The Role of Creativity in Business and Sales

The Role of Creativity in Business and Sales

“Being creative” has a season.

It’s usually when you’re younger, in elementary school, cutting shapes out of colored construction paper.

Parents stare proudly at their children, wide-eyed and full of grins, and compliment them with “Look what you made. You are so creative.”

So is everyone in the class. And the kids had a lot of fun working on the assignment—and playing with the glue.

Gold stars all around.

Construction Paper Frog

But when you’re pushing 50 years old (like myself), people look at “being creative” a lot differently.

In the business world, they see creativity as decoration, fluff and eccentricity—and sometimes not important to the business.

Creativity (and creative) is seen as a decorative, ‘fun’ layer of marketing, but not vital to the business.

As a matter of fact, for years, famed branding author Marty Neumeier has said that in most companies, “Creativity doesn’t have a seat at the business table.”

I believe he’s right. And worse yet, I can see why a business would believe that.

A Race to the Bottom

It’s tough to blame businesses for how they see “creative.”

We live in a world of drag-and-drop web builders, $5 logos from Fiverr, and organic social media generators. We’re told we have to feed our social channels daily just to stay relevant.

And with AI, all the copy you could ever want is just a well-crafted prompt away. You can generate any image you can think of, weird fingers and all.

“Creativity” (or how some people define it) has become more of a commodity than ever before. A lot of agencies have become order takers. They spend more time figuring out how to make creative work faster than how to make creative work more effective.

It is a race to the bottom. A Cannonball Run.

I see the appeal. The world is making and consuming digital junk faster than ever before—and it works just fine.


Want to Buy a Rectangle?

I joke that creatives are great at making rectangles: pages of websites, digital ads, presentation decks, sales sheets.

That is all we do. We can fill rectangles with words, colors, photographs, code. But the output will always be a rectangle.

We are great at them. And I have made some wonderful rectangles myself in my career. The problem is that no one wants to buy a rectangle.

We make rectangles

We are not in the rectangle business.

We are not in the creative business.

We are in the sales business.

The business of design and creativity is the business of sales.

Or it should be.


The Business of Sales

What impact is any rectangle going to have if the creator doesn’t understand the business?

What good is great branding if it doesn’t resonate with the company’s audience?

How effective can social media be if the agency is on autopilot and hasn’t spoken to the client in a while about the business as a whole?

What good is AI if it isn’t used in the right places?

Creatives don’t have a seat at the business table because for decades we’ve asked the wrong questions, made the wrong things, and haven’t thought upstream enough about the business challenges we can solve.

Our value—the value of creativity—has always been understanding the situation and seeing new ways to solve it. It’s a way of seeing.

The best creative is made with an understanding of the client’s business and their situation. You use what you know to move the needle.

Their products and services sell, the business grows, and we get called for their next problem.


An Agency’s Role in the Business

There’s usually one person in a company who’s in charge of the big picture and directs agencies in what to produce.

It’s usually the CMO or VP of Marketing. Sometimes it falls on the Sales Director or even the CEO.

In the best cases, the person in this role doesn’t just want the creative artifacts—the rectangles. They want the insight and perspective of the agency.

They want the agency to help them meet goals, share new ideas and take big swings that will actually help grow the business.

They want the agency in their corner, and to use creativity and strategy to help them win the day, and the quarter and their careers.


The Business of Thinking

Life gives you things to work with, be it a business with a sales goal and a marketing agency, or a bottle of glue and pile of construction paper.

Creativity is how you put the elements together to make something purposeful. To make it better. And when working with clients, being creative means you’re in the business of sales.


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Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

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