Innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit go hand in hand.
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Yet many business owners fall into the rut of offering products that are nearly identical to the competition. To stand out from the crowd, all you need is a healthy dose of creativity to take you back to your entrepreneurial roots. Here's how to get started.
Make Good Products Better
You have a good product. But the competition has a good product, too. In fact, the market is filled with good products and the last thing your customers need is another product of average quality cluttering the buying process. More than anything else, customers are looking for a great product that leaves all the other ones in the dust. Gather your team together and begin brainstorming about ways to improve your existing product and position yourself above the competition. Emphasize improvements that create additional features or add value - anything that will stand out from the other "been there, done that" products the industry already offers.
Seek Out New Applications for Existing Products
Sometimes the problem isn't the product itself, but rather the product's field of use. In some industries, product use is limited to a narrow range of applications defined by the way the product has been used in the past. However, there is a good chance that your product has applications beyond its current usage. With a little diligence and a few minor modifications, you may be able to find new applications for your product and increase demand by widening the market.
Fill Gaps with New Products
Right now, someone is wishing they had a product that doesn't exist. Yet. Innovative entrepreneurs succeed by creating new products to fill gaps in the marketplace. The way they discern those gaps is through patience and hard work. Begin by asking your existing customers for suggestions about new products that would make their life a little easier. Then use their ideas as fodder for new product concepts, consistently returning to the customers for input throughout the development process. Before the product even hits the market it will be in demand by the customers whose input you used to produce it.
Cross-Pollinate for Ideas
Another source of ideas for new products is to cross-pollinate with other industries. For example, if your business is accounting, regularly expand your horizons by touching base with other non-related industries like healthcare, advertising, or graphic design. Along the way, you might run across tidbits of information that spark an idea for improving your services or creating new ones altogether. You might also be able to leverage new insights and new contacts to expand your market into other industries.
Know why many business owners find themselves stuck in a crowd? Because they are afraid of how their business might be perceived if they stood out from the crowd. Innovation is risky business. Successful entrepreneurs embrace a certain level of calculated risk in order to differentiate themselves from the competition. Don't let risk hold you back from acting on innovative ideas. Identify the risks ahead of time, take the necessary steps to minimize them, and step out of the crowd with confidence.