No one starts off at the top. Even the world’s most successful enterprises were once nothing more than good ideas waiting to take shape. But what is it that separates billion-dollar concepts from mere pipe dreams? Often the element that bridges the gap between intention and success is innovation.
At its most basic, innovation is the act of introducing something new — be it an idea, product or simply an original way of doing things. But for businesses, innovation takes on increased significance. Innovation gives organizations an opportunity to stand out from their competition and expand into untapped markets. It allows them to fill customer needs that are not being met. It establishes brands as avant-garde pioneers, pushing back boundaries and building the future. In short, innovation leads to company growth.
But innovation is more of a concept than a concrete goal, and that can make it a difficult objective to pin down. Here, we explore 10 innovative concepts that companies of all sizes can build upon to help promote increased success.
1. Have a Unique Vision
Where do you want your company to be in the future? How do you plan on getting there? Business growth is the natural result of identifying and achieving goals. But to do that innovatively you need to have a clear objective in mind of the unique position you want your business to occupy.
Don’t simply aim to copy the ideas of successful competitors, as doing so will (at best) only allow you to get as far as they have. Instead, take your innovative ideas and use them to build a one-of-a-kind vision statement describing your company’s purpose and objectives. Then, with your manifesto in hand, outline the path that will take you there by drafting your mission statement. This can be an inspiring process, allowing you and your team to articulate what makes your business special and what it is destined to become. It will also give you a better understanding of the kinds of strategies you will need to employ or revise to get to where you want to be.
2. Take Competitor Research Further
Innovation, by definition, means doing something new or in a new way. As such, one of the first things you’ll need to do as you establish your business is evaluate your competition. This includes identifying the organizations who occupy similar market niches as the one that you’ll be targeting, but it also goes much further than that. To facilitate growth, you need an accurate picture of what competitors are doing that works. Perhaps even more importantly, you should concentrate on what they aren’t doing and how your business might improve upon their best ideas to create a more innovative offering.
Effective competitor research can help you better define your own business, helping you differentiate your vision from what has already been established. With this information, you can further refine your own objectives and form a more detailed and useful business stratgey. Performed correctly, your competitor research gives you the opportunity to match your competition’s greatest strengths while avoiding their weaknesses and setting your organization apart as something new and different.
3. Invest in the Right People
Even the best map is useless without some means of getting to where you’re going. And, unless you’re building a company of one without any intention of expanding your workforce, you’re going to need the right people to help you achieve your vision. A dependable staff of top talent is an investment in your future growth. The flip side of the coin is that if you skimp on investing in the right people and instead go with less-expensive (and thus less-experienced or less-talented) options, not only will they likely slow your company’s growth, they’ll probably also end up costing you more in the long run.
Of course, if you don’t have enough startup capital to hire top talent, you might feel like you’re stuck. Working capital loans may be the answer. With working capital loans from National Funding you have access to the funding you need to bring on the people who are a match for your innovative ideas. To grow business in today’s competitive landscape and keep your valuable hires, you’ll also need resources available to reward top performers (which working capital loans can help provide).
4. Build a Unique Brand Personality
Your brand is more than just the logo that adorns your company’s stationery; it’s the complete set of human characteristics that can be attributed to your organization. To put it another way, your brand personality describes how your customers and others see your business.
That personality shines through in everything your organization does — from tone and language in advertising, through the feel of marketing campaigns, to interactions with competitors and beyond. And just as the old saying states that people will always prefer to do business with friends, today’s customers tend to gravitate towards organizations that they feel they know and that have brand personalities worth remembering.
A unique and engaging brand personality can help a company stand out just as much as a unique product offering. This is because the brand personality defines the interactions of the company, and a memorable, positive customer interaction is much more likely to inspire future business than something that is just up to industry standards. When building an innovative brand personality, start by identifying your core values and deciding what you want your organization’s identity to be. Then, research your intended audiences and tailor that identity to match their needs. Finally, figure out how you want your brand to communicate. Your brand voice is an opportunity to showcase your unique brand personality, and create lasting impressions that will drive business growth.
5. Focus on Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
We live in an era of unrestricted buying freedom, where customers need only open a web browser to have access to products and services from around the globe. With that freedom come certain complications. For one thing, it’s no longer enough for businesses to scrape by on the benefits of being the closest to their audiences geographically; when the whole world is only a click away, miles really don’t mean all that much. Instead, successful businesses are those that identify what it is about their products or services that is not available from competitors. This unique value proposition (UVP) should be at the forefront of your mind throughout all of your customer interactions.
Identifying your UVP is facilitated by your initial competitor research. As you find the areas that your business excels at (and any where they might be lacking), you will develop a clearer idea of what makes your brand uniquely valuable. You can then bring that UVP to the forefront of your lead generation, advertising, marketing and growth strategies.
6. Connect with Your Audience on Their Terms
No customer wants to be treated like a number — or worse, a stepping stone on your path to success. They want to be treated like people. And while most businesses will gladly pay lip service to this ideal, there aren’t nearly as many organizations that live it. The good news is that when companies put in the extra effort to connect with their customers on a personal level, it can be a major differentiator in terms of business growth.
What does it take to personalize customer interactions? In many cases, it requires organized and accessible customer records. By keeping track of customer names, past and ongoing issues, purchase histories, interests and other relevant information, you will have the resources available to tailor your messaging and services to their specific needs. More importantly, you’ll be able to communicate with your customers as individuals, which in and of itself is a truly innovative concept.
7. Expand Your Online Presence
We’ve already addressed the importance of personalized communication, but it’s worth recognizing the special place that webpages, social media, and blogs have in connecting businesses with customers. A company’s webpage is often the first place a customer goes when they want to understand what the organization is all about. At the same time, those who reach out on social media to interact with their preferred business are demonstrating real investment, and giving those businesses a clear shot at understanding their audiences’ interests. Unfortunately, when a company’s online presence isn’t up to par, those same customers will quickly turn their attention elsewhere.
As you build your business, don’t put off optimizing your website or social media accounts. Investing in your online presence early will help you overcome many of the initial hurdles to sustained growth, and will also give customers a reason to choose your products or services over those of your competition. And, if you need additional finances to cement a powerful online presence, consider taking out a small business loan from National Funding.
8. Evaluate and Eliminate Risks
Risk is ever present in business; learning not to worry too much about the things you can’t control is a healthy way to avoid losing your sanity. But there are many risks to business growth that you actually can do something about. Identifying, minimizing and eliminating these risks early on will give you the freedom to concentrate more energy on business strategy, ideas and innovation.
Work with your business insurance provider to determine what risks might potentially impact your business. These may be as simple as professional service risks, or as complex and damaging as data theft. Once you’ve determined what sort of dangers your business faces, you can then prioritize them based on their potential severity, and the likelihood of each occurring. Finally, put strategies and contingency plans in place to help ensure business continuity in the event that these risks become actual situations.
9. Partner Up
Some business leaders have a tendency to think of everyone who isn’t their customer as their competition. In reality, it doesn’t always have to be you vs. the world. An innovative approach to business growth is to find companies with similar values and initiatives, and then to form mutually beneficial partnerships. Business partnerships give you an opportunity to significantly expand your customer base, reach new markets, increase the value of your product and service offerings and gain access to new supply chains. And they can also accelerate innovation.
They say that two heads are better than one, and when you form a strategic partnership, you are essentially doubling your creative power to think innovatively. Collaborating on product lines, sharing resources and working together to make important decisions, strategic partners have access to the experience and expertise of both companies — potentially opening up new doors for business growth. This same boost to innovation can also be achieved through buying out smaller businesses.
10. Put Customer Satisfaction First
Innovation for business growth isn’t always about finding the next big thing. Often it’s about understanding and keeping up with customer expectations, even when those expectations are shifting. This means constantly soliciting feedback, reviewing processes and making revisions where needed. It means always placing personalization first in your messaging. It means innovating new ways to serve the people who keep you in business. It may seem obvious, but if business growth is your goal, then you’re going to need the support of your customer base to make it happen. Put your creative energies to work and make customer satisfaction your top priority, and your audiences will reward you with their patronage.
If you’re just following the crowd, you’ll never take the lead. Business innovation gets you ahead of the pack, and demonstrates to your customers that you have something unique, valuable and one of a kind to offer them. National Funding can help you get the resources to help you pursue your most innovative ideas, and we will stand with your as you expand and grow. After all, every good business was once just a good idea; National Funding has the assets you need to turn your best ideas into reality.
Ready to make the jump from innovation to growth? Talk to one of our loan specialists today!