The successful exploitation of new ideas is crucial to a business being able to improve its processes, bring new and improved products and services to market, increase its efficiency and, most importantly, improve its profitability.
As part of our business consultancy, we often encounter businesses in Gibraltar that want to grow their turnover and improve their profitability, yet are traditional in their approach to business and are very hesitant when it comes to embracing innovation. Indeed, most people are afraid of Change and like to stick with the way they have been doing things for years. However, with our moto being “helping our clients to grow in innovative ways”, we often encourage our clients to think outside the box and bridge the gap between tradition and innovation.
For a start, it is important to be clear about the difference between invention and innovation. Invention is a new idea. Innovation is the commercial application and successful exploitation of the idea. Fundamentally, innovation means introducing something new into your business. This could be:
- improving or replacing business processes to increase efficiency and productivity, or to enable the business to extend the range or quality of existing products and/or services
- developing entirely new and improved products and services – often to meet rapidly changing customer or consumer demands or needs
- adding value to existing products, services or markets to differentiate the business from its competitors and increase the perceived value to the customers and markets
Innovation can mean a single major breakthrough – e.g. a totally new product or service. However, it can also be a series of small, incremental changes. Whatever form it takes, innovation is a creative process. The ideas may come from:
- inside the business, e.g. from employees, managers or in-house research and development work;
- outside the business, e.g. suppliers, customers, media reports, market research published by another organisation, or universities and other sources of new technologies;
Success comes from filtering those ideas, identifying those that the business will focus on and applying resources to exploit them. Businesses that fail to innovate run the risk of:
- losing market share to competitors
- falling productivity and efficiency
- losing key staff
- experiencing steadily reducing margins and profit
- going out of business.
Here are ten tips on how to operate innovatively and strengthen your business:
Pinpoint your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). These days it is often more about being unique than being valuable. A UVP sells a product or service because it differentiates it from other products or services that are available. Skip the better, faster, or stronger; you need to be the best, fastest, or strongest to truly stand out.
Reach your target audience intimately through interaction. Target marketing has moved to a whole new level both geographically and demographically. With social media, you can interact more precisely and create custom products and marketing to be almost all things to all people. The broad-brush push-marketing is no longer competitive.
Build word-of-mouth into your product or service. The very best marketing is word-of-mouth from your very happy customers. You need to give them something to talk about and incentives to be brand ambassadors. These include an aura of exclusivity and cultivating an “under-the-radar” vibe that pushes people into one-up-style revelations.
Proactively seek out win-win alliances. Voluntary open-ended alliances are more important than ever, and easier than ever. Consider collaborating via shared marketing efforts, trade-show booth space, co-branding promotional products, referral agreements, and cross-linking web sites. With informality, these must be win-win relationships.
Modernise the user website experience. The standards for user-friendly continue to move up. Make sure your users don’t have to think, and participating in your call to action is intuitive and organic. Modern web layouts flow smoothly and quickly for an easier to read, satisfying experience. How many website visits have you aborted in frustration?
Incorporate live chat into every online service. No one wants to call a help line anymore. Online shoppers like online chat, because it makes the experience more like in-store shopping. The same applies to other aspects of consumer experience: customer questions answered, problems fixed, and aggravations soothed, to close more sales.
Understand the power of online reviews to your advantage. Stop fearing bad reviews, and see any review as an opportunity and an asset. Respond to reviews to give a personable picture of you, your company, and your products. People want to go with tried-and-true choices, and many positive reviews will offset that occasional negative one.
Optimise how you website looks on mobile devices. Mobile will soon be the number one way people do web browsing, as it already is for e-mail. Yet nearly half of all small businesses still lack any website, much less a mobile-friendly one. Modern websites adapt to the mobile environment, or you can provide a separate mobile site at low cost.
See the world through the eyes of Generation Z. The newest generation has never lived life unplugged, and their blend of innocence, simplicity, and pure excitement appeals to every customer. Optimise for them, and you will be a winner today, as well as in the future. It starts with a willingness to engage, listen, and learn without fear.
Embrace giving back to the world community. Bring new awareness to your business by promoting a higher goal, which will garner additional respect and new business from your supporters. The first steps are effective communication to your clients, employee participation, and partnering with other organizations that have similar initiatives.
If you are not happy with how fast your business is growing, pick one of these areas to focus on first, then a second and third. Don’t try to do everything at once, and don’t expect that you can do it once and forget about it. If you don’t know where to start from, get in touch with us and we will advise on the best approach. Your business is a living entity, just like you are. Treat it with ongoing respect and attention, or the growth you expect and deserve will fade as the world changes.