Product life cycles generally go from an extremely innovative starting point through a development phase and very frequently, finish up as a commodity with a multitude of manufacturers and suppliers.
All well and good and we all have experience of products which have passed through this process. Typical would be the ball-point pen, post-it notes and paper staplers.
All of these have been launched on to the market, gone through all the phases and are now a commodity with many companies supplying the same or at east similar products.
However just occasionally a product is launched that is so innovative that no-one seems to be able to copy it and it remains the leader in its field.
If products have this sort of life cycle, what about companies and indeed commercial or industrial sectors themselves?
Look at your business and ask yourself, are we a truly innovative organisation or (and be honest about it) are we much the same as many other businesses in this field?
There is little point in kidding ourselves. The market and the customers will soon find out where you are placed on the Innovation/Commodity continuum.
The sorry fat is that there are many commercial and industrial sectors of the economy that could be classed as being commoditised and many professional practices fall into this category as well.
This is not to say that many organisations that are, on the face of it, commoditised are necessarily unsuccessful. It is perfectly possible to minimise and even eliminate risk and run the business satisfactorily but without much excitement.
It is, of course, unlikely that the business will stand out from the crowd or indeed rate particularly highly on a search engine.
It all depends on the business culture, what seems the right thing to do, how experimental are the leaders and owners and what level of risk is acceptable to them.
Take a look at what used to be the way to find a tradesman to do some work in your home, that is, by those massive catalogues listing just about every suppler of every service that you want or need.
How did we decide on which one to call? Was it by locality, by the size of the advertisement, or the first one in the listing?
None of these bear any relationship to the ability of the person or business offering the service or the standard of service that we could expect until we start the telephoning process and try to find out.
What usually happens is that we ask friends or colleagues if they can recommend someone and so the “word of mouth” method was born.
It is all very inefficient even when the massive printed book is now replaced by a quick search on Google simply because some clever geek has used search engine optimisation to position the business at the top of page one of the search.
It doesn’t mean that they are any different from anyone else; it is just that they have found a better SEO specialist.
What then is the answer? How can we drag ourselves out of the mass of “me too” businesses in our sector and make it clear to the market and prospective customers that we offer something different.
By the way, difference doesn’t always imply services or products. It can be the way that we deliver the product, the way that we answer the telephone, the speed at which we pay bills and the level of service which we give to every customer or prospect at all ties and without exception.
It is easy to say that we need to be different. Some time devoted to ways of being different and bringing everyone in the business into the process will pay massive dividends in the long run. Driving that culture into the business should be the major function of the leader and probably the only “top down” contribution that is critical to the growth, success and general health of the organisation.
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