Innovate or deteriorate

Some business leaders say they can’t change because their demographic is 55 year olds and changing would jeopardize their custom. Changing would mean devaluing the offering. Changing would be a risk we don’t want to take. I’ve even heard, “We know our customer base is dying, but the boss wont change anything we’re doing.”

We’ve got to throw stuff out and see what sticks. Experiment. If we do what we always do, we’ll get what we always get. Pay per click campaigns are a case in point – they demand experimenting to know the winning/losing keywords and campaigns.

Michael Jordan infamously said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Morgan cars are a company heralded for being in time warp. Their hand built cars are oversubscribed with waiting lists of years not months. Their antiquated methods and manufacture add to the marque’s character. But even Morgan is showing innovation with their second new model launching in as many years.

The fact is when you’ve been around for 5 – 10 years and growth (if that’s a business goal) is stagnant then it’s time to change your growth strategy. What’s got you to this point isn’t going to get you to new plateaus. Change is needed.

That’s not wholesale change to your retail philosophy. I’m not suggesting about going from a hard working, ethical family business to a law-breaking SPAM merchant who hides from the VAT man. Differentiate, but don’t dilute yourself.

I’m proposing you let fly with your product range. Try new avenues of wholesale. Knock on new doors. Add a different category. Seek additional suppliers. Lower shipment thresholds – win customers today, look for extra margin tomorrow.

Yes there are niches that shouldn’t be diluted but an obvious A-list example of change for growth is McDonald’s. The fast food chain has had a five-year make over. It now sells as much chicken as beef, has redecorated branches with soft furnishings and mood lighting and they sold 100 million cups of coffee last year in the UK – that’s more than Starbucks. Boss, Jill McDonald (no relation) says, “We have probably changed more in the past four years than in the last 30.”

Yet some marketers at the time would probably say the McDonald’s demographics/customer base don’t want a sophisticated coffee, they want the soft drinks that are being sold now. Well, they’d have missed the boat on that huge opportunity.

I guess my real question is, if businesses – especially SMEs – don’t change, how will they ever evolve?

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