Have you ever lost a bid or contract because the winner put up something different to what the buyer was asking for? Then you lost to a competitor who was better at innovation. If you win almost everything you bid for, congratulations. It’s likely you are doing something innovative that creates enormous customer value and that your competitors haven’t yet been able to copy.
However, your current innovation won’t hold your market space forever.
Eventually it will become best practice in your market because it resets the baseline expectation of the customer.
Remember Palm Pilots? I used to have one of those. Palm Pilots, Pocket PCs and Blackberries were the first wave of the smartphone category. Some of these were available as early as the turn of the century (which makes them sound as old as they seem to us now). These early smart phones were an innovation that killed off the market for paper diaries.
The iPhone launched in 2007 and revolutionised the way we organise and live our lives forever.
But similar Android smartphones started appearing in 2008, and two years later they were everywhere. Apple’s iPhone innovation dominated the mobile market for a decent amount of time (in tech years) but things have changed. By the end of 2014, Samsung accounted for 32.3% of all smartphone shipments, while Apple came in at No. 2 with 15.5%. That means that Samsung now sells double the number of smart phones that Apple sells.
Continual innovation — not just continual improvement – is the key to holding an incumbency advantage in long-term contracts with business customers.
In their book Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs, Larry Keeley, Ryan Pikkel, Brian Quinn and Helen Waters explain that innovation works best in teams, as no individual can possibly know enough to innovate by themselves. According to their research, the most successful innovators analyse the patterns of innovation in their industry and tackle the hardest problems first. They emphasise that innovation isn’t about what easy for us — it’s about solving deep problems for our customers.
I’ve seen first-hand that innovators who solve their customers’ most entrenched and difficult problems are more successful than anyone else when it comes to winning bids, retaining customers and growing revenue. So what are you innovating right now?