Regardless of how long you’ve been in business selling what you sell, STOP! Step back. Look at the market. I mean really look at the market. If you want to do more than survive you need to innovate. Innovation requires you to think differently. To be open-minded, honest, and critical of your current operation. I am not suggesting to be negative, but rather to be realistic and honest about what has changed around you. Take these 3 steps to begin your journey of innovation.
1. Complete a SWOT analysis. This is a detailed look at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT can help provide much needed insight into your next steps. This exercise will force an outside-in view of the market.
2. Create a customer advisory board. Always an odd number of members, a small advisory board of between 5 and 7 customers can provide clear and honest feedback relative to your current products or services, as well as a great testing ground for new ideas. Make sure each member signs an NDA binding them to confidentiality of the information the board discusses.
3. Get a mentor. In an earlier blog titled Great Mentors – The Difference Maker, I talked about the purpose and importance of having a mentor. To be truly innovative requires a different level of thinking. Innovation tests previously held beliefs. In doing so, you will need someone to guide your thinking and keep you honest. Human nature is such that we tend to develop explanations for things we don’t understand or agree with…simply to make us feel better. A great mentor will make sure you face the truth even if it hurts.
Remember, to remain static is to lose ground. You’ve got to have the courage to try, and fail. Push your limits, test your boundaries. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy or suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.