Finding the Innovation
Recently, our good friend Alonzo Kelly wrote a great article about looking for leaders “on the perimeter.” He talked about how important it is for us to remember when we were all diamonds in the rough and not the polished, hard, and sometimes boring people we have become.
I loved this article and wanted to share it with you because I think that the same philosophy can be applied to marketing ideas. In order to stand out and be truly different from your competition, you have to get off the beaten path. You have to look beyond the easy solution to find what is really different and what will really work. I recently gave presentations at both Marquette Law School and MATC to college students who are thinking of starting their own businesses. In these presentations, I pointed out that one of the most common mistakes business owners make is marketing by imitation. If you find yourself making marketing decsions by saying, “What would so and so do?” you’re guilty of this problem.
Of course, getting off the beaten path can be scary. It means taking risks. It also means really delving into your business to see what is going on and thinking hard about where you want to go in the future. When I get scared about this, I remind myself of some of the best advice I was given back when I first started my career. I was a Manager Trainee at Kohl’s Department Stores, doing one of my first walk-throughs with my District Manager. If you’ve never had to do this, basically it involves walking your boss’ boss’ boss around your part of the store, telling him or her how everything in your area is doing and answering questions about how you plan to improve. As a totally inexperienced Trainee, I was doing a TERRIBLE job. Luckily, my District Manager was a mentor, not a killer. When I was done, he took me aside, told me how to do it next time, and then said, “And be sure to get off the aisles. If you don’t walk on the carpet, you’ll never see what’s really going on.”
Whether the innovation in your business is on the edges or buried deep in the middle of your company, don’t be afraid of it. If you want to stand out from the competition, you have to get off the beaten path.
Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.