What do you most need to innovate? What sets you apart from the competition and which of those advantages do you most need to promote? Are you looking at innovating service offerings and even the level of relationship with customers in the same way and with as much vigor as you look at innovating your products?
Turbulent times call for innovation, not just improvements or solutions to problems. Innovation is the creation of a new dimension of performance that leads to competitive advantage. Great companies cast a vision that demands innovation and then set innovation objectives around the right areas of the company where innovations will yield the greatest return for the customer and the company.
The more distinct your advantage over the competition, the more value you can deliver the customer and the more profit you can extract for fueling future growth. Thus, innovation is your ultimate weapon for victory when customers are crying cash poor, and the economy is causing them to wait. Distinct and breakthrough innovation begets such obvious value that even in the worst of times, customers must buy from you because you offer a way out of their challenges with distinct and/or breakthrough advantage and value.
There are four areas in which you and your team can focus on innovating and improving advantage:
- Operational Efficiency
The majority of focus during turbulent times is on cost-cutting. This focus rarely creates competitive advantage or any defensible advantage. So, for the sake of this article, I will only look at the first three.
Each of these areas needs to be evaluated as to how you stand vs. the competition. The three degrees of advantage that will determine your value profile are:
- Competitive—what we are delivering in this area is maintaining competitiveness.
- Distinct—our offering gives us competitive edge.
- Breakthrough—our offering is so advantageous and valuable that it helps us to achieve dominance in our market.
The process for getting innovation to ramp up in your organization is to evaluate each product, service and relationship area you have on the above scale. I do this with clients by listing out each of the product, service and relationship areas on a flip chart or spreadsheet and then creating parallel columns for competitive, distinct and breakthrough, sometimes using a 1 to 10 scale. I then facilitate a conversation around where the team sees their products etc. lining up against the competition. Before the exercise, I have usually asked customers the same questions and found out what the market’s view of innovativeness is of the client. After the team has spoken, I share the customer feedback, and we begin setting the appropriate innovation objectives in the areas where we can gain the most advantage and have the most likelihood at succeeding in making a step toward becoming distinctive or potentially even breakthrough.
The problem for most companies, sales teams and marketers is that they get so caught up in running their business that they rarely have time to innovate the business. Most companies were created because of a breakthrough innovation that gave the company an edge in the marketplace. Soon, competitors can copy advantages and eventually, it is time for discovering that next breakthrough.
Create your value profile chart, set your innovation goals with your team and manage toward advantage. Often breakthroughs sell and market themselves.
About Mark Faust
Each Tuesday, turnaround consultant Mark Faust will be sharing his expertise on how to turn around your small business. His blogs will be filled with practical insights and basic turnaround strategies designed to guide you through crisis leadership and change management. You'll be able to tap into tips on everything from profitability issues, business continuity plans and pandemic pivots to operational processes, marketing and customers additional value.
As one of the companies he helped grow, we know first hand how inspiring his leadership is and just how well it works! Mark has also agreed to make his best-selling book ‘Growth or Bust’ available, free of charge, to any small business to help them create their own effective turnaround plan. We’ll be sharing that with you soon.
You can learn more about Mark and his company, Echelon Management, by clicking here.
Looking for more small business help?
At InspireHUB, we’ve been blessed with a network that includes some of the foremost leaders in the world. A few years ago, we had the pleasure of meeting Mark Faust. Mark has over thirty years of experience in helping companies turn around through his company Echelon Management International. The brands he’s helped include John Deere, Apple, Bayer, IBM and P&G. He also helped me personally and professionally with InspireHUB as we morphed to become the company we are today.
His insight and expertise are invaluable, but realistically, the majority of small businesses would never get access to a “Mark” due to the size of their budget. Having someone like Mark literally can be a life-saving exercise for any size business. What impressed me the most about the work Mark and I did together was the bulk of it was not business tactics and strategy; it was about myself as a leader. Understanding what motivated me, where I found my hope, what would INSPIRE me to wake up every day and work on this business.
Here's how Mark helped transform InspireHUB and how he's going to do the same for YOUR small business ...
On a scale of 1 to 10, how clearly do your employees understand the economic impact you have on your customers? For every point under 10, you are probably losing a notable amount of business and profits in your own camp.
Creating a culture focused on customer profit builds your profits. Many employees struggle with the process of uncovering how much your solutions can improve a customer’s position and profits by thinking, “Our solution and benefits are just so obvious!” What most employees lack are an adequate questioning vocabulary and a focus on the customer’s appreciation of profit. Most employees think the business that your company is in has to do with the product or the service, but not the result that the customer is buying. This is an inadequate understanding of what a customer values and can be a potential root of a business’s demise.