Thriving companies are always innovating by creating and introducing new methods, ideas, or products and services, all designed to improve customer experience. Customer acquisition and retention often depend on new solutions. Maintaining a commitment to innovation and launching a new product that results in high adoption takes a big investment and dedicated resources. In major league baseball, when an investment is made in a new superstar, it is with the expectation that the team will win the World Series. In major league business, when an investment is made in innovation, it is with the expectation that the company will win the Growth Series.
What Experts Say about Innovation Pay Off
For over a decade, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has tracked the impact of innovation on growth and found that those companies who are committed and successful at serial innovation generate a rising proportion of sales from new products and services compared to just 30% of what they refer to as the “skeptics” (those for whom innovation is not a strategic or investment priority) and 47% of the group they term “confused” (those who are indifferent or inconsistent when it comes to innovation).
In a different study, McKinsey found a strong correlation between innovation and performance. They reported that the ability to develop, deliver, and scale new products, services, and processes positively impacts business and financial performance.
While innovation can generate additional value for an organization, anyone who has ever launched something new knows that it’s very hard to motivate people to adopt new.
Why People Balk at Change
There are many reasons why people, and that includes B2B buyers and decision-makers, don’t try, and adopt new things. While price is often mentioned, we have found that 10 obstacles surface as the most common reasons why people reject change and won’t try or buy a new solution, idea, or process. They:
- Are unaware that there is a different way.
- Don’t know how to try.
- Don’t believe it will work.
- Are comfortable with what they have/do now.
- Don’t see their peer group doing it or their peers are doing something different.
- Don’t believe they can afford to try because they can’t afford to fail.
- Believe they tried but it didn’t work for them.
- Previously failed with something similar.
- Feel forced to try and therefore resist adoption.
- Process the acts of change, any change, as unpleasant.
All of these objections and obstacles can be addressed. It is our belief that doing so falls squarely within the domain of Marketing.
How Marketing Helps New Be Adopted
Determining an innovation’s desirability (do customers want it?), feasibility (can we make it?) and viability (can we make money from it – will customers buy it and for how much?) affects whether it will be brought to market. It is Marketing’s responsibility to find the answers to these questions. Let’s assume the answer to each of these is: Yes. You’re going to bring the innovation to market. The next challenge is to achieve adoption.
When bringing something new (whether completely new or iterative) to the market, these are the fundamental ways the Marketing Organization helps facilitate adoption. The basics will keep you from striking out on the first six obstacles:
- Get the word out.
- Create safe and easy ways to trial/learn.
- Develop and communicate proof of the value especially in terms of the status quo and alternatives.
- Capture and provide examples/case studies/testimonials of successful implementation especially by influential peers.
Then they present well-defined and easy change management and onboarding processes.
What if Adoption is a Swing and Miss?
It becomes much more difficult to achieve adoption when a person has already attempted a change and failed. Even here the Marketing Organization plays a vital role in learning why the attempt failed. This requires research and data analysis skills.
Conduct research with people who previously attempted the adoption and find out what went wrong. Was it the innovation itself or something surrounding it? Here are five key questions you’ll want to ask:
- What were you trying to accomplish with “XYZ?”
- What did you dislike about “XYZ?”
- Why did you stop using “XYZ?”
- What did you like about “XYZ?”
- What would have made you keep using “XYZ?”
If adoption of your innovation is part of a category, consider reaching out to experts from within the category for their perspective as to the challenges and opportunities for the adoption of “XYZ.”
Data from this type of research provides additional insight into how to address people who have tried something similar and didn’t adopt (obstacle #7) or tried something similar and failed (obstacle #8).
New is uncomfortable. Change can be hard. How your innovation is presented to potential prospects requires gaining their trust and consideration. The more inclusive downstream marketing is, speaking to the benefits and value of the innovation so it resonates with every person–the more likely users and decision-makers will come to the same conclusion: adoption is a good thing (obstacles #9 and #10). Paint a clear picture of how much better, easier, or faster work will be with the change and how you will help make adoption as easy as possible.
Innovation is a Team Sport
Innovation on its own rarely leads to success. Your innovation needs solid development, stellar support, a receptive set of potential customers, and a great plan to bring it to market. All of this means that your innovation needs Marketing, both upstream and downstream, and Marketing inside and outside of the organization.
It is marketers, after all, who interact with the market, and who ideally know the customer base and understand their pain points. Marketing helps the company imagine the future and secure the adoption of innovations to create this future. Success requires customer insights into needs, wants, buying criteria, and supplier preferences; competitive intelligence to help frame positioning and messaging; and a go-to-market strategy and plan.