a long time, but it seems to have really captured the vernacular of a lot of businessmen and women in recent years, particularly when it comes to marketing.

Interestingly enough, as marketing agencies we try and make all our designs and concepts fresh, but many of us can't step away from describing our efforts with clichés.

"Outside the box" joins the ranks of business and marketing clichés "exceeding expectations" and giving "110%."

Clearly, the motivation behind these claims is to share with clients and prospects the idea that you work hard on their behalf (which, by the way, you could simply say), but why not claim to work 8 days a week or 25 hours a day?

No less impossible and gets across the same idea. So, back to the "box" and my prospective new client.

She asked if my agency thought "outside of the box" and I think she was surprised when I said "whose box?"

I assume she meant that she wanted new ideas, presumably ones that her previous agency had not brought her.

She immediately mentioned social marketing as an example of "outside the box."

In truth, I can't remember the last meeting I went to where social marketing didn't play a huge role. It's hard to get much further "inside the box" these days than social marketing.
Also, for any agency worth its salt, every marketing option is "in the box."

This certainly means considering all of the shiny new ideas (like social marketing), but it should also mean looking at many of the tried and true methods, as well.

Direct mail is often cited as a dead marketing vehicle (not sexy enough), but for some of our clients, it works extremely well. The truth is, that the box should be packed with as many options as possible and each of them should be evaluated based on their effectiveness, not by how recently they've been added to the box.

In the end, we wound up having a lengthy, productive conversation about a variety of marketing options--some new, some old and I think the meeting was a success.

I headed back to the office where I plan on giving "110%," while thinking "outside of the box" in order "to exceed her expectations." 

Outside the box' joins the ranks of business and marketing clichés 'exceeding expectations' and giving 110%.

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