Monday, February 22, 2010

Innovation is the Only Way to Win

If you have a fish tank full of the same breed, you have witnessed what ecologists call the competitive-exclusion principle.

Basically, it means that while you’re sharing a relaxing cup of coffee in front of the tank, willing your anxiety away, the school of fish on the other side of the glass are actually doing the same thing! They’re whooshing from one side of the tank to the other, trying to gobble up all the floating flakes you’ve trickled onto the surface. As one fish gets a glimmer of another cache of flakes floating down, it quickly shifts gears and zooms over to the new buffet trying to outdo the crowd, inspiring the remaining fish to follow suit. On and on they go, back and forth across the landscape.

Until one day you notice that a lone fish has broken from the pack and figured out that if he goes in the opposite direction of the crowd, he will be at a buffet alone! Voila! – exclude the competition. Let’s look at a few ways you can exclude your competition.

1. Avoid Creative Destruction As humans we’re often lulled into a sense of complacency by our own desires; for comfort, for a large bank account, for a nice car. And when we reach these goals, we forget that it was creativity that brought the innovations. Remember that the goal of business is not to reach a plateau and stay there. The goal of the business is to develop your creativity bone so that you will be able to consistently meet the market demand with innovative products and services. When you achieve this flexibility, you’ll sleep better at night knowing you can meet every challenge with creativity.

2. Build Change Into the Business Model The forces of change will bring new and varied opportunities to your door. If you and your business model are accommodating and aware, you can open the door and accept the opportunity to increase revenue and the legacy of your business. You can build change into the business model in a variety of ways, starting with rewarding your team for coming up with new ideas, encouraging experimentation, and talking as a group about what’s going on in the market place that is new and exciting.

3. Conduct a Competitive Analysis This is a continuous activity that should have your radar on full time. It’s a good activity to engage with your team as well. Many eyes can be more thorough than just two. Assign a media to each team member and meet regularly to analyze their findings: websites, newspaper and magazine ads, service menus, job ads, press releases, and even the local speaking circuit through women’s organizations and the Chamber of Commerce can provide knowledge as to where your competitors are showing up and why. Using the information from the competitive analysis, you can guess what other business are doing (and not doing), and perhaps even what they’re planning. Look for patterns and anomalies.

4. Get Pro-Active Now it’s time to get pro-active in defining your brand to exclude the competition. If salon and spas A-D in your region are all focused on out doing each other in the quality of their customer service, you not only have to meet the standard they have set, but you also have to discover your unique niche. You have to address an unmet need with a service or product that is not currently available through your competitors, and not likely to be. Many salon and spas are attempting this niche strategy with private label products, others with regional specific experiences. I’ve heard of a few big city salons and spas focusing specifically on recruiting Star List stylists, while a rural salon is spotlighting 2 young color specialists passionate about bringing London chic to the country side.

5. Speak Up and Be Consistent Whatever your unique niche is, your final step is to start communicating your brand to the public. This too requires innovation and consistency that your team should engage in. Every opportunity they and you come in touch with the public should reveal the brand, in your clothes, attitude, stories, behavior. This is why alignment is so very important at this phase. Your public will know that you have chosen the wrong niche if you’ve selected bringing London chic to the countryside if all your stylists look like Ms. Moffit. Choosing to innovate with a new market niche requires alignment across the organization. Engaging the team to develop and own it will make the transition more easeful, and longer lasting.

We’d love to hear your stories of transformation with innovation in a new market niche, or innovative ways of communicating with your clientele. Leave your comments, or call a Milady coach to discuss how we can help you build innovation into your business model. 800-998-2700.

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