4 Tips for Soaring Past Your Competition
In the beginning most companies were small and nimble.
The new motto of innovative organizations should be
‘catch me if you can.’
Confronted with a constantly shifting array of Customers, competitors, strategic alliances, as well as increased market volatility, the only hope for corporate survival lies in developing the ability to move and change as rapidly as your competitive environment.
It is time to think and act beyond the bounds of conventional wisdom and make money from creativity.
If you don’t make money from innovative solutions, stop wasting your time.
Beware of distractions disguised as opportunities.
Since it has become exceedingly difficult to see more than a few months into the future in the industry, companies that want to be successful have two alternatives:
1) They can achieve a commanding position in the marketplace and dictate the changing rules of the game through creative innovation.
2) They can develop the ability to react immediately to those who do.
The winners are the ones who have the determination to move forward with their innovative ideas. Unfortunately, in most corporations today, Employees are swiftly punished for failure and not adequately rewarded for success. The traditional suppliers’ companies paradigm hobbles creative thinking, with an entrenched culture that simply makes the decisions that are necessary, but doesn’t ‘rock the boat.’
However, a business plan that is defensive and designed merely to keep up with the competition, is not good enough. The strong emotions that feed our competitive spirit should be used to promote innovation. We must lead with our minds and follow with our hearts. Ideas are the spark that ignites the fire of creative innovation, and innovation is a business leader’s best offensive weapon.
When you get right down to it, only four viable strategies for coping with this accelerated pace of change exist:
1) Continuous change and improvement.
2) Innovative thinking.
3) Creative marketing.
4) Speed of implementation.
Of course, one of the greatest threats to developing this kind of organization quick strike capability is the ago old syndrome of “paralysis by analysis.” Be aware that more and more analysis will not help. The only sane response to an increasing complex, fast changing world is to establish procedures that can be mobilized almost as quickly as the changing business realities around you.
Here’s how to do that…
#1) Continually Change and Improve.
Most people find change, particularly rapid and unpredictable change, frightening and upsetting. But turbulence and change are not going away; instead, they will become more pronounced. Change happens and there is nothing your company can do to stop it – nor should they. In change there is inherent opportunity just waiting to be discovered by those who are quick enough and bold enough to take advantage of it. Therefore, it’s time to readjust your thinking to understand that you should be causing change, not reacting to it.
Your best chance to succeed; the competitive marketplace is to be the one who’s driving most of the changes. Of course, not everyone gets to be the leader. So it is incumbent on the rest of us to do the next best thing, namely develop super-fast reflexes that can respond quickly, turn on a dime, and make near instantaneous adjustments to the turbulence of the marketplace. There is simply no alternative if you want to stay competitive.
While we can’t slow the pace of change, we can use many strategies to speed up our own corporate processes. The only effective response to rapidly changing conditions is to develop the capacity to move at ultra-high speed – in other words, increase your operating velocity. While no one can realistically expect to move as rapidly as the constantly changing environment around us, those who can come closest will be best positioned to survive.
#2) Think Innovatively.
Opportunities will be waiting for you in today’s business world if you can overcome resistance to new ways of thinking. What stops most companies from innovation is hesitation due to uncertainty. But when you cast aside uncertainty and start to ask “what if?” By doing this, you will unleash the unlimited possibilities of innovative problem solving that result in new profits for your organization.
As you search for innovative solutions to your business challenges, consider the following:
- Have I defined the problem accurately?
- Am I objective in my thinking?
- Is there a need for this solution that is economically viable?
- What is the product of my product?
- How does my product solve my Customers’ problem?
- Am I avoiding issues that must be addressed?
- Does my thinking recognize its’ imperfections and liabilities?
- Have I substituted assumptions for facts?
- What are the weaknesses of this solution?
- Is the solution intellectually honest?
- Am I applying the same standards to myself as I demand from others?
- Is this something others can use? Want?
- Will others pay for this product etc.?
- What would happen if our competition came up with this first?
- What if we don’t act quickly?
- What have we done to partner with our Customer instead of merely ‘selling’ him our product without regard to understanding how it will impact the achievement of the business goals of our Customers?
The key is to recognize the competitive power of speed and to turn the pursuit of innovation into a central organizing principle in your company and career.
#3) Market Creatively.
One essential practice to integrate into your business strategy is superior Customer communication. You can strengthen your Customer relationships by introducing your business innovations without technical jargon. We all have seen new products introduced with a fanfare of technical terms so complex that companies may as well be speaking a foreign language to their Customers. You can avoid this mistake by talking to your Customer in terms they can easily understand. They will be grateful for your ability to communicate clearly, and you will be giving them intelligible information they can relay to others in their organization.
When giving a presentation to a Customer, you may be tempted to spend time telling them how good your new product is; but this is really a waste of their time. Instead, tell them how much better they will be when they use it. Every communication should demonstrate the benefit to the Customer, not congratulate the seller. Use words like “you” and “your” more than “we” and “our” to keep their interest and keep the emphasis on them.
Make sure your Customer has a “Call To Action” list. This list shows them step-by-step what needs to be done to requisition your product. If prospects don’t know when or how they are supposed to buy from you, then you have a problem, because they simply will not try to buy. Remember, innovation is how we make money from creativity, but your product can’t be recognized as innovative if no one buys it. Benjamin Franklin may have discovered electricity, but it is the person who invented the electric meter that is making all the money.
To convince your Customer, leverage the power of the new information technologies by delivering your materials into the right hands at the right time. Websites and email are wonderful communication tools, but it is essential that they are easy to access or download, because your Customer is probably pressed for time. Try to live up to your promises. If you make a commitment, deliver. If you are delayed, communicate. Customers are not mind readers. They don’t understand that you are waiting for answers from your factory. Communicate often. Tell Customers you have not forgotten. Inform Customers that you are working for ‘them’ and they will work with you. Communication is a forgotten art these days. Reinvent yourself and become a reliable communicator.
#4) Implement Swiftly.
Just as action ultimately accomplishes far more than pure analysis, speed will beat perfection every time in today’s business environment. Because failure is intricately interwoven with success, you must create a safety zone in which everyone understands that failures will not curtail attempts to succeed. Learn from your failures and then quickly overcome them.
You’re far better off being 80 percent right and first to market than 100 percent right and six months late. Implement now and perfect later. Try something, test it, learn from it, and try it again quickly! As an example, Bic® Pen often introduced products while it biggest competitor, Gillette®, was still field-testing. The result was that Bic owned the disposable razor market first, as well as the inexpensive ballpoint pen market, while their competition refined product features. Kodak and Polaroid missed the impact of digital photography. Motorola fell behind the technology curve of its competitors. In each case their Customers moved to the competition because there is no longer brand equity or long-term relationships. Customers go where innovation exists.
Let’s be perfectly clear about what’s at stake here. For those who really can do things faster than their competitors, the rewards may be extraordinary, including:
- Ownership of the de facto industry standards.
- Lasting position on the leading edge of innovation by incorporating technological advances.
- Rapid responses to market opportunities.
- Opportunity to claim premium prices.
- Attractive and strategic distribution channels.
- Higher staff morale and commitment.
- Off-balance competitors, bewildered and put on the defensive by your constant, quick-paced innovations.