If you want to stay ahead of the game, let your public know that your eye is on innovation and change. What is your vision? No, I am not speaking of a vision statement here–what you or your company would like the world to look like in some utopia. I’m talking about what you or your company is doing today to create change by being innovative. What do you and your public want? Make them understand that you not only both want the same things, but that you and your company are 100% committed to getting what you want, together. Here are some strategies to make that happen:
- Ask your public what they want. No, really. Ask them. Conduct focus groups, send out surveys, conduct social networking polls and discussions, get a buzz started and engage in conversations. Know your public well, develop relationships with them and find out exactly what they want. Hint: It may not be exactly what they say they want, but by knowing them you’ll learn things about them that will reveal a lot about their true vision to you. The purpose here is not just to get people to say what’s on their mind but to get them to say the things they don’t want to say, to tell you things they don’t know they know and to help you and your business reveal trends and needs that isn’t the most obvious. This can help you change a product or service in just the right way that you’re called genius, an innovator and intuitive. In fact, you will be,
- Listen. Yes, do listen to your public and also listen to your competitors, partners, colleagues, employees/staff, etc. Listen with a critical ear. Weed out the insults and compliments and hear solutions and opportunities for change. If you’ve always done things a certain way, don’t hesitate to examine if “that way” is really the best effective way now, today, responsive to current needs and goals. Listen to the people around you and welcome suggestions and resolutions. Discourage negativity that isn’t overwhelmingly overshadowed with solutions and forward-thinking.
- Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Make those changes happen. Begin aligning your products and services to be responsive to what your public wants and needs. Make your vision and their vision not only a shared vision but a shared reality. Develop strategic plans, product plans and service delivery plans that answer the new vision you’ve discovered. Document how each change is responsive to the new vision and determine how you will measure this effectiveness.
- Pilot. If possible, try a pilot release, and measure its effectiveness against a control group of the old way of doing things. Use diverse demographics or contain it among a specific target market, but keep it manageable so that you can examine the modifications and determine if they truly are effective or if aspects can still be tweaked to increase effectiveness. If changes are needed, make them and measure again. The quicker you roll through this process, the stronger your business will be. Learning to be flexible is key here and will benefit any business in the long-run.
- Wide release. Let it go. Send your vision out to your public, and let them know that it is of them and for them. That while these changes are based on their feedback and ideas, you are still open to continued innovation and want to know more about their wants, needs and vision. That you are committed to being responsive to them for as long as you are in business.
- Communicate. Not market. Use platforms that will allow you to engage in two-way conversations. You can buy ads and organize publicity, but most important is customer service and interaction. Make certain that every human representing your company is on the same page, communicating the same messages and collecting information towards progressive change. Bring your clients and customers into your communications strategy, demonstrating that your method of communication is one-on-one. No matter how small or large your business is, you not only make time for your customers and clients, you are in business for your customers and clients and they know it.
- Do it. Communicate by doing. Make sure your messages and actions are mirror images of one another. Your public will pay more attention to what you do than what you say, but if you can avoid contradictions between the two, ultimately you will arrive at trust. Trust that your business and your public share the same vision. Trust is priceless.