An Intrapreneur’s Best Contribution Is ‘Customer-Led Innovation’30 December, 2015 / Articles
Customer-Led Innovation: Any group of enhancements obtained directly from customers, which, when implemented will induce customers to buy from the company.
If you are an internal entrepreneur (AKA, Intrapreneur) who is looking to increase your value to the organization by making the most meaningful and profitable contribution possible, customer-led innovation could be your secret weapon. This is true for these reasons:
- There is nothing as potent as customer intelligence when determining the highest leverage innovation efforts within the company
- Customer-led innovation will always yield more revenue, which is one of the most valuable contributions an Intrapreneur can make in the eyes of the executive team
- Customer-led innovation serves as a self-alignment tool for business strategy, bringing company output more closely in alignment with customer demand—and keeping it there for the long haul
- Customer-led innovation becomes an early-warning system, continually updating the company regarding changes in competitor strategies that could threaten current and anticipated customer relationships
What is Customer-Led Innovation? Let’s first establish what it isn’t. Customer-led innovation is not:
- An exercise where employees are asked to propose general improvements that they believe will help the company
- A task force of well-intentioned employees trying to solve real problems they have identified within the company
- A challenge from the CEO to improve a specific aspect of the business in order to reduce costs or improve a critical process
I define customer-led innovation as, “any group of enhancements obtained directly from customers, which, when implemented will induce customers to buy from the company.” If this definition sounds simple, that’s because it is. But ‘simple’ rarely means ‘easy.’ In reality, it takes a concerted effort to consistently ask your prospects and customers the right questions about the improvements they require before they will buy or renew, and then to actually implement those requested innovations. Following are five guidelines that may be helpful.
- Customer-led innovations are critical to your customers’ strategic objectives. If an innovation doesn’t help customers reach their own goals, such as helping them sell to their customers or solving major problems, don’t burn resources working on it.
- Customer-led innovations are major factors in your customers’ decision to buy your offerings. Some customer requests that are important are not necessarily important enough to sway a prospect to buy from you. You should focus your innovation efforts on the customer requests that are both important and central to their purchase decision.
- If you’re not doing it well, you’re at risk. Whatever the customer-required innovation, if your company is failing to deliver at the level that would induce customers to buy, you’re losing revenue.
- If your competition is performing better than you, you’re at risk. It is crucial to learn (from customers) how well your competitors are innovating. If they are responding in customer-identified areas better than you, it’s time to ramp up your innovation efforts. If you can’t, you guessed it—more lost revenue.
- Make sure you can pull it off. Innovation opportunities—even those demanded by the customer—must be screened based on the time, money and buy-in available to implement them. Given the criticality of these innovations, it shouldn’t be too difficult to rally the right resources.
See? It’s simple, but not necessarily easy. Although it can be difficult, it’s also an irresistible opportunity. Customer engagement (a customer’s emotional or psychological attachment to a brand, product, or company) is a huge factor in the decision to buy, and responding to customer opinions about how to enhance your products and services is the best way to strengthen your connection and increase your sales win rate. That will elevate your status from employee to Intrapreneur.