Even thought they might tell you something else, innovation is not often at the heart of many companies. The inability to push the envelope or do things differently from the norm can come from a lot of different places. It can be ignorance, fear or a lack of vision, but history tells us more often that not that those companies who fail to innovate are at best laggards in the market and at worst out of business.
The demand to innovate puts a lot of pressure on marketers, but it's exciting when you are on the leading edge of what your company is doing. To make sure marketing is a trusted advisor on innovation, follow these steps:
- Listen to you customers - this may be a "no duh" statement, but I think most companies who failed to innovate could track their failure back to this. Do you really think that Blackberry or Yahoo were really listening to their customers? Keep a tuned ear to what customers say about your products or service can provide great insight into what the future holds.
- Don't always knock the competition - it's easy to discount what your competitors are doing if it's different what you are putting into the market, but objectivity about why they are doing it and what they may be seeing from the market that you can learn from and potentially apply to your business.
- Dedicate time to innovate - a lot of businesses don't have a defined function or process around innovation, which puts them in a reactive state to market changes. Marketing should be leading the charge by creating pathways to funnel new ideas throughout the organization.
- Ask the tough questions - questioning the norm is a challenging but valuable part of any business and marketing should be using customer feedback and market vision to crush norms that don't make sense or build plans that lead your company forward. The worst answer you can give to a problem is "that's the way we've always done it."
- Trust but verify - not all new ideas are great ones but some are worth vetting beyond the concept phase. Developing a test bed for new ideas and getting input from select, valued customers to those ideas helps validate where investments should be made and actually brings those customers closer to you.
Marketers who lead the charge for innovation will put their companies in the best possible position and increase the strategic value they bring to the organization. If you haven't thought about how you are helping your business be prepared for the future, it's time to add that to your list.