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I’m reading an interesting book called Buzzmarketing by Mark Hughes. Hughes is famous for convincing the town of Halfway, Oregon, to rename itself That website went from zero to 8 million customers in less than three years.

My company, ValoreBooks, is currently milling over a few grand ideas ourselves. We understand that innovation is typically not made with rules nor created by guidelines, but we’ve discovered some important questions to ask before a concept is approved. Here they are:

Is there a big idea?
Especially in the digital age, it is imperative that the concept isn’t just compelling, but something an audience would want to share and pass along. Word of mouth is now more like "tweet of the town." Sometimes there simply is no "white knight" or grand concept. That’s okay —it just means that it’s more important than ever to create something true to your brand.

Is it relevant?
Irrelevancies can be devastating to an idea if your concept is remembered, but your product forgotten. It’s important to really study what’s going on with a company brand, what’s in the media and what’s relevant to the customer. Poll audiences, ask them directly what they want, and then follow through with a concept applicable to their lifestyle.

Is it cliché?

Have you seen this concept before? Ask if it is fresh, innovative and original or a look-alike of someone else’s idea. This can be another costly failure if the plan gets sucked up in the vacuum of mediocrity.  Don’t run the risk of being mistaken for the competition. Produce something that is all your own.

Is it believable?

Some people say it’s better to be real and believable than to overpromise and lose credibility. Something can be completely truthful, but if it sounds sensational, an audience is likely to write it off.  Trust influences choice. Whether it’s trying to convince someone to eat at a restaurant or choose a particular product, a customer is more likely to return when they trust the source of communication. Believability builds trust, and loyal customers ultimately become the best and cheapest sales force.

Is it creative?

It’s important to establish a unique position in an audience’s mind so they remember the business as being different from the pack. It’s not simply by getting attention that most companies achieve this goal. Companies rely on creativity for repeat business and a lasting relationship with their target audience to keep them coming back. Remember, it’s not truly creative unless it helps the bottom line.

Most companies offer products or services with similar selling points, especially in the competitive world of the online college textbook. In a marketplace filled with competing messages, calculated big ideas and buzz help us all stand out.

About the author: Bobby Brannigan is the founder and CEO of ValoreBooks, a fast-growing online provider of cheap college textbooks. He can be reached at