‘Tis The Season…For Innovation

As we reach the end of another year, here’s a thought about looking ahead to 2011: what innovations can your business deliver to your customers that will fuel growth and cement relationships? If, during the economic downturn, you have kept ahead of your competition by maintaining your marketing, retooling your staff and improving customer service, then think about the new things you could do for those customers and prospects in the coming year and stay ahead of your competitors.

Innovation is a basic building block of progress and it can take two major forms; something dramatically different from anything in the past (like a smart phone). or, a completely new use of something that has been around for a long time like the box of baking soda that you put in your refrigerator to control food odors. The common thread in these two examples is that their success is based on outcomes desired by customers.

In the case of the smart phone, Apple found out what people wanted from a portable device and then built it and sold iPhones by the millions. Arm & Hammer heard countless examples of people using the box of baking soda to gain the outcome of a better smelling refrigerator so they repositioned and aggressively marketed a very old product. In both cases, the companies stuck to what they did best and got excellent results; service and product quality. Apple knows how to design and manufacture high performance devices. Arm & Hammer has many years of experience in producing and packaging baking soda.

So, talk with your customers and see what new outcomes they are seeking from your products and services. You may also find out uses to which they are putting your products and services that you had not thought of and which are very marketable to others. There is always some magic in asking customers what they think.

For more information about how Apple harnesses innovation for success go to Mark Sigal’s somewhat technical blog post on O’Reilly Radar: