What is Innovation?

As a marketer, business person, or artist, you need to be innovative in order to stand out from the crowd, get new customers and convince those customers to return in the future. But what actually is innovation? It’s a word tossed around a lot but not defined very much.

In simple terms, it’s the ability to see, understand and act on what others miss. Nick Skillicorn believes that innovation is “Turning an idea into a solution that adds value from a customer’s perspective.” Gijs Van Wulfen will tell you that innovation is “a feasible relevant offering such as a product, service, process or experience with a viable business model that is perceived as new and is adopted by customers.” From these definitions we can see that innovation is something new and useful that sets you apart.

So how do you become innovative? How can you find solutions for your customers that they will adopt quickly and love you for? The key step is figuring out what your customers already need and are searching for. Then, all you have to do is service that need.

How Do You Figure Out What People Need?

Figure out what your customers need. It could be something they are already asking for or something they didn’t know they needed. It’s easier said than done. How do you go about doing that?

  1. Talk to your customers. You can use comment cards or email follow up to ask your customers what problems they are having that you can solve. If you run a face-to-face business, ask them directly. Develop reward systems for their feedback.
  2. Get technical. You can use Google Analytics in conjunction with your website to see what search terms bring your customers to your site. You can then use those popular terms to research what else those kinds of people are searching for. Drawing conclusions based on these search terms can help you anticipate your consumers needs.
  3. Observe feedback. Read comments on your website, social media or review sites. Your customers may love you, but a few may state that what would really drive you over the top in their eyes is one thing. Maybe many people complain about the same little things. How can you overcome those flaws in a creative way that will stay with your customers long after the interaction is over?
  4. Consider other companies. Look at what the competition is doing. Perhaps there is a business or company that does the same thing you do, but gives customers a free gift with purchase. Maybe they have a popular rewards program or some other value-adding customer interaction tool. Adopt a similar idea but try to find ways to increase the value. Look at customer's you deal with as a consumer. What do you really appreciate and value about working with them?
  5. Know who your customers are. There are probably things you can offer your customers that they don’t even know they need. You can discover these needs by studying the people who are most likely to work with you. If most of your clientele are small business owners who are just starting out, it may be a good idea to offer them resources they could find useful like an ebook or webinar.

Once you figure out innovative ways to solve problems, you can find the best places to begin. Your productivity will thrive as you work toward these new, unique, and innovative solutions.

Photo by Michal Jarmoluk