Small business owners spend way too much time on the things that don't matter, and not near enough on the things that do.
In the book "Chasing Cool: Standing Out In A Cluttered Marketplace" by Noah Kerner & Gene Pressman, the authors call for a return to originality in the midst of the outsourcing revolution. I highly recommend this book, though in my opinion it is less about the title, than it is about the more important subtitle. Standing out has lost it's luster as most of us spend our time fitting in.
To continue with this theme, I recommend that for today (and most days) you give yourself the title "Director of Cool" and focus on what your business needs to stand out from your competitors. Go crazy. Make a list of WHY people hire (hint:need) you in the first place, and then do something cool and see if it works.
Here's the catch...ultimately (as the Chasing Cool authors have put it) you don't have any say in what is cool...your customers and clients do. This is where you really look into the needs of your client or customer, the process they go through, or your product (packaging, use, delivery) and develop how you will stand out.
Here's an example. If I were a Real Estate Agent (hmmmhhhhh...can you think of a more cluttered marketplace?) what things could I do to stand out from my competitors?
How about GPS? Wouldn't it be cool if an agent loaned loaned you a GPS unit (for those of us who don't opt for the Nav System upgrades) that you can keep in your car while your looking for a house? Imagine the agent emailing you each day all of the new homes that fit your search criteria that you plug into your gps unit, and while driving around the unit tells you if you are close to a match. Seems cool to me.
Or, let's say I'm a freelance copywriter. As the owner of my own successful business, there have been numerous times that I felt like I needed a copywriter. However, each time I end up not using one because I feel I can do it myself better since I know MY business best. What if a copywriter did all the research and work I needed done before they even approached me? What if they walked in, gave me a personal brochure they created just for me to give to my clients that nailed it on the head for what I was in need of? That would be cool. I wouldn't need to sit down, tell them all about me, how I'm different...it would be done. I'd buy the brochure, ask them to write my website, work on some ads, etc.
Is there some cost and risk involved? Yes, definitely. For the Real Estate Agent there is the expense of the gps unit (though it should be easy to find if someone tried to keep it). For the copywriter, there is the time put into the project, and the client could say no, though you could just keep revising it for competitors of your prospect until you get to yes.
Essentially what you are looking to create is a "Free Prize Inside" as Seth Godin does such a great job discussing in his book with the same title. I agree with Seth in that the problem with discovering and nurturing these ideas to fruition is not that we can't think up great ideas on our own...it's that we don't spend the time thinking of the ideas in the first place.
As the newly appointed Director of Cool, it's now your job.