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Business Innovation: How do you stand out in a crowded market?

Business Innovation - A pitch meeting in an office.

So, you want to start your own business. You have the resources, the team, and, most importantly, the passion to take your project to success. This factor is a huge driver for many entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, as soon as you start with your project, you realize something: there are tons of people doing the same.

Even though many have a remarkable advantage on your growing or new business, what is the solution? Throw the towel and look for a less competitive niche, although it isn't quite your cup of tea.

Competitiveness will always exist, no matter what niche you choose. Still, there is a tool that can help you stand out, and no money can really buy it and make it real. It's more a job of creativity, a spike of audacity, and an eagle eye for business opportunities. The thing you need to stand out from the crowd is "Business Innovation."

We can look at "innovation" as bringing new products to attract a new audience or a new necessity. Still, going deeper into this topic, this quality can benefit your company more significantly if you understand its fundamentals and why and how you should apply it. A McKinsey study showed that mastering innovation can generate economic profit that is 2.4 times higher than that of other players.

In another study from McKinsey, we see how 80 percent of executives mentioned "innovation" as their top three priorities. However, business owners need help to innovate or misapply this concept. In a desperate attempt to outmatch competitors, some companies bring new but unnecessary products or changes, making the situation even worse for them. Since you want to avoid this from happening to your business, we will give you the theory around business innovation and some valuable tips to make your business stand out from the vast competition.

What is business innovation, and why is it important?

Innovation shouldn't be "innovation" just to be creative and free. Innovative ideas are good because they are helpful.

With this word in mind, we can say that business innovation is creating a new product, service, or business model that is new but, more than anything else, valuable and practical for business operations or consumers. 

Innovation isn't much about creating a "new thing," as we feared disappointing you, but practically everything is created at this point in our world history. Of course, new technologies and socio-political issues change how the world works, but in essence, everything comes from an idea already invented. In the past, we found our news and information in newspapers, and now, we have it all in "X" or Twitter if you aren't still used to this rebranding. Even nowadays, it's so funny how almost every social media platform proves that nothing is innovative, and when one gets to the point of creating "something new," all the other platforms copy it most shamelessly.

So, when dealing with bringing something innovative to your business, it isn't so much of a task of bringing "something new to life", but more of a process of perspective and creativity.

But is "innovation" an abstract concept with no set of rules with it? Well, like "inspiration," the topic of this article can be something that comes from a spark or a sign of life itself, but still, there are some guidelines to catalyze that energy with the 4 Phases of Innovation.

The online course Design Thinking and Innovation by Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar it shows us that this process goes through 4 stages:

  • Clarify: This part goes around deeply studying what is the area we want or need to innovate. For this, it all goes back to the 101 marketing process where you have to study the problem they are facing, how you and other competitors have been solving it, and trying to find a better and more effective way to do it.
  • Ideate: During this phase, you have to throw some ideas on the table to find a better way to deal with this problem. It is a good idea not to force innovation: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it!"
  • Develop: Grab those ideas that have some value and start trying, which solves the problem better.
  • Implement: Take it to action to see how your innovative idea outmatches your competitor's solution.

Following this process, your innovation process should go hand in hand with customer behavior, so you have to follow a human-centered design that addresses aspects like:

  • Desirability: Customers must want this product or have been requesting a change in how your business works.
  • Feasibility: Ideas must go hand in hand with the resources you have. Even in innovation, you can develop a move that can do much for your company with fewer resources. Still, although your entrepreneurial spirit could push you to aim high, it is better to go one step at a time with what you have.
  • Viability: Finally, you have to make an exercise of looking into the future to check if your new idea is sustainable in the long term.

Types of Business Innovation

In what aspects could you renew your business?

Earlier in the article, we mentioned products as one of the main aspects we could innovate within a business, but this is only the tip of the iceberg when we talk about it.

Innovation can come from various corners within your enterprise, and when you acknowledge them there is a higher chance you can identify which one is the perfect match for your business. 

Sustaining innovation.

This is one that we all apply and that goes hand in hand with the natural evolution of all businesses.

Sustained innovation is basically the process of renewing products, services, or processes with small changes that make the experience much better. They are changes that can be upgrades in technology, improve the quality of products, streamline processes or, of course, everything we learn from trial and error.

We can see clear examples of this sustained innovation in companies like Colgate or Gillette, which every year bring a better quality brush or shaver that comes with small innovations that make it more effective.

Radical innovation

Radical innovation is a significant change within your company by creating a product or service that opens a new market or introduces your brand to another audience. This type of innovation may represent more risk for your company, but if it goes well, you can earn more. This is the case of Apple when it took the leap of faith after entering the world of smartphones with the iPhone.

Disruptive innovation.

While it may sound similar to the one above, this type of business renewal looks to create a new market that displaces the existing one, rather than just introducing a new product. In this case, the idea is to create an entirely new market for your business.

Examples of this?

Did you know that before Netflix was the big streaming platform, it was a DVD-by-mail business? 

Soon after, the internet helped this company to look for a more comfortable way to let people watch every movie, while also generating billions of dollars per subscription.

Amazon was a similar case since the platform initially started as a rental book platform, and now, it has spread its reign to almost every corner. Well done, Jeff Bezos!

Architectural innovation

This renewal style looks to modify a product or service to resell it to new markets. A great example is what Apple did in 2014 when the company entered the smartwatch market. They were selling the same product as they used to, just in another form.

Delivery innovation

We could not skip this section without discussing one of the most recent innovation cases.

More than a survival maneuver for almost all existing businesses, the pandemic taught us that we could continue producing even in confinement.

Deliveries became a new source of employment for many people and a more convenient way to order food, a market, or any other range of products.

In this way, we see how innovation is essential during turbulent times.

Types of Innovation

How do you stand out in a crowded market?

If the solution to a highly crowded market is not to be in it, then chances are you wouldn't be able to start any type of business. Successful businesses reproduce rapidly since everyone wants to surf the wave as quickly as possible.

Now, we must put a small disclaimer: It is not necessary to get into a business just because it is fashionable. The driving force behind your venture should be that it is an area you are passionate about and know how to handle.

Entering a business just because of a trendy boom leaves many businesses bankrupt just because they want to join "the party." When we enter something that we really like, it doesn't matter how congested the market is. We all somehow have our own experience and an original way of seeing our industry, which means that we can somehow differentiate ourselves from others.

From then on, we had to do an arduous competition study to know what others were doing, what we could use from what they were doing, and how we could even perfect it.

With this in mind, it is time to move on to those tips that will help you effectively innovate your business.

Understand your unique value.

As we mentioned before, no matter the number of people within your business area, everyone has a unique experience and a different vision of the area they manage. Whether due to cultural context, upbringing, or work experience, you have something that makes you unique, and that is something new that can help you innovate within your business.

It is always good to have a reference point to find your unique values.

Who do you idolize as a person? It can be any type of personality, from your father, who was a very hard-working guy, to Jeff Bezos, who is a business tiger, or Mick Jagger, who is a rockstar.

All these personalities that you admire have an almost subconscious effect on you. They speak of values that you highlight in others and that, in some way, you want to emulate for yourself. So, from each of these idols, you get that key value that you want to implement in your brand's personality. With the three examples we mentioned above, we could say:

  • Effort.
  • Innovation.
  • Be a rockstar (Rebellion, maybe?)

Well, this is an initial step to building a more innovative personality or branding for your brand, but now it is time for you to identify what your personal values are. What is it that makes you unique? How can you transform it into something marketable? For example, let's say you are:

  • Studious: Your company will offer highly verified and trustworthy information, and you will be responsible for demystifying any fake news.
  • Energetic: Your company or your products will seek to encourage audiences to give their all. There is no bad day for you, just a bad attitude, and you come to fix it.
  • Empathic: Your company understands the problems of its audience and does not diminish any of them, even when they may seem simple. Instead, you seek to understand them and resolve them most kindly.

By placing understandable characteristics for you, you can bring a business that does things differently from others, who only put the label on their company, and start doing things the same as others. Learn to eliminate the herd mentality and seek to innovate with what you know from your experience.

Identify areas for improvement.

As an example of sustained innovation, before making a significant change, it is good to ensure that what you already have works. It is recommended that you analyze all aspects of your company, from operations to practices or strategies that are already out of fashion. With this in mind, it is much easier to make the necessary repairs to have a business that, despite innovation, operates at its maximum performance.

From here on, it will be easier to elucidate what is "missing" or "what can be added" for your company. It's like a car that, once in perfect working order, you can see what else can be added, or even, in the best of cases, leave it as it is because that's how it works perfectly.

Embrace technology

It is overwhelming to see what technology is capable of doing today. Virtually everything we thought only humans could do, ChatGPT and countless other new AIs, are already doing it in a matter of seconds.

Although this may hurt our "human ego," the reality - although it is hard to accept - is that we must deal with this and, instead of seeing it as an enemy to defeat, take it as an ally.

For years now, AI or software like Hootsuite or Grammarly have been helping many people who are dedicated to digital marketing. Although ChatGPT could write this article in less than it took the scriptwriter, the idea is not to shrink and throw away the towel. The idea is to see how we can use it to our advantage.

The current economy forces almost everyone to produce content and products at a "social media timeline" pace, where things lose relevance in weeks or even days. Keeping up with this tempo can only be achieved with the help of these technologies, which, beyond doing the work for us, can be a base, like a piece of marble that we will later sculpt to add our human touch. So, regardless of your niche, it is good to see what type of technology can make life more efficient for your work team and yourself.

Business Innovation: Technology.

Now, we want to place another disclaimer in this section.

Many of you probably know what chatbots are: a technology that is sold as 24/7 customer service, an intelligence that will not allow any customer to leave without having their questions 100% answered.

And although chatbots are pretty helpful in customer service, the vast majority still prefer a human who can understand the feelings and behaviors they make us.

In this way, we would never recommend eliminating the human team in customer service since this human-to-human treatment builds good relationships and experiences for your audience.

In this case, you can innovate by offering better customer service since this will leave them with a good taste in their mouth, which causes the word of mouth to expand among their acquaintances.

Final thoughts.

We hope that at the end of this article, you understand that great competition does not impede starting your business. Instead, it is an opportunity to demonstrate how to do things differently.

It is good to choose a niche in which you can handle yourself well and that you understand since this will allow you to see which areas are neglected by the competition, thus surpassing them at their own game.

At Codedesign, we are in charge of helping multiple businesses to exploit their potential. Contact our digital marketing experts to advise you!

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