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Innovation for Innovation’s Sake?

September 27th, 2016

innovate2Early last year, I wrote a post about a blue-tooth frying pan that notifies you when it’s time to flip your pancakes. Silly!

Well… the “innovators” are at it again! In the October 2016 issue of Fast Company, there’s a small article on Nike’s new self-tying shoes! Whuut?!

Now, if these were being developed to help frail seniors or those with physical disabilities… I kind of get it. But they weren’t. They seem to have a somewhat less noble purpose, according to a Nike engineer, “You can feel it tighten, hear the motor run, and see the laces [move]. It’s a shoe that ignites the senses.” Seriously?!

My purpose in highlighting this “innovation” is to ask those in our industry… are you innovating your products and services as a way to help your clients solve their problems better, faster or less expensively? Or are you innovating just to have something new to talk about? Are you creating something that you think is “innovative” but that no one really cares about because it doesn’t improve their situation in any meaningful way?

One of the real challenges in our industry is for firms to truly differentiate themselves from their competitors. So, what do they do? Often, they take an existing product/service/technology/methodology, put a minor spin on it, give it a brand name and then announce it as ‘new,’ ‘unique’ or ‘industry-leading.’

And if the market buys it… well, good for them. But they shouldn’t be too surprised if their latest innovation just sort of flounders.

So, rather than innovate for innovation’s sake, let me suggest the following… spend some time talking to and learning from your clients (and prospects). Don’t ask them what you should do. Instead, ask them what challenges they face and what problems they are trying to solve. Then, based on what you learn, develop and go to market with the products and services that they need and want – even if those services are older, boring or traditional.

Remember, your clients don’t care about what you can do… they care about what you can do for them.

Good luck and good marketing.

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