Innovate or Die

How do you make your business stand out?

Innovation
Innovation

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether your business is a disruptive one or a replicative one.

If you’ve invented the next Google or the next electric car, you are known as having created a disruptive business. Your technology earns you market differentiation.

Otherwise, you likely lead a replicative business, which means a business in a category that already exists, such as restaurants, banks or manufacturers of known products.

There are several ways to succeed when you run a replicative company: lower prices based on volume; or do what truly makes you different from the competition.

How can you accomplish this?

To begin with, rule No. 1 is you have to have a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish for any customers seeking your help.

Mike Jurken, president and chief executive officer of Pewaukee-based Majic Productions Inc., leads a company that specializes in providing lighting, sound and video to major events – everything from political gatherings to public concerts to corporate events.

He started his career as a DJ at parties in college, so he learned early on what he had to do to get hired and get new gigs. He concluded it was a better way to do lighting.

Providing audiovisual support for major events is a highly competitive business, so it’s very challenging to try to stand out.

Majic Productions focuses on the vision that clearly sets them apart and offers differentiation in the marketplace. It is: “Majic Productions is a Midwestern-based sound, video and lighting production company that will blow you away with a perfect storm of creativity, passion, professionalism and expertise.”

Now that’s a brand promise that will get anyone’s attention!

Step two is to figure out how to deliver on that vision.

Mike accomplishes this by asking each and every customer what they want their story to be when they stage an event. What experience do they want to offer?

The beauty of this approach is it forces the customer to think through the endgame for any event they stage.

By reaching out to your potential customers and systematically asking them or observing them, you may be able to figure out what you can offer that truly and uniquely addresses their hopes.

This process has led Majic to sign up clients ranging from the U.S. Open to various candidates during the 2016 presidential election.

It’s hard work to get within the customer framework and find out what would be their hot button issues or really differentiate what to offer them.

From a technical perspective, this is called ethnographic research. That’s a sophisticated way of saying you’re going to observe the competition and potential customers to try to figure out how you can distinguish yourself from the pack.

Think about it: every day, we see attempts by sports teams to distinguish themselves through the difference in color of uniforms and logos; coffee companies, such as Starbucks, that create an experience that is quite different from run-of-the-mill coffee shops; or tech companies creating a smartphone that is more functional and simpler to use than the competition.

So follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way:

What do you want customers to say about you that distinguishes you from the competition?

To answer that question, observe the competition; observe how customers interact with products or services to see where there’s an opportunity for your company or a problem that you could solve that others don’t.

Test that product or service on a potential customer base to get the reaction.

Execute. That means getting everyone on your team and in your organization to believe what you’re trying to accomplish for customers every day they show up for work.

Every business, whether large or small, has to be able to offer an experience, product or service that is truly different if it is to succeed.

Now you know the drill. Go forth and differentiate yourself!

Get our email updates

Dan Steininger
Dan Steininger is the president and founder of BizStarts. He is also the president of Steininger & Associates. The firm focuses on teaching the tools of innovation to drive growth for companies in all sectors of the economy. Steininger is a former president and CEO of Catholic Financial Life and a graduate of Marquette University and Boston University's School of Law.