Published On: Fri, May 2nd, 2014

Stay Fresh Or Die: How To Innovate To Stay Alive

You want to remain fresh in your business. You have to. Your competitors are always nipping at your heels. Yet, at the same time, innovation doesn’t just fall out of the sky. You need to have a spark – a constant source of inspiration – that drives the company forward. That can be difficult, especially when there are so many companies out there doing the status quo. It’s hard to break away from the crowd. here’s how to do it.

Amazon shocked the business world when they announced plan to deliver via Octocopter photography Image/Video Screen Shot

Amazon shocked the business world when they announced plan to deliver via Octocopter photography
Image/Video Screen Shot

Research Your Competitors

There’s almost nothing you cannot figure out from a good month’s worth of research. One of the best ways to dig up dirt on your competition is to get a comprehensive business profile from a company like BusinessProfiles.com. See who runs the company you’re competing against. Where else has this person worked? What are his competencies? What are his weaknesses (most important)? Has the company had any serious legal problems in the past (probably)? If so, what was the nature of those problems?

All of this information will allow you to figure out where your competitors are at, business-wise. It also lets you see where the gaps are in the industry. Those gaps are where you insert yourself. That’s how you make your company invaluable – by being first to market with a solution to a problem no one is solving or even considering.

Pump Up R&D

Never cut the R&D department’s budget. You will file for bankruptcy before you will cut this department’s budget. That is rule number one. Without R&D, you have nothing – literally nothing – for the future. And, that’s where your profits lie.

R&D departments are responsible for creating the stellar products you see all around you. The iPhone? That would never have happened without significant investment into R&D. What about the Amazon Kindle? Same deal. No R&D, no Kindle.

Put Money Into Customer Service

Customer service is the reason why Amazon and Zappos lead the way in their respective industries. They spend money, a lot of money, on customer service and improving the end-user experience. Doing business with these companies is dangerously easy and fun.

Now, compare that to a company like AT&T or Verizon. It’s a long-standing problem in telecommunications. There’s virtually no good customer service experience. AT&T, for example, consistently ranks at the bottom of every study and report done on customer service, every year. You don’t want to be like this company, ever.

Talk To Customers

Talk to your customers more. Find out what they like. Devise interesting and innovative ways to do customer surveys and feedback reports. That will give you an eye on the industry, on what your customers are buying, and what you need to do to stay competitive.

Have An Innovative Thought-Leader

Not all companies depend on their customers to tell them what they want or what they should be selling. After all, it was Apple that invented an entirely new kind of phone. No one was asking about iPhones before 2007. No one even asked for a smarter smartphone. If you asked people to design a better smartphone at that time, they would probably have asked for things like a more accurate stylus.

Steve Jobs threw away the stylus, introduced the internal accelerometer, gyroscope, and a cool touchscreen that was sensitive enough for fingers. The company also revamped the whole concept of a smartphone and paved the way for copycats.

The moral of the story is to stack your company with thought-leader

Be Willing To be Mocked, Misunderstood

One of the things that Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos isn’t afraid of is being made fun of because of his technological innovations. In fact, in at least one interview, he’s said that that’s the key to success. You have to be willing to be misunderstood – at least for a while.

That’s the mark of a good piece of technology – your peers don’t quite understand what you’re doing. You’ll get critical reviews by people who are both vested in the old way of doing things and people who are naively hesitant about improving on older systems or technology.

For example, before the Amazon Kindle, no one really used e-ink technology in a device like that. Lots of people thought it was crazy to compete with someone like Apple. After all, Apple’s response the e-reader was to ignore it.

Technology enthusiasts lined up on either side of the fence. There were those critical of the device (and those still critical of it) and those that loved it. In a sense, you have to be a little polarizing. You have to upset people. That’s how you compete, innovate, and stay alive. If no one is talking about you, it means you’re dead.

Guest Author :

Steven Patterson has loved being an entrepreurial businessman since he started walking neighborhood dogs for pocket money as a child. With a knack for innovation and efficiency, he often blogs about modern business practices for today’s market.

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