What is the true nature of innovation?
March 10 2020
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Innovation is a basic ingredient that differentiates a company and it’s product on a market. In times full of intense competition, the client needs something truly unique. If he doesn’t get it, his engagement, time and money can go in a different direction. To be truly innovative, you don’t necessarily need to revolutionize the market and create a breakthrough – introduce something never seen before. The true innovation doesn’t come from blindly following a competition. Its come from a rational assessment of your internal potential, resources and their utilization, so you can realize your unique mission and vision. Serving your client and fixing his problems in the first place.
To help you establish directions in which your innovation and go from now on, I have prepared a summary of the key trends that will be important in the time to come. The best part? The majority of them will be relevant in the upcoming decade, and some of them – forever.
A business innovation means focusing on the client and his needs
In theory, nothing new under the sun. We can see that trend in marketing, branding, and content and it had some time to mature. An innovative part comes from the way we approach it today.
A business innovation means:
- Holistic branding. The simplest definition of branding calls it a process of building awareness of the brand. OK, but what does that mean, exactly? The marketing world holds a lot of empty slogans. Not based on facts followed then by the communication. To this day, it was backward – at first, the company had built a product and then decided about the direction of marketing communication. If there was a need, the last and more important followed – people. Client and employees. Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994) and Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2010) changed the rules of engagement. Both these groups have to be seen as one – they are the most technologically savvy, and the most aware when it comes to consumer choices. They believe in something, have values and wait for appropriate communication. They seek valuable products, not slogans. Branding should display and talk about values that are important to the company. About product values and benefits to the customer, when he decides to trust the brand long-term. Slogans are a thing of the past. What’s important is the mission.
- Marketing as a branding tool, not the other way around. Branding is a part of marketing toolset. That’s a common mistake that people make. In reality, it’s the other way around. Marketing is only a tool for the bigger picture that is branding. Everything – sales, marketing, public relations, human resources, and employer branding processes – should be values-driven. The building of values and effective sharing among the prospects and clients. And we are talking about external paying customers and internal clients as well. Employees should understand and accept changes that are happening in an organization.
- Brand purpose – a brand goal. If you don’t know why do you what you do, all efforts focused on the client’s acquisition and long-term retention will be ineffective. The result? The client’s acquisition will be high and marketing messaging shallow. Also lacking information important to the customer. Start with „why?”. Every company knows what it does – what products and services it offers. Some companies know what methods do they use – what works and what doesn’t and why. Which processes need to be improved, which can be left alone. Not every company knows why they do what they do. What are the mission and vision? More on the the subject – check the classic TEDx presentation by Simon Sinek.
- Big Data and Big Intuition. Companies need data and competencies to gather and analyze them, building knowledge and recommendations at the end. It’s not everything. Raw data will never replace a human being – it’s knowledge, experience, and intuition. Intuition alone is not enough to build a competitive advantage, you need domain expertise. Data is not enough too. What builds competitive advantage, is a marriage of two worlds, so you can focus on people. Today, data is being glorified in the same way the storytelling was yesterday. Both these tools are great and necessary but in themselves, they just tools. The key? You have to base your company on people.
- Human-centered design. That’s how we have approached the most important, aside from branding, the point on this list. The human-centered design is not a term invented and used only in the tech industry. Or at least it shouldn’t be. This term can mean a graphical user interface (UI) and the experience from interacting with a desktop or a mobile application (UX). It can also mean a wider process of buying goods in a shop (classic or online-based), an experience had when talking with technical support or experiencing the brand while on an event.
- A complete client experience, based on consumer empathy. All of this leads to this point. To properly design a product, a service or an experience related to the brand, you have to empathize with your client. You have to get to know him. Honestly understand his challenges and needs. And here we meet slogans yet again. Building a client’s persona is not enough. It’s a skin-deep term, that helps but when faced with demographic changes, problems with the planet’s resources, increasing demands towards products and clients’ increased ecological awareness, it’s simply not enough. You want to sell while having a reputation of a solid and trustworthy company? You are a leader – turn on the empathy and propagate it with your managers and team leaders.
- Development of a leader’s personal qualities. To do that, think about what does ‘working for the client’ means. What does it mean to care for him long-term? The innovation lies in the ‘long-term’ phrase. A lot of companies build their marketing and sales strategies so that they can last two years tops. Then they approach challenges yet again and define a new set of guidelines, as well as tools. It’s a good approach – detailed planning for a longer period of time doesn’t make sense. You can make a long-term strategy but not a detailed one. Branding is designed to work long-term – for decades, even for generations. You can easily spot that while observing luxurious brands; clothing companies for example. You can see that while looking at the Coca-Cola or Apple company. They are good examples too. Short-term strategies need to be embedded in long-term branding.
- A new dimension of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Customers often see corporate social responsibility as a vehicle for factitious doing. In other words – companies say they do something nice and important to the community but it’s often not true or not enough. Customers see that kind of action as meaningless publicity. On the other hand, employees see these actions as an attempt to show them that ‘something nice is happening’. The created shared value solves these problems and increases the trust level from both sides – from customers and employees.
- Hyper personalization of products, services, and consumer communications. 3D printers, cheap methods of printing (T-shirts included), real-time marketing. These are some tools used in product personalization and marketing communication. Automotive designs and makes cars with personalized interiors. A T-shirt with personalized graphics and text can be made in just a few hours. Why the same does not apply to marketing and brand strategy? It has to apply. Your company, products, and by extension the message, can’t be for everyone. It has to be tailored to your audience and its expectations. Innovation doesn’t come from going to the sea and spreading the webs as wide as you can. The innovation lies in reaching customers that are interested in your product and eager to be loyal to the brand they believe in and trust.
- Sourcing as a part of the recruitment process. Employee recruitment was treated as a simple hiring people. That’s no longer the case. With increased social awareness, expectations towards employers and their processes, tasks people want to perform, recruitment gained a new tool – sourcing. Talent sourcing is based on an active searching for the best people and gaining their trust. Enough to make them want to go through the recruitment process and work for you at the end. Sourcing begins with a plan – when can I find the best candidates (what channels, how will it cost?), and ends with onboarding, which is an introduction of the team and welcoming onboard. If the talent will see the value in working for the company, it will stay long past his three-months trial period.
Innovation begins with YOU
If you are a company owner, managing director, a team leader, then this article is for you. It’s your vision, charisma and leadership is a reference point for the whole organization. It’s also important in the context of building the team and tightening bonds. Employees that know the company’s goals, agree with actions that are taken, are motivated and effective.
The person that benefits most from all of that, is naturally the client. In the long run, it’s you.