By: Collin Holmes
Running a business is tough, no matter what industry you’re in. Retaining loyal customers and remaining relevant are some of the biggest challenges faced by today’s business owners. Fortunately, you’re not alone and your company is not the first to navigate these waters.
Here are some factors to consider when making important decisions regarding innovation and growth:
One of your most important goals should be to fully understand your marketplace. If you want to grow your business and don’t know where to start, this is the place to begin. The key to figuring out how to provide more value for your customers is to know who they are and what their needs are. Social media chatter and online reviews can offer clues as to how well you’re doing and how you can better serve them.
Remember that your competitors may have already found ways to grow that could eventually put you out of business. For example, they may have found cheaper suppliers, enabling them to set lower prices. Although you could try to beat them at their own game, you might end up sacrificing quality. An alternative might be to revamp your marketing strategy by emphasizing the quality of your own products, which would justify your premium prices.
Your business model dictates how you actually sell your products or services. Because of today’s rapid technological advances, many business models have become obsolete, forcing companies to either change their ways or become obsolete. Some changes to consider include new ways of selling or pricing, as well as new approaches to ideas, management and information.
New products and services
One thing every company should strive for is improving their products or services. This can be as easy as making improvements to existing products or as difficult as inventing new ones before your competitors do. An updated design to an older product is sometimes all that’s needed to pull a company out of a rut. Just be sure to get feedback from your customers before making drastic changes, to make sure you’re making the right ones.
With so much focus on sales and competition, the operational side of a business is often overlooked when seeking innovative solutions. Thoroughly analyze how efficiently your company operates and how effectively it delivers solutions to your customers. Does anyone have any ideas on better techniques, processes or systems that can improve quality? Spend some time with the employees in the trenches to see what ideas they might have. It would be a shame to miss out on a practical suggestion, just because it was overlooked by upper management.
Remember that not all technological improvements are sudden and revolutionary. Many of them are incremental in nature, such as when manual processes are gradually automated. It may be years or decades before the transformational effects of these minor innovations are noticed on a large scale. Sometimes changes are made in a series of logical steps, according to a predetermined timeline with goals to meet along the way.
Times have changed and companies are no longer limited to serving those in their immediate area. Technology has made it possible to source materials from the furthest corners of the globe, turn them into usable products and deliver them to customers around the world in record time. Some of the best innovations involve coming up with new ways to add value to the product before it reaches the consumer end of the chain. You might also consider manufacturing small parts for your products, rather than purchasing them from a distant supplier. This could save both time and money.
Finally, consider whether changes in the workplace environment itself could improve the way employees think and work. Even those at the lowest rungs of the company ladder spend at least a third of their waking hours at the work and it’s easy for prevailing attitudes to pass from one person to another, whether they’re positive or not. Think of new ways to motivate employees and keep them interested in the work they’re doing, such as opening channels they can use to introduce their own ideas. The entire workplace culture benefits when everyone feels connected and involved.
Regardless of what types of innovations you find most relevant in your business, they won’t do anything for you until you decide to implement them. Management can spend countless hours brainstorming, but at some point you must commit to taking action. The alternative is to join AOL, Blockbuster and countless other companies that failed to reinvent themselves in time for coming changes.
By Collin Holmes
About the author
Collin Holmes, founded Chatmeter, Inc in 2009 and serves as Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Holmes is a graduate of the University of California, Riverside and graduated with an MBA from San Diego State University. Prior to Chatmeter, Mr. Holmes served as Vice President of Product Management and Director of Product Marketing for xAD, Inc. (LocalAdXchange) (also known as V-enable). Mr. Holmes comes with a couple decades of overseeing and developing product roadmaps, business development and managing the process of driving applications to market.
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