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How to Innovate: A Blueprint for Your Business

Transcript 

Kathy (host):

Welcome back to Help! My Business is Growing, a podcast where we explore how to grow and build a business that is healthy and sustainable. I'm your host, Kathy Svetina. Today, we're going to be talking about business innovation, and usually, people think about innovation as just bringing something new into the market. But you're gonna see in this conversation that I have with Michael Haynes, about how does this really looks like in a small business space, and that innovation is not just bringing new things in the market, it encompasses other things as well. 

 

Kathy (host):  

Michael Haynes is a small business growth specialist. His focus and passion is on empowering CEOs of service-based companies to acquire B2B clients and achieve the growth and impact they seek their business innovation in sales. We're going to be talking about topics such as what actually is innovation? How do you innovate? And most importantly, how do you figure out what you should be focusing on through listening through your customers? Through customers' needs? And how do you make this actionable? How do you actually do it? How do you listen to your customers? And how do you really grow and innovate in your company? So join me as Michael and I talk about the topic of business innovation in a B2B space.

 

Kathy (host):  

Welcome to the show, Michael!

 

Michael (guest):

Thanks for having me, Kathy.

 

Kathy (host):  

You were going to be talking about an important topic for growing business, and that's innovation. And people, when they hear innovation, they usually think about something that either has to do with technology or something that's really completely revolutionary. But you look at innovation differently.  I would like to get your definition of innovation, what it is, and why is it important for a business, especially for small businesses, and for growing businesses?

 

Michael (guest):  

First of all, so innovation, ... particularly in the context of small and medium businesses, and pretty for all businesses, but for small, medium businesses, you need to think about innovation in terms of business innovation, or sometimes referred to as cross-functional innovation. And by innovation, we're talking about making new introductions, and or improvements into your business. Okay, and now, when you're innovating, making those improvements, and or introductions, that can be things that are just, incremental, new to your company. They could be things that are new to your industry that you're adopting within your company, or it could be approaches, strategies, new things that you're adopting from other industries, other markets as well.

 

Kathy (host):  

And how does innovation differ from B2B, the business to business, and from innovation and B2C, from the business to consumer, is there any difference there?

 

Michael (guest):  

There's really no difference really, in terms of innovation, B2B versus B2C, in terms of when we're talking about business innovation. Looking really holistically across your company, there are five kinds of innovation that you really should be considering if you're going to be able to grow your business, and also to maintain relevancy for the market. 

 

Michael (guest):  

First off, is product innovation, which is what a lot of people think about in terms of making, improvements to your product line, to your current products. You might have a product extension, you might add some new product offerings. So that's often one area of innovation. 

 

Michael (guest):  

The second is service innovation. You're making introductions to the kinds of services. You might provide additional training services, for example, talk in the context of service-based firm. You might have some additional services around providing advisory services, consulting services. You might do some extensive market research services to provide to your peers in your industry. There's service improvements that can be service innovations, also, when we think about from a service and support perspective, and taking, improving the kinds of service and support the assistance, the customer experience that you provide. So that's another form of service innovation. 

 

Michael (guest):  

There also can be organizational innovation. Organizational innovation, which is something I strongly believe all small and medium-sized businesses looking to try and grow to be considering. And these are things like joint ventures, strategic alliances, partnerships, collaboration, so that collaboration, co-creation, which you may want to be doing with other relevant service providers. For example, let's say you're a marketing agency that provides branding, marketing strategy solutions, you may want to partner with an IT firm. To be able to provide that holistic marketing technology services equal right holistic suite of services around let's say, data analytics, marketing automation, for example. Bringing to service or to provide working with another service provider in order that you can be meeting that broader customer need. So that's organizational innovation.

 

Michael (guest):  

Then there can be potentially processed innovation, where you're looking at what kinds of new processes and/or systems you can be implementing into your organization. 

 

Michael (guest):  

And then finally, there's marketing innovation. Marketing innovation, or what kinds of new marketing strategies and tactics that you can be implementing in your organization, again, to help you again, you know, to build and grow your business. Now, when we're talking in a B2B context, there are some specific B2B strategies that might be quite appropriate that you may want to be considering as part of your innovation and your growth strategy. 

 

Michael (guest):  

Those are the five kinds of business innovations that businesses should be considering in terms of how they're going to make both new introductions and/or improvements in their organization. One final point I'd like to make, Kathy is that the underlying driver in determining what areas that you want to be business innovating, it's all going back to in response to your industry, customer, and buyer needs. That's the driver that's going to be determining where you should be, what are those of those five innovation types? What are the types that you want to be innovating?

 

Kathy (host):  

This is a great blueprint, and I haven't told you this before, but I did read your book, "Listen, Innovate, Grow". And I absolutely love it, because it gives a blueprint of each of these asked questions of how you're actually doing all of these. I know that this is only an hour's show. But what I would like to do is, if someone's looking at across all these processes, and across all of these five levels of innovation, how would that look like for a smaller business? How would you identify which one should you start with first? And how would that process look like for someone who wants to innovate, but has no idea where to start?

 

Michael (guest):  

Okay. The first thing you need to be doing is listening. That is step number one, and you need to be listening on three levels.  First of all, with what I call listening to you, so you as that SME business leader, looking at yourself, as a business leader, looking at your firm, your company, what are your goals and your vision? What are you trying to achieve? What are your ambitions for the company? That's number one.

 

Michael (guest):  

As part of that, as well, looking at, well, where have you had success? So understanding? You know, what is the sources in terms of who are your clients and customers,  your core customers that are giving you a large amount of your revenue, a large amount of your business? Those that are your big advocates, really having an understanding of your strength in terms of the clients and customers? What sorts of products and services are you providing? So where are you winning? What clients what products and services are you providing? If you're a company that operates across different regions, different markets? Are there particular regions, particular markets that you're having success in? So really have an understanding of where are you winning? Where are you having success, and then trying to then think in alignment in terms of your goals, because that's going to start to give you some clarity as to which clients and which regions and markets to focus on? So that's one is listening to you, then you need to be doing what is called having an understanding of both industry verticals that you're currently serving. And as well want to serve, making sure that you have an understanding, you know, where are they at right now? What are the trends? What are their expectations? What are their requirements? What are they needing? Because that's also going to help tell you, what you need to be doing where you need to be focusing on within your business. 

 

Michael (guest):  

And then thirdly, you need to gain an in-depth understanding of your customers, your clients, and customers, both the current customers that you have for which you should start with those core customers or strategic accounts, those, which are the ones that account for a large portion of your revenues, as well as those that you feel, could significantly help take your business to the next level. I often call those the strategic accounts, those key strategic clients where you may not be doing a lot of business with them today, but there's a potential to do a large amount of business with them. And they can really help set you on that trajectory by getting larger contracts more revenues, which also may potentially help you get other clients as well. So doing that listening, for which there are a variety of ways of how you can listen, do that, listen, but doing that listening, in terms of yourself listening to you, as the owner of the company, listening to the market, those industries and geographic markets that you're serving, and then having an understanding of your customers. 

 

Michael (guest):  

During that listening on those three levels will give you clarity as to where you need to be focusing in order to acquire, retain clients and grow your business. It'll help you be very clear by having that understanding in terms of which industries, which geographic markets, and which customers you should be focusing on where you will put your efforts around innovation and growth.

 

Kathy (host):  

So essentially, what you're doing is you're doing a lot of market research on these three different levels to see how you're going to take the company forward to that goal that you're trying to achieve? And what I would like to hear from you is, when it comes to doing the market research and listening to your customers, how would one go and approach that? Would you be doing surveys with them? Would you be doing like a one on one conversation with them? How does that look like in practice?

 

Michael (guest):  

Okay, so in terms of listening to customers, there is a number of ways in which you can be listening to your customers because all about really trying to understand what are their priorities, what are their needs, what are their expectations. Now, in business to business, when we're talking about listening to the customer.  We really have to go not just listening to the customer as the organization. 

 

Michael (guest):  

So let's say, for example, you're an IT firm that provides consulting advisory services, let's say into financial services. You're an SME, but provide IT services, financial services, a financial services company. You are going to not just target let's say, for example, Bank of America, you're not just going to be thinking about targeting understanding, we need to understand Bank of America, that the organization in terms of its priorities where that but we need to understand the particular buyers, the decision-makers, so you need to identify who was in Bank of America. And let's say there might be a particular IT transformation team, let's say within Bank of America, we need to understand who are those decision-makers that are gonna be responsible for bringing in potentially your IT companies, we need to understand who those individuals are, we need to understand what their priorities and their objectives are, and also how they make their decisions. How you build that understanding around your customers at the organizational level, and at the customer level, you do it through a variety of ways. 

 

Michael (guest):  

First thing in terms of understanding the organization often, going on the company websites is often a good source of information. We can go on the company website, often they will have a particularly if you're targeting larger organizations, they will have an About section will talk about the team, the organization, where you can see the organizational charts. You can get an understanding of the rules and titles of who you need to be approaching. Quite often, some organizations may have presentations as well, then, annual reports, planning presentations, which will help you understand what are the needs priorities, and objectives of that organization. 

 

Michael (guest):  

LinkedIn is a great source to understand both at an organizational level. You can go on the business page on LinkedIn to understand what the company is all about. And often on the LinkedIn page, there will also be, you can click through to employees, and you can click on to the appropriate rules and title. You can get a background to understand those decision-makers in terms of what are their priorities, from what perspective are they coming? How do they approach things? Let's say you are targeting the head of IT within that financial services from the Bank of America, but that person has a strong finance background that you can see, that will be a clue to you that you're going to have to be mindful in terms of when you're having discussions and interactions that really bring things from that financial lens will be quite important. LinkedIn will also be a very good source to help build some of that broad understanding. That's one form of research that you're going to be wanting to do. 

 

Michael (guest):  

But then you're definitely where possible, you really want to be really talking to and really engaging and having discussions with those decision-makers directly. And that could be done through you might do potentially, through depth interviews is often where you're having one on one discussions with those executive-level buyers, to really understand their needs priorities, what are their objectives, that's often quite useful.  That's a starting point. 

 

Michael (guest):  

There are other approaches that you can use as well, in terms of understanding what decision-makers are after in terms of doing client workshops with some of your current clients, doing workshops, where you're bringing in some of those cross-functional decision-makers from the organization. Bring in representatives of your department, from your company, as well. What I call strategic customer client workshop, and it's all about, it's about gaining information, understanding of their needs, priorities, but also sharing information on what's going on. That's also a way that can be used as well to understand the needs of those decision-makers. 

 

Michael (guest):  

Starting with some of the online research. To recap, again, starting off with some of that online research, going on to the company website, leveraging the likes of LinkedIn, to really gain an understanding from the need, the priorities, to objectives. And then where you can have opportunities to have engaged in discussions with might be depth interviews, it could be those strategic customer workshops, or gets to. I've had other clients that have done things like set up client advisory boards, where you get a panel of your, some of your key clients that you meet with periodically to exchange information both what you're doing within your company within your SME and you're exchanging and understanding what's going on within their organization. That is also a really great way in terms of building understanding in terms of what's going on in the company, what are the priorities, what they need, again, to get that depth of listening.

 

Kathy (host):  

These are great ideas on how to do that. Especially using LinkedIn. I'm a huge proponent of using LinkedIn for all this type of research, and I love using it. The question that I have for you here is, if you are a B2B, and you're not exactly targeting businesses, there are large that have this wealth of information on them online. How would you go about doing this type of research? If you are a B2B business that is targeting smaller B2B businesses with the process of this research and market listening look a little bit different? How would that look like? Or is it going to be the same?

 

Michael (guest):  

Even if you're an SME, small, medium-sized business, you're targeting other small, medium-sized businesses, you definitely are going to be starting to do online research will definitely be your first port of call. Hopefully, they will have a website, and once you can go into their website, again, to get an understanding around who are the decision-makers? What are their priorities? What are they focusing on? What are they trying to achieve? Spending some time and doing some review of what's going on to the website, looking at the news and events page, looking at any presentations? What do they provide about background around the leadership team? Company website will be a good port of call, as a first starting point, in terms of understanding what's going on with those small, medium-sized businesses. 

 

Michael (guest):  

Your industry and professional associations, which is what I forgot to mention earlier. Industry professional associations often can really give you a great source of insight to help you gain an understanding of what's going on with respect to within your industry, what are some other companies doing? Definitely your industry professional associations, and that might be through the publications that they have. They may have regular publication, which often features what's going on in the industry. They may be hosting events, like webinars, in-person events, online events, really going to those is a great way to really build your network, build an understanding of what's going on within the target industry. Your industry professional association is something I highly recommend that all small medium-sized businesses, really make sure that for the target industry that they really consider gaining some interactions with and getting membership up. They can get access to those publications, ... be able to get those webinars. They may also have podcasts as well themselves that you can listen to, which are great sources of insight. Company website, as well as, industry and professional associations are two ways of building that understanding around some of your smaller businesses that you're going to be looking to approach.

 

Kathy (host):  

Another one I love, it's podcasting. And I mean, and this is what this podcast is about to it's about listening to the market and actually getting the feedback, and figuring out what are the businesses really need that you can help them with. And podcasting is a great, great tool for that. You've done all the listening you've identified your market, you figure out where your problems are, and now you can innovate, right? That's the process, listen, and then innovate, right?

 

Michael (guest):  

Yes, so that's the document count. Once you've done that listening, so you've done some internal workshopping with your within your team to really understand what are the goals, the priorities, and the focus of your company, you listen through the market research, online research, hopefully talking to some of your clients and customers and prospects, then it's really about taking all of those learnings, and you're probably going to want to workshop them internally with your team to really understand what are the priorities of your clients and customers. 

 

Michael (guest):  

You need to have your process and your timings for your listening, which should align up with your strategic planning process, and inherent within your strategic planning process should be around your innovation plan. And where you say, what key projects and initiatives we're going to be working on. It aligned with customer needs as part of your innovation and your growth strategy.

 

Kathy (host):  

And I would assume that this is where the product and the service innovation comes in. Because you wrote densified you listen to the market, you have the strategic process in place and now you can say these are the new products and the new services that we can offer to the businesses, the other B2B businesses to support them better. And it's driven by the data, right? Everything is driven by data.

 

Michael (guest):  

Exactly. Everything is driven by data. Everything is driven by that listening, what are we hearing, in terms of from the industry, from our customers, from the decision-makers, if everything is in sight, data-driven. Absolutely.

 

Kathy (host):  

Right now in this process, we have listened to the market, we have identified the opportunities, we have figured out that we're either going to have a new product or a new service, we have innovated there. And now we have to market that this is where the marketing innovation comes in.

 

Michael (guest):  

Exactly. Marketing innovation in terms of how you're going to be going to market and how you go to market with those products and services, how you're going to market to them. It very much in the B2B context needs to be very much buyer-driven. This is why that listening and understanding who are the decision-makers within those clients and customers that you're currently serving, wanting to serve, we need to know who they are, we need to know, what are their priorities, but we need to know how they buy. What are the activities as part of their decision-makers? 

 

Michael (guest):  

This is decision-makers, typically, in this one of the key changes, actually, that has occurred is that businesses of decision-makers are doing a lot more independent research. They will use a variety of sources as part of their independent research when they are looking to buy. They may be talking to colleagues, they may be looking at case studies, they may look at white papers in IT context, they may want free trials demonstration. By understanding who those decision-makers are, and what constitutes their buying decision process, and who is involved will determine what are your marketing activities. 

 

Michael (guest):  

For example, if we use an IT example, and let's say they're very big on client references, third party reviews, and I'm going to say demonstrations, for example. Then you know that in terms of your marketing activities because your marketing activities in a B2B context need to be in at the decision-makers, you're going to be having those key activities, and those kinds of content. So providing, making sure that you're visible on third-party review sites, setting up a client reference program so that your prospects can talk to one or two of your customers. If they're looking at white papers, for example, if they read articles, through industry publication, that you want to be writing those articles, and making sure that they're featured within those industry associates. It's all about making sure you're providing the kinds of tools that your decision-makers use, and you're visible where your buyers seek for information.

 

Kathy (host):  

Yeah, and what I've seen lately for the last couple of years, the B2B buyers have usually gone to Gartner and other you know, sources of information, but now is more shifted towards the getting that insight from the network. How, and this is where the influencers come in as well, I think, How have you seen that shift coming from the one source of authority of where you get the type of information where you need help to more of a network approach of asking your other peers, your other colleagues in the market? Why would they solve that particular problem? What have you seen?

 

Michael (guest):  

Business decision-makers are using a variety of sources. I think the latest stats are they will use five to seven sources of information before they want to speak to any sales representative within your company. They will have done a lot of their decision-making distilling, working down to the shortlist before wanting to talk to you. It's all about finding out who and what are the go-to’s, for ... your target clients and customers? Are they going to, and this is again, where that listening, that research comes in? Are they are? Is it the industry and associations? Are there certain events, certain publications that they go to? Other certain podcasts that they're listening to? Are there certain revered subject matter experts, the influencers in terms of the subject matter experts that are looked upon within their industry, which could be people within the industry and professional associations? They're the ones that might be doing writing certain articles for certain publications, magazines. They may be doing certain podcasts, hosting certain events. 

 

Michael (guest):  

You do want to identify who those people are, and those are the people, those people you do want to approach to, to see how you can collaborate and work with them. Either by doing a guest, if it's a case of a blog, or a podcaster, being a guest on that blog or on that podcast, you might co-create and do some sort of joint event with them quite often as an example. How you can work and collaborate with them to get that reach and visibility and credibility amongst your peers. It's really about identifying who are they talking to? What are they reading? Whose opinions are they relying on, that will really determine where you focus your efforts. In terms of those influencers, again, it's who's looked upon as the go to’s, and in a B2B context, it's often people that 99% of the population will have no clue who they are, but they know because you're dealing with civil engineering solutions, you know- 

 

Kathy (host):  

Yep.

 

Michael (guest):  

This particular person who has the authority, who has been writing in the civil engineering magazine, on a regular basis, who has this podcast could present a certain event. Well, it's those events, those podcasts, that where you want to be making yourself visible, so that you can be working with that particular go to that influencer, to gain their credibility and often to get reached into their audience into their world. Because you know, they are the ones that decision-makers are going to.

 

Kathy (host):  

Have all these tactics, have you seen anything that works really, particularly well, or does it really depend on your industry? And from company to company?

 

Michael (guest):  

Yeah, it really depends from industry to industry, what's going to work best? And depending on who your decision-makers are, where do they go for information, again, your marketing strategy, your go-to-market strategy is going to need to involve a variety of sources of the content channels, because your decision-makers are doing lots of research. It's really about again, understanding, who are the decision-makers, and what are the kinds of things that they look at because you're going to need to have probably three to five, I'm going to put sources, in terms of where they're going for information.  They may go on social media. They may be going for the industry and professional association. There might be certain events that they may be at. 

 

Michael (guest):  

Some folks may want to have be able to access third-party reviews. It could be all about your testimonials and case studies. It's really understanding what your target decision-makers use and then modify accordingly. Third-party reviews are becoming increasingly important and relevant, particularly in the light of professional services within the technology space, as well, in particular, to third-party reviews. I've seen with my own clients and my own business network client reference. So quite often, I've had to give references and I've seen other clients of mine where they've had to provide references and obtain references. Client references, case studies are two things, and third-party reviews are three tactics that I've seen, particularly again, from a professional service industry perspective that I've seen that become far more relevant and important.

 

Kathy (host):  

I'd like to bring this into a specific case where you've seen a client implement that in their business, and how did it look like for them? How did that marketing innovation look like for them, that it was really successful? Is there an example that you can give us?

 

Michael (guest):  

Some marketing innovation, what we talk in terms of women is using advocacy marketing. In terms of advocacy marketing, there is, I'm gonna use my insurance client, again in Canada, who set up an advocacy marketing program. Your advocacy marketing program is all about getting your clients and customers. Those that really, they really love you they know. They just think that you're the bee's knees. You're having those clients to serve on your behalf, in terms of helping you to really demonstrate the value you can provide to your target customers that you're trying to pursue. 

 

Michael (guest):  

In terms of my insurance client, they did a number of things. ... They co-created content with them. The insurance company, I had an annual client event each year, bring in various of their insurance clients across some of the key niches that they operate in. And they had a couple of their core clients really speak on their behalf, talking about, you know, some of those specific industry solutions that the company developed for them, and how it really helped them within their own businesses. So yeah, they had them speaking at their events, there was some co-creating of content as well. And some of those advocates as well also served as client references for them, which they could call upon when they were trying to bring on some larger new, bigger clients. 

 

Michael (guest):  

That's just one example of where identifying a pool of strong advocates and then using them in terms of creating some content, being part of their client reference program, and then also speaking at some of their key events to really demonstrate and really give a first-hand authentic recount of how this company's been able to benefit them.

 

Kathy (host):  

That's a great example. Thank you for that. I always like to see that in practice, how does it look like I think it brings where we've been talking about really up to life, how you can actually implement that in a business. And when we were talking about this, one thing that really stuck out the most is this content co-creation, and either with your clients or with the partners that you collaborate with. And we already talked about a lot of different ways how you can do that. Why do you think that works so well that it does?

 

Michael (guest):  

Co-creating content with your clients is extremely valuable. I think for a number of reasons. One, when you're co-creating content with clients, as well as potential prospects, a good way for you to be able to build a relationship and gained an understanding. If it's a prospect, it's a way for you to really further understand and start to build that relationship with them. If it's one of your current clients, it's a way to, I guess further really cement and build that relationship. It can be it can definitely serve as a win-win for both your organization as well as that time prospect because you know, your clients or prospects, they're often looking to build their reach, their credibility, building their own brand, and co-creating content allow them to do so, and to gain that credibility that authority gain that reach. It can be quite useful there. 

 

Michael (guest):  

And it's also a way of really providing some grassroots, tangible examples, and content that's really going to be very live and real for your target on to. When you're talking, when you're creating content, you're doing a podcast interview, for example, with one of your prospects and being able to draw on sort of like you just did now in terms of drawing on some live example, getting that recount of what are some of your challenges, your experience and how you address things. Being able to really get that from the coalface, from a client's perspective, really adds a lot of value and helps bring everything far more to life for your prospective customer. It's a win-win in terms of building relationships, gaining more insight, and I really kind of delivering value and how you can educate and really demonstrate relevancy to your clients and prospects.

 

Kathy (host):  

Would you say that in the B2B market would really stand out these days is education first and selling as the second?

 

Michael (guest):  

Yes, it's very much around I would say, definitely around education, but it needs to be around education. But I also would put a caveat on that it needs to be very much focused around what I call sensemaking and road-mapping. There's lots of content out there and over the past 18 months, I think we've all been inundated with content because everyone's working remotely. Everyone was told to add value, put out content, be helpful. 

 

Kathy (host):  

Yeah. 

 

Michael (guest):  

There were lots of that went out there to the point that a lot of decision-makers have been bombarded, confused, and overwhelmed. Gartner has done a study on this. And they have found there the large, I don't remember quite a stat, but a large number things like over 60% of buyers are often confused because they're getting all these different sources of information, often coming from very reliable, credible sources, but sometimes it's contradictory. 

 

Michael (guest):  

Thought Leader A, Jim says this, Kathy says that Michael says this, I'm confused, what should I be doing? So really a lot in terms of when you're creating content, it's what decision-makers are looking for are connecting the dots. What is relevant to me, so should I be listening to John, or should be listening to Kathy, or Michael. Help me make sense of what's relevant for me, what I should be focusing on, and also then start to sense-making, but also the road mapping and what does this mean for me? What do I need to be doing? Business decision-makers are really looking for that roadmap on how they can take and move their businesses forward. And that's particularly needed in this time that we're there a lot of businesses that are really so focused on growth, but how to focus on growth in times of volatility and uncertainty. They really want that roadmap up. What do I need to do? How does this work for my company, my situation?

 

Kathy (host):  

You bring a very good point, because that's something that I've been in just thrown into the deep end, and because there's so much information out there, and how do you really just think what, not only what's true, but also what really applies to you and your business in this particular moment that you in? Would you instead of just creating the content and co-creating content? Would it be valuable to also put the content curation in your strategy, as well as, a part of the innovation?

 

Michael (guest):  

Yes, I mean, as part of your strategy, that'll be your marketing and sales strategy, your go-to-market strategy, the content that you're going to be creating is going to be a critical component, because it is a ground that education that sense-making and roadmap is a critical part of the whole marketing and sales element. Again, the kinds of content that you're going to be creating and approaches you want to be using, you want to be making it very much aligned with how decision-makers make decisions. But that is a critical part, though, is not just creating the content, but really demonstrating what is it going to be meaning? How would you be working with that particular client? And what does it mean for the what the steps they have to take on how they're going to move forward?

 

Kathy (host):  

So right now, we've talked about the product innovation. We talked about the service innovation. We talked about the marketing innovation. We have two more or left,  the organizational innovation and the process innovation. I would like to spend a little bit more about how does the organizational innovation looks like? And how does it look like in particularly in a growing business space?

 

Michael (guest):  

Great question. In terms of organizational innovation, particularly I'm interested in is things like your, you know, joint ventures, strategic alliances, co-creation. These are kinds of some of the things I think small and medium businesses really should be looking to do as a way to be able to get access to new clients and customers, breaking into new industries, and new markets. Again, to determine how and where best to do so. It's really again, around identifying what are some of the needs of those industries and those customers that you're going after where they're there are gaps, and what makes sense in terms of where the joint ventures, the strategic alliances, co-creation could occur. 

 

Michael (guest):  

It could be around, let's say providing, and this is where some of it may overlap, Kathy, because, as part of, identifying that, let's say there's a need for some kind of overarching holistic solution. You see that clients using a professional services firm context. You see that they have a need for marketing strategy services. They also need a bit of IT marketing, IT services as well. Again, this is where you may be looking at, okay, there could be an opportunity to provide services, and or solutions by working with another firm. You often see this, where you might see an accounting firm, that might ally and work with an IT firm, in terms of helping to automate some of the kinds of, analytics and reporting so that the business can be a one-stop solution to getting both financial analyses. And you've got the IT system to generate those kinds of reports with different levels. You have an IT-Accounting for joining together. This is where the strategy, that joining of forces is serving to help deliver a certain kind of product, or could be for a certain kind of service. That's one, one example. 

 

Michael (guest):  

Another example could be around co-creation, where you are working with a one of your clients and customers, one of your clients in order to create a solution for them that you can then roll out. I've got a specific example where I have a market research technology company that I was working with. One of their solutions, as they were working with one of their clients, was a retailer and a supermarket grocery chain. And they developed some specific reporting analytics solutions for that particular grocery retailer. They work quite closely to make it very tailored to their needs and requirements, and then they use that solution and the processes that they use to create that reporting IT solution. They then proceeded to go to other markets. They then have rolled it out to, I believe, hospitality, travel, and other sub-segments within retail. That's an example of where you're working with a client quite closely to create a solution for them.  But ideally, when you do so you want to see how you can take that same solution with some other modifications and how you can use it to serve other customers and other potentially other regions and other industries as well, in the case of this market research technology company has done. That's an example of co-creation. 

 

Michael (guest):  

But again, it's all going to be very much driven by your industry and customer needs really will identify what are the opportunities of how you might do that kind of joint venture partnership alliance. And it could be something as you might even start as simple as content joining together to create an event. The accounting firm, and the IT firm, they're targeting mid-market size engineering firms. They may join forces together because they're both targeting both engineering firms. And they might have some sort of one-day online summit, for example. That's an example of again, joining forces in terms of working with another organization to be meeting client needs.

 

Kathy (host):  

These are a fabulous examples, I especially love the whole one-to-one scaling into the one-to-many example. And that's the best way to come up with a new service or a new product that doesn't just benefit one particular company or one particular person, and you can roll it out to multiple different people who can benefit from it. I love that example. We talked about the organizational innovation. How about the process innovation? ow does that look like is that the processes within the company or the processes? 

 

Michael (guest):  

Yeah. When we talk about processes and system innovation, it's really around the processes and systems within your organization to better meet the needs of your clients and customers. You might be modifying some of the processes that you have around, let's say, ordering fulfillment for example, making some changes so that it's more seamless and more easier for your clients so that they can do everything from making the purchases, to get into invoices, making inquiries. Process and system innovation is really about really trying to deliver around when we're talking around customer service, customer experience. Making sure that the processes there are really meeting the service experience requirements, service levels that your clients are looking for, because quite often, they may have certain expectations in terms of restoration time. If we're talking, you're a technology company or telecommunications company, they may have very stringent requirements in terms of how quickly service faults get restored, customer communications back to their customers are made when there are issues when their fault restoration. You may need to be modifying some of the processes within your organization to give the level of service and customer experience that your business customers are expecting. 

 

Kathy (host):  

Do you have an example of a recent process innovation that one of your clients had?

 

Michael (guest):  

Actually one I do have, there was a law firm that I was working with. And they ended up wanting to be better able to improve some of the response times that they were having back to some of their clients. They implemented some service level assurances for their clients as well, they instituted policies that for certain kinds of cases, that in terms of these certain matters, that there would be response time within specific levels. They also improve the channels in terms of providing an online component. whereas previously, it was all via phone, they developed an online response portal that clients could be using, as part of when they needed to get an immediate, fast response. They developed an online channel to help facilitate that into making sure that they were adhering to some of their core key growth clients. They're in hearing to some of these revised service level assurances that the client wanted to have.

 

Kathy (host):  

And I was able to identify this was is this again, going back to the whole listening and the data gathering from their current clients so they were able to identify that this is what they need to focus on?

 

Michael (guest):  

Yes, absolutely. A lot of this all goes back to listening because when you're doing your listening, you're often you want to be doing your listening really, again, there's really kind of from two perspectives. You got your listening in terms of broad, your expectations, requirements that were thinking at a broader business of strategic level, but then often you want to be getting that kind of, particularly when we're dealing with the likes of IT technology scenarios where you want to get it from an operational perspective. In terms of that more transactional in terms of day-to-day interactions, you want to be getting feedback from that level, and understanding where are things falling off not being met. In terms of getting that client listening, and again, Kathy, this is something we can go into. I do workshops sometimes, but you want to get understanding from that decision-maker level in terms of those broad, I guess, strategic kinds of things. 

 

Michael (guest):  

But then also from an operational, in terms of what are the times for handling complaints, issues, if you're IT and you got your systems to go down, for system restoration, getting feedback on how those systems are working, and where things are falling off. You definitely want to be putting in feedback mechanisms, listening to your complaints, talking to your frontline staff, you can know where both modifications have to be made.

 

Kathy (host):  

When businesses are implementing this in their planning and in their innovation process, is there anything that they should be careful of when they're trying to put that in there and apply this in their own business? Are there any common misconceptions and mistakes that you see them making as they're going on this process, on this journey?

 

Michael (guest):  

I think it's very important, as part of your overall planning, whether we're talking in the strategy planning, as well, action planning, because a lot of this is going to be around turning, your strategies and your prioritization into actual actions, which might be bigger projects, around developing new products and new solutions, or it could be around making some of the operational changes process. It's very important that you get that you're getting buy-in and input from those that are going to be doing a lot of the implementing and doing. It's very important that you make sure that those middle-level staff, frontline staff, those are doing the doing, they get input and buy into it because they often can give you a lot of that granular detailed heads up of what's required. "Oh, we're going to develop a new solution, for accounting and IT systems so that we can co-market." 

 

Michael (guest):  

There may be a number of considerations in terms of technical modifications that might have to undertake and occur. And so getting that buy-in from those who are the implementer of the doing, a doing the doing is very important, because they often bring to light, what are some of the pitfalls? What are some of the roadblocks that you can have when you're trying to, merge data systems together, or you're introducing new processes? They can get into some of the money. Sure, or there could be certain legal requirements- regulatory requirements. There could be technical issues in terms of, you know, system compatibility. And so it's really getting and teasing out some of those issues because that can really have an impact on whether it's feasible, whether it's not feasible. What the timelines are going to be involved. Because there maybe some of these hurdles, which you haven't thought through from a strategic standpoint. 

 

Michael (guest):  

Yes, it makes a lot of sense and part of our growth strategy to develop this new solution, but to be able to execute it, for example, how do you price you know, developing the pricing for when you're creating a new, a new product offering that involves various components, insurance would be a good example that can get, complex.  We're through some of these complexities around some of the execution is very important.

 

Kathy (host):  

Getting the buy-in from the people who are going to be implementing and making sure that you have those types of conversations with them to see where it could be the roadblocks, where you're trying to implement. Okay. Yeah, and I think also change management as well. Because anytime you bring something new into the company, anytime you're innovating, there's going to be a little bit of a resistance, a little bit of a reluctance to go on to a new system, or a new product or new service. So figuring out how to manage change, that could be another obstacle as well, right?

 

Michael (guest):  

Yes, that definitely can be another obstacle that you're going to have to address, particularly when you're undertaking. Yes, some of your bigger growth initiatives around developing new solutions. If you're looking to expand and going into new markets, those kinds of scenarios. If you're potentially going to be doing aligning working with another organization, or if there's an M and A - merging and acquisition of a new company that's coming part of yours. That is where often, yeah, there's a lot of change management may be required for which you really may need to have get a third party subject matter specialists to help you with some of those elements that change management, which might be from a processes and systems point of view. But there's also the whole people component because it's often from a people component, where that can be a challenge. But change management definitely is a critical piece that needs to be considered as part of your growth strategies. Yes.

 

Kathy (host):  

Michael, this has been absolutely fabulous, you give us a lot of food for thought, a lot of it! But one thing I always like to ask all of my guests that come to this podcast is, what is one tangible step that someone can take back to the business this week if they want to go and implement this new innovation process?

 

Michael (guest):  

Kathy, everything starts with listening. My recommendation would be is to for SME leaders to gather up your leadership team, schedule a meeting, and let's get in the room and first, get a list of who are your core, who are your core customers. Those core clients and customers that,  really keep the business going that are the bulk of your revenue? Start there make a list of who they are. Do you know who the decision-makers are? as they are today? What are their priorities? What are they trying to achieve? What are their challenges? Can you answer those and start from there? Because if you are having gaps in terms of answering any of those in terms of you know, who they are, what are the priorities, what are the challenges, then that's where your research, that's where your listening needs to start? And then I would say so having that bit of that workshop session number one, to see what the landscape is. 

 

Michael (guest):  

And then secondly, start the conversations with some of those key decision-makers to really get a good understanding of what those priorities requirements and what are the objectives and challenges are. Those would be the two things. Get your team together, and works out to see who are our key customers? What do we know about them? And where are the gaps? And then secondly, start scheduling those conversations with those decision-makers.

 

Kathy (host):  

Great, Michael, where can our listeners get in touch with you?

 

Michael (guest):  

Listeners can get in touch with me by going to my website www.listeninnovategrow.com It's all lowercase one word. And there’ll be lots of content that talks about how to listen, innovate, grow in a B2B context, as well as talking about the various services and how potentially can work with your company to help you acquire, retain those business clients and the growth that they seek.

 

Kathy (host):  

Awesome. Thank you so much, Michael. Thanks so much for being on the show.

 

Michael (guest):  

Thanks for having me, Kathy. It's been good fun.

 

Kathy (host):  

We covered a lot of ground here. And I hope you found this as enlightening as I did. Michael gave us an excellent blueprint and examples of how to actually innovate in your business. And I hope that you're going to use this in your strategic planning in your planning process. Because I'm certainly going to use that with my clients, trying to figure out how we can listen to the market that they're serving, and how we can actually innovate in the business so the business can do so much better. 

 

Kathy (host):

And hey, listen, I know we covered a lot of ground here. That's why I suggest that you look at the show notes. You look at the timestamps and use them as you need it as you go through this process. That's going to really help you figure out where you are in the process and what are the next steps. 

 

Kathy (host):  

You can also go on my website, www.newcastlefinance.us, and look at the blog post for this episode there. It's going to have the summaries of all these topics that we covered so that you can read it and reference it later as well. You can find the link for the blog post in the show notes of this episode. I hope this is valuable to you. And as always, before I go, I do have a favor to ask. If you're listening to this on Apple Podcasts, if you could please go to the show, tap the number of stars that you think the show deserves, because it really helps other business owners find this as well. Thanks so much. Until next time!