find marketing inspiration

You’ve been putting it off for long enough. That email won’t right itself. Nor will that landing page or banner ad. But someone just brought leftover birthday cake into the kitchen! Gosh, that cake looks good. Chocolate is your favorite. Decisions, decisions…

We’ve all been there before. It’s easier to avoid creating new marketing messages than it is to avoid the cake (insert any other distraction you might commonly use). Some call it writer’s block, others might call it having an ‘off’ day. How can a marketer expect to be creative all the time? Athletes have bad days, so why can’t we? The truth is that we are inundated by thousands of marketing messages every single day and it’s up to us, the marketers, to draw inspiration from our peers.

When I’m having a ‘stuff my face with cake instead of write marketing emails’ kind of day, here are my usual sources of marketing inspiration:

1. Subscribe to More Emails

I know what you’re thinking, “This Mike guy is nuts!!!” Who in their right mind would subscribe to MORE emails? Whether you like it or not, every email you receive might have a catchy sentence, an eye-catching creative, or the world’s most hilarious call-to-action. Stop looking at those emails as a nuisance and begin to see them as a source of inspiration.

See what fellow marketers are doing to get you to open and click. Scrutinize their subject line or use a variation in your own marketing campaigns. Feel like you’ve just seen the most beautiful email layout in all the land? Try to create something similar. Love how the color scheme or imagery makes you feel? Test it out in your own campaigns! The point is that millions of emails are sent every day and your next source of marketing inspiration could be hitting your inbox at any moment. Be careful not to get addicted to checking your personal email…you may even want to create a separate folder for it.

2. Look at Billboards

When traffic stinks and the radio keeps playing that same annoying pop song, look to billboards for marketing inspiration. A billboard is like a marketing elevator pitch. Over the course of what might be three seconds, the marketer who wrote that billboard needs to make you feel something profound, memorable, and actionable without stirring so much emotion that you flip your car. If you only had three seconds (or less) to make an impact on a potential customer, what would you do? I’d probably panic. But billboard marketers are uncommonly skilled at writing 1,000 words in a couple sentences or less, similar to an email subject line.

Here’s an example from Prudential:

“The first person to live to 150 is alive today. Let’s get ready for a longer retirement.”

And just like that, a 26-year-old marketer in Silicon Valley is thinking, “Whoa, am I financially prepared for that? What can I do now to set myself up for a successful retirement in the future?” Retirement is a complex milestone that many young adults neglect, and yet, Prudential made it top-of-mind in two sentences.

3. Stop Muting Those Pesky Commercials

Like billboards, commercials have a limited amount of time to win over your attention. Since you usually watch commercials on your couch at home (hopefully with chocolate chip cookies in hand), the music, lighting, actors, script, and product need to accomplish one main objective: be memorable. Otherwise, you’d completely forget to buy whatever it is they’re selling!

Next time you see a good commercial, pay close attention to what exactly made it memorable for you. Was it funny? Did it have a catchy jingle like State Farm commercials? Did it have heart? Do you feel like you trust that brand more? Now, take those feelings, write down what you think cause them, and see what lessons can be applied to your very own marketing efforts.

4. Listen to Music

Most of you probably do this anyway, but it’s how you approach it that’s important. Music breaks down complex human emotions and translates them into catchy, often simple lyrics, which is extremely similar to what we do as marketers. Listen to the lyrics and try to understand the feelings behind them and how they came to be written. Sometimes, trying to understand someone else’s creative process can help trigger creativity in yourself. Plus, it helps you step out of your project, which might help the inspiration come to you more naturally.

Outside of listening to the lyrics for marketing hints, it’s also important to choose the right music for your mood. Have you ever spent an obscene amount of time finding just the right song for a moment? Just like an Olympic sprinter wouldn’t listen to slow classical music during training, you may not want to listen to death metal while writing a heartfelt thank you email to your subscribers. Or, maybe that’s your thing! The point is that music helps us dial up our mood and change our perception, helping create optimal writing conditions. Start building out different playlists and use it to your advantage!

5. Step Away from Your Work

The most important source of marketing inspiration is staring at you in the mirror. Unfortunately, our days are cluttered with various distractions. We check our emails first thing in the morning. We check Facebook every five seconds. Instagram every three seconds. We can’t even go to the bathroom without checking our phones (gross, right?)! And all the while, there’s a brilliant, talented marketer hidden away in your brain just waiting to come out with outstanding ideas. Take a moment to turn off all your distractions and let your mind wander. Think about anything you want. And every so often, a fabulous original idea will come to you from out of nowhere!

That’s all I have for you! What do you use for marketing inspiration? Have you found the key to defeating writer’s block? Share in the comments below.

Read more: Why Amazon, Not Apple, Should Be Your Marketing Inspiration