Updated: Nov 25, 2022
What is an innovation strategy?
Where the reactive response to the unstructured nature of necessity meets the proactive projecting of tactical planning as a foundational approach to managing innovation in an ever-changing environment, the result is an innovation strategy. Many consider innovation to be represented by two different ends of an innovative continuum, but in fact, these categorizations (radical & incremental) reflect steady-state innovation types that could have had their conceptual beginning from any myriad of inputs. The ideal innovation strategy will include both categories of innovation as a comprehensive approach to establishing, cultivating, or bolstering an innovative culture in the near and long terms. An innovation strategy will also be intimately tied to the vision and goals of the organization to ensure the business leaders are thinking inside the box.
What is CX?
CX is the cumulative effect of the multiple interactions that a consumer has with a brand’s product and/or service along their journey to getting the jobs they have done. I've written quite a bit about CX and determined through my research that CX is a key driver of growth, sustainability, and value creation in business environments. It is also found to be an integral determinant in the innovativeness of an organization as the effects of its enhancement combined with those in Employee Experience (EX) have been shown to positively influence the organization's ability to consistently generate new ideas, products, and services.
Why are they important to SMBs?
Innovation is one of the keys to growth in SMBs but in many instances, SMB leaders find it difficult to innovate because it's risky and costly. In SMBs, any activity that is not generating revenue immediately or in the very, very near future, either has an amazing ROI or is irrelevant. In short, SMB leaders can't afford to gamble on an innovative idea that has no guarantees of being profitable. So that leaves reacting to environmental factors as the only option for SMB leaders for innovation. While many SMB leaders are absolutely comfortable with this approach, it's not ideal and certainly not proactive. This approach takes the counter; a systematic approach to innovation off the table while definitely preventing any consistent generation of new ideas or the regular cultivation of an innovative culture from occurring. Our work at Stratascension suggests a path to an innovation strategy, just like any other strategy, combines short and longer-term thinking, ideation, and goal setting to produce a framework for developing innovations in and on the business. In SMBs, the flow of innovative intent starts from the leaders and is manifested in customer interactions. While this may seem ancillary to the primary goal of generating revenue, it's important to note that whatever you can see you can manage. Customers are totally fine with SMB leaders doing business as usual because savvy buyers will migrate to where they can have a unique and enjoyable experience. In addition, as competitive as the current SMB landscape is, SMB leaders do themselves a disservice if they are not consistently reviewing and enhancing their CX pre, during, and post transactions. This post discusses 5 reasons why CX should be in your innovation strategy.
Reasons why CX should be in your innovation strategy
These are in no particular order but reflect important reasons to consider incorporating CX in your innovation strategy.
1 - It will have the greatest impact on your bottom-line revenue. If we consider the LTV of customers, obtaining the trust for them to make one purchase should be the very minimum result of the relationship. While any strategy considers the future and possible environmental challenges that the future may present, a truly effective strategy considers the execution necessary to bridge the gap between where the business is and where it wants to be.
For example, a standard goal of any going concern is to increase revenue yet the strategy will outline why and how the company will go about increasing revenue. By including CX refinement in your innovation strategy, you increase the chances of increasing revenue whether pre or post-transaction. The concept of the LTV of a customer fundamentally involves longer-term thinking because it examines the potential value of a customer over the course of the buyer/provider relationship. In fact, the true LTV of a customer actually has an unlimited time span because while the buyer may be an individual, the value derived from that buyer can come from several sources (i.e., friends, family, colleagues). Customer LTV is one of the most underutilized results of CX refinement.
2 - Best way to express the innovative intent of leadership. As I mentioned previously,
the innovative intent of the business' leadership will be manifested in its interaction with its customers. More than any resource consideration relative to an innovation strategy, the leader's innovative intent is a key initiator of the application of the strategy. While leaders hold a major load of the responsibility for developing an innovative culture, employees must own their part in the innovative intent. In many SMBs, employees are the first point of contact for customers and the first expression of the leadership's innovative intent. By capturing innovative intent through practical tactics to refine CX, the innovation strategy becomes the vehicle by which innovative intent can be expressed and measured.
3 - A controlled environment for experimentation. Innovation involves risk and new ideas, products, and services are a byproduct of thinking differently about how customers interact with your brand. To have an innovation strategy that omits the value of failure is effectively negligent on the part of the leaders. However, instead of attempting to remove all risk by doing nothing innovative at all, let's take a temperate approach to manage the risk of innovation in an environment of limited resources. By examining how we collect leads, convert them to clients, and transition them into advocates in new, unexpected, or collaborative ways, we create a fertile environment for experimentation. Purposeful, customer-centric businesses stretch into the uncertainty of innovation and the opportunity of failures to find value for their customers in a unique and useful way. By including CX in your innovation strategy, the parameters from experimentation can be at least tentatively set, adjusted, and redrawn (if necessary) to limit risk exposure.
4-Low Cost High ROI way to ramp up employee engagement. A strategy that calls for the refinement of the CX has to include the involvement of employees; as the first point of contact in small businesses, they are uniquely positioned to make not only a first impression but also receive frank as well as immediate feedback. The most innovative companies engage their employees in a way that encourages them to flourish in their roles as they contend with environmental and operational forces that oppose their entrepreneurial thinking. Central to promoting innovation and cultivating an innovative culture is the leader mobilizing the members of the entrepreneurial and operational groups toward innovation while enforcing the rules of engagement and boundaries of the adaptive space. (See blog post on Adaptive Space here.) By including CX refinement in the innovation strategy, leaders can, directly and indirectly, engage employees to perform beyond their job description to meet customer needs in new and dynamic ways.
5-Easiest way to tie going deeper with customers to business goals = There is a quote by Steve Jobs, that says, "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new." I somewhat agree with him because you can't just ask customers what they want and scurry off to
try to make it, no matter how innovative their desire may be. But the idea of asking customers questions about not only their interaction with your brand but also how you can improve their interaction with the brand so that it exceeds their current and future needs. While an innovation strategy may include CX, the execution will involve going deeper than just a response to a question or survey about meeting customers' desires. Understanding the customer's experience consists of the qualitative aspects of the interactions, including how did the product/service make the customer feel, or what traits did the interaction elicit, or how would they describe what they were thinking as they interacted with the brand, that could be used to develop improvements or entirely new offerings. Including CX in your innovation strategy positions the business to reveal, collect, and analyze insights that align with business goals for innovations.
An innovation strategy is an expression of the company's vision and innovative goals in the form of tactics that close the gap between where the company is and where it aspires to go. CX is the effect of all of the touches that a customer may have with a product or service in their desire to meet a need. CX can be categorized into 3 areas: pre-purchase, during purchase, and post-purchase which also represent domains of exploration, to which innovative intent can be applied. By including CX in your innovation strategy, business leaders become proactive about innovation in a systematic low-risk, high reward manner that engages employees to go beyond their job description to support an agenda that is bigger than themselves. Innovative intent can't be wasted but it can be misapplied. With the consideration and inclusion of CX in an innovation strategy, business leaders have a game plan and tactical approach to drive both innovativeness and revenue to new levels.
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STRATASCENSION was founded on the notion that business is relational and growth is achieved through the deepening of all the micro connections between people, processes, tools, & performance. We want to help small businesses enhance these connections and leverage them for transformation.