The most successful marketers stand out in their ability to continuously innovate the way they think, work, and approach challenges. But it’s not that simple. If it were, everyone would be doing it. So, how do you become one of those innovators that stand out?
In part one of this series, we dove into five ways organizations can drive success through innovation and creativity. Now, let’s get into six more tips for creating a company of innovation.
1. Embrace creativity, curiosity, communication, and collaboration.
Ask yourself, your team, your clients, and your partners what’s working, what’s not working, and how you can be better together. Asking these questions will help identify opportunities to drive innovative solutions for growth in revenue, skillset, and team culture. For example, workshop with all key stakeholders to identify and align perspectives. Then, conduct a lean evaluation across categories, competitors, and current customer experience to identify actionable insights and map and prioritize growth opportunities.
2. Test and learn. Then, create a purposeful problem-solving pipeline.
Design innovation “programs, not projects” to create an ongoing pipeline of purposeful experiments that solve real consumer problems to test, learn, and grow the business. When designing a business or innovation, ensure there is always room for ongoing testing and learning across all aspects of the business to continuously improve, focusing on what’s working and getting rid of what’s not as swiftly as possible. For example, with our Product Playground, we uncover key pain points and what’s most useful by co-creating new ways to improve product experiences with consumers. Then, we rapidly prototype, product, and marketing ideas with consumer feedback loops along the way. We have had success teaming up with HeadOffice.Space, the metaverse for workspaces, to rapidly prototype concepts, create virtual test labs, and conduct training in our virtual showrooms to accelerate innovation efforts. The common thread is conducting an iterative test before investing big, no matter what areas of the business.
3. “Devil’s advocates” need not apply.
There is no room for “devil’s advocates” in innovation teams or as stakeholders in company innovation. Devil’s advocates are the same people who never want to be wrong. They play it safe by criticizing ideas, but they do not take risks or put their own ideas on the table. Instead, they may say things like, “I’m not here to solve it.” They are not creators, they are naysayers. Problems and solutions together are welcomed. Devil’s advocates at any level in the organization need not apply.
4. Ensure innovation programs have executive support and investment across the entire development process.
New products and services require investment to design and flourish. In the agency world, that means people dedicated to product or service development are not billable because they are designing future revenue streams. They will need technology and tools, trademarks, patents, marketing, and sales support to bring a product to life. It goes far beyond creating a stack of wireframes or ideas. To succeed, executives must commit to the full product development journey, ensuring teams have the tools and resources to realize the product/service and market it.
Once new products and services are developed, ensure that marketing, sales, and business development teams are held accountable to promote, launch, and sell the product. Did your sales teams proactively reach out to their existing clients and partners to set up demos, secure pilot programs, or sell this product? Is your sales or business development team measured on generating product demos with new or existing clients? What about selling the new products and services the company has invested in developing? If not, you are likely leaving money on the table and missing out on opportunities.
5. Distinguish innovation measures of success.
One of the biggest mistakes executives make is measuring their innovation teams the same as they measure sales or product teams within the organization. Innovation teams are creating new businesses, revenue streams, products, and services that empower sales and marketing teams to drive growth. They need a safe place and budget to do that.
Smart executives ensure their innovation teams are not measured on archaic success metrics like “billable time” or “number of sales.” Rather, they look at a collection of success metrics, such as designing products/services that advance new and existing businesses, the number of new-to-company or “company-first” opportunities, new intellectual property that is owned, patented, or trademarked by the company, new conversations and lead generation driven from new innovations, and new partners to accelerate offerings, as well as elevating the brand in new spaces, places, and publications.
6. Finally, know your limits.
Sometimes things don’t work out. It’s important to know when to stop investing in partnerships, areas of the product that might not be working, marketing that’s in effect, or overall business if it’s not living up to your goals, mission, and vision. There is a huge value in learning from failure, knowing your limits, and taking on the next challenge ahead.
Director of Strategy, Product Innovation uncovering cultural trends, designing next-generation product innovations and connected experiences