Innovation Reality Check: Baby Steps?!

Adorable Toddler BoyThe toughest times often see the most innovation, especially in marketing.  For a variety of reasons.  With sales slipping many companies are open to more risk because they feel they have less to lose.  People lose their jobs and get to work on “that idea” they had in the drawer.  Etc., etc.

So where does that put you?  The reality of innovating, in my experience at least, is you don’t have to shock the world to goose sales a good bit.  What I mean is sometimes simple changes or steps forward (baby steps!) can have big impacts.

Two quick examples from the past-

John Wanamaker started one of the first department stores in America  in 1876, Wanamaker’s.  He’s known for several department store firsts (first to use electricity, first elevator in a store).  But the innovation that took him from just another department store to a leader was. . .wait for it. . .price tags.   Huh?

You see, before that there were no prices.  You haggled.  Price tags made shopping easier and gave stores a new dimension to promote.

Have you heard of Lee Iacocca?  Chairman of Chrysler, father of the Ford Mustang?  You know what thrust him into the spotlight as a junior executive at Ford, long before the Mustang?  Installment payments.  Before Iacocca if you wanted a car you wrote the check.  I don’t need to tell you what happened to sales.

We can look back on price tags and installment payments with a chuckle; oh, how quaint, right?  Sure.  But both had major impact because they significantly changed the buying experience.  Price tags made shopping easier and engendered a level of trust that did not exist.  Installment payments made buying a car significantly easier.

What can you do to make buying what you sell significantly easier?  What can you do to take risk out of the process of buying what you sell?

Two quick examples from today-

Sponsored search, or pay-per-click.  Show ads that relate to the topic of people’s search when they’re searching.  Simple, adds value to a search in a way that doesn’t bother anybody and, the real innovation: an advertiser doesn’t pay until someone takes an action (clicks through to your website).   Very smart.

The free trial or the free version.   And you’re right, this isn’t even very new.  But, it’s hard to find a piece of software anymore you can’t use for a month free, or use a free, albeit stripped down, version of it forever.  This fundamentally changes the selling dynamics, doesn’t it?

I was looking at a relatively pricey inbound marketing tool; $500 per month per user.  They offer a 7-day trial free, but I had some questions, so I called and wanted to talk to a salesperson.  He was totally uninterested in talking to me or selling me.  He simply said, just try it for a week.  This company’s sales job changed from convincing me their tool is worth the $6-12,000 per year cost I’m looking at to, hey, just download it and play with it for a week.

So, I ask you again, what can you do to make buying what you sell significantly easier?  What can you do to take risk out of the process of buying what you sell?  It doesn’t have to be complex to make a major impact on the dynamics of buying what you sell, but it does need to  make a major impact on the dynamics of buying what you sell to make a major impact on your sales.

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