Expert marketing advice encourages business owners to think deeply in order to solve as many problems as possible for their customers. This is great advice. The majority of purchasing decisions are made based on a few factors, including whether the product will solve their problems.
CustomerThink.com reported results from a 2015 survey revealing just how important innovation is to customers. The study found that perception of innovation plays a huge role in purchasing decisions, and customers are willing to pay a premium for goods and services they perceive as innovative.
To stay on top of the demand for innovation, many business owners and employees attend innovation festivals like Propelify, NY TechDay, and NYC Developer Week. These festivals provide opportunity for business owners to have a breakthrough and make crucial connections for their business.
Although innovating solutions begins with uncertainty as to how it will work out, there is a definite strategy you can use to get started. This strategy involves two main phases. First, you need to identify the problems you want to solve. Then, you need to get into action and start experimenting. This requires a mindset for innovation.
How to identify problems you can solve for your market
To identify problems worth solving, you need to get into your customers’ heads and find out what’s not working, and what their biggest frustrations are. Often, what you’ll find is a collection of related frustrations that are inextricably connected to one root problem.
When you can solve the root of the problem, the string of frustrations will disappear. For this reason, it’s important to identify as many points of frustration as possible before you take any action. You don’t want to waste time trying to resolve individual symptoms that will disappear when you solve the root.
To get into your customers’ heads you can:
- Ask for feedback directly from existing customers
- Join discussion forums and groups that discuss your type of product and document the frustrations expressed by consumers
- Test products made by competitors and find out first hand where they fall short
Once you’ve gathered a list of what frustrates your market, you’ve got the information necessary to start engineering a solution.
Jump in and start experimenting
The only effective way to engineer a solution to a problem is to experiment with potential solutions. This is the process all innovators employ, and the more dedicated you are to finding a solution, the more likely you are to find one.
Innovation is a process
Innovators don’t usually wake up with all of the answers. Solutions come as the result of an ongoing process of trial and error. For instance, when Frenchman Eugène Maréchal repeatedly soaked fabrics in linseed oil, letting them dry between soaks, he was trying to waterproof cotton and other linens.
His method worked, and the fabrics subjected to this process became known as “oilcloth.” This method became a popular way to waterproof decorative French tablecloths, making them stain-resistant and easy to wipe clean.
You can innovate by transforming existing products
In current times, vinyl tablecloths have been introduced as a cheaper alternative to oilcloth, but are considered a health and environmental risk due to the PVC used to make them. Someone realized this and created an alternative option – non-toxic, acrylic-coated tablecloths. The acrylic coating still makes tablecloths stain-resistant and easy to clean, but they’re much safer.
You can innovate with better marketing, too
Sometimes innovation comes in the form of marketing. For example, in 1908, a chocolate cream-filled cookie named Hydrox was introduced and sold exclusively by Sunshine Biscuits. These cookies ruled the sandwich cookie market for four years until National Biscuit (Nabisco) created a knock-off version they called “Oreo.”
With Nabisco’s access to a large marketing budget and a team of professionals, Hydrox never stood a chance. While Hydrox was the original sandwich cookie, Nabisco’s marketing was so good that people think Hydrox is the knock-off.
There are plenty of other examples of name brand products that are actually the knock-off versions of someone’s original creation. Legos copied Kiddiecraft’s self-locking building bricks; ShamWow copied the towels marketed by Billy Mays; and even the movie Finding Nemo was copied from a French children’s book titled Pierrot Le Poisson Clown. (Pierrot The Clownfish). All it took was superior marketing to overtake the original product in each market.
While it’s never a good idea to steal someone else’s idea and copy it directly, the examples above demonstrate the power of marketing. The takeaway is this:
If you’re trying to sell a solution to a problem, how you market your solution matters just as much as the solution itself.