Can An Ordinary Business Be Innovative?

Peter Drucker is famously quoted as saying that the two basic functions of every business are marketing and innovation.

The word innovation often conjures up thoughts of high tech startups in Silicon Valley, biotech companies or engineering firms.

The question often arises – can an ordinary business, that sells ordinary products be innovative? The answer is, of course, yes.

What is Innovation?

A common misconception that businesses make is that innovation has to be in the actual product or service itself.

If you sell a boring or ordinary product it may seem like innovation may not be relevant to your business or industry, in which case you have no option but to compete solely on price – a situation you want to avoid at all costs.

However, innovation can go far beyond the actual product that’s sold.

Innovation can be applied to how the product is priced, financed, packaged, supported, delivered, managed, marketed or a myriad of other elements related to any part of the customer experience.

If you’re in an “unsexy” business where your customer’s first question is generally centered around price, you may be a bit skeptical about all this talk of innovation.

After all, how can a disposable razor blade distributor really be innovative? A manufacturer of blenders? Or perhaps a restaurant?

How can these ordinary, boring businesses be innovative? I’m glad you asked. Let me show you how.

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Disposable Razor Blade Distributor– The Dollar Shave Company

The Dollar Shave Club turned cheap disposable razor blades into a subscription service. How brilliant is that!

Not only have they created enormous value and convenience for their customers but they now get to charge for their product every month until you say stop.

If you sell consumables, couldn’t you do something similar – turn the consumable product into a subscription service?

Blender Manufacturer– Blendtec

Blendtec is a manufacturer of blenders – ordinary blenders like the type you would use in your kitchen at home.

They’ve created an enormous viral marketing buzz by making a video series called Will It Blend? Here they demonstrate their product blending a variety of objects from iPhones and iPads to golf balls. Check it out here:

I want to cry after seeing the wanton destruction of my favorite Apple products, however, Blendtec must be pretty happy about the more than 220 million views on their YouTube channel. That kind of publicity compared to the small cost involved in producing these videos is just genius.

Could you demonstrate your ordinary product being used in unusual ways to create publicity?

Local Restaurant

I was in the men’s room at a local restaurant in my area when I noticed this poster on the wall:

The restaurant offers a pickup and drop off service so customers don’t have to worry about driving under the influence. It creates convenience for the customer and the restaurant ends up selling more of their highest margin product – alcohol. Everyone wins.

These are just three examples of ordinary, otherwise boring businesses that are selling their products in innovative ways.

There are numerous other examples but I think you get the gist.

Now it’s time for you to innovate. You don’t have to invent anything original. Model, borrow or shamelessly steal innovative ideas from other industries or products.

Do anything other than stay a boring commodity which forces you to compete solely on price.

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