3 Steps To Begin Your Innovation Journey

innovation

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.

The Marketing Mix Has Changed

Marketing

For those of us that have studied Marketing on our own or in college, we learned of the 4 P’s, either in a book, or in our first marketing class.  The idea of the 4 P’s was founded in 1960 by E. Jerome McCarthy, a marketing professor at Michigan State University. Professor McCarthy created what became known as the “marketing mix” which contained four specific elements including: Product, Price, Place, Promotion.

Every business has to decide what Product it will sell.  Features, benefits, and functionality must be defined. Once complete, the business moves to the next P which is the Price of the product (or service). Most times, the price is dictated by how much the business owner wishes to make…profit.   After pricing is complete the owner decides where he/she will sell their product – the Place. Traditional approaches assume that the bigger the city the better the opportunity. And so businesses take their product, and their price and head toward the cities with the largest populations assuming success. Finally, the owner makes the decision on how to best Promote, advertise or communicate their product to the marketplace.

Many business schools and books still tout the 4P’s of the marketing mix with little change. Unfortunately Marketing students end up with a very elementary view of the subject, not fully comprehending the seismic shift in the role and importance of this crucial business function. So what’s changed?

Perhaps the biggest change in the marketing mix is the arrival of 2 new P’s;  Person and Proof.

For years products and services were developed based upon an inside-out view…what the business felt was needed in the market. Little concern was given to what the market was lacking, needing, desiring. Build it and they will come, was the general sentiment.  However, companies like Apple, Samsung, Wegmans, Southwest, and Google came along and turned this belief on it’s head by focusing heavily on the Person. They looked at the market to determine what was there and what was missing. They listened closely to consumers to understand what they wanted. Instead of slamming a square peg in a round hole they changed the shape of the hole and in many cases created a custom fit, which has lead to an era of innovation.

Complimenting the Person was the arrival of Proof…or data.  Marketing automation systems, metrics, and dashboards have all contributed to marketing’s evolution as a profit center versus a cost center.  Data drives proof or disproof of the effectiveness of actions or activities.  Blending these two new P’s with the traditional P’s in the marketing mix allows marketing practitioners to create strategies and tactics that yield predictable and consistent results.

Two resources that offer great insights into the importance of these new P’s include:  What The Customer Wants You To Know by Ram Charan and Hubspots 120 Awesome Marketing Stats, Charts and Graphs.