Every year, various business new outlets publish their lists of the innovative companies. And year after year, the same companies hover at the top of those lists and set trends: Apple, Google, Facebook, Tesla, Amazon—all very successful leaders in their respective fields.
While they're all consumer-facing companies, there's a lesson that B2B companies can take from these innovative leaders: their investment in figuring out what's next.
Which means your company has to invest in figuring out what's next if you want to join the leagues of trendsetters. If setting trends instead of following them is the kind of company you want to be, let's have a look at three key areas that can help accelerate your path to trendsetter status: impact, investment and assessment.
Set Trends Through a Commitment to Impact
Apple consistently challenges what a phone can do. Google transformed the way we search. Tesla delivers the cars of tomorrow today.
Every one of these accomplishments began with a clear idea about impact.
What kind of impact does your company want to have on the lives of your customers and clients? How do you want to change their lives and worlds for the better?
For some B2B companies, this can begin with a powerful mission statement or vision, which states what you strive towards each day and why you do what you do. For others, it's the reason you founded your company in the first place—to ease a particular pain or change the way your customers accomplish a goal.
To hone in on the impact you want to create, here are three questions that can help your company start thinking like a trendsetter instead of a trend follower:
- If we could wave a magic wand and make one big thing happen for our customers, what would that one thing be?
- Why is solving this one big thing for our customers important to us as a company and on a personal level as founders and employees?
- How does solving this one big thing for our customers impact other areas of their business for the better?
Once you know what that one big thing is—the impact you want to have on the lives and businesses that matter most—you can become a company willing to relentlessly invest in the process of making it happen.
Set Trends Through a Commitment to Investment
What does it mean to relentlessly invest in having an impact?
To begin, it means never resting on your laurels, or becoming too content with successes or status quos. It's great that you had a great second quarter, but what do you have to do in order to have a great second quarter next year or in five years?
If you want to be a company that sets trends, it's important to not just invest in what's bringing you success today. Consider investing time, energy and resources in what will bring your customers—and by default, your company—success tomorrow.
These three questions can help get your company thinking about how you currently invest your resources and how you might need to change how and where you invest them:
- How do we get feedback from our customers on both our current solutions as well as solutions they'd like to see from us?
- What process do we have in place for triaging this feedback from our customers and then prioritizing it for research and development?
- How quickly can we test new innovations and are there ways we could reallocate our time, energy, and resources to make testing new innovations faster and more efficient?
The three questions above—as well as the three questions posed about impact—are all about assessment, which is the next component for companies that seek to set trends instead of follow them.
Set Trends Through a Commitment to Assessment
Innovation takes a relentless commitment to assessment: looking at what you're doing, what's been done and what to do next—and why.
What process does your company have in place to continually assess the actions you take towards creating an impact in your space?
You're committed to achieving a desired impact. You're making the necessary investments of time, energy and resources into your relentless pursuit of achieving that impact. Now it's time to put systems in place to ensure that you stay nimble in your pursuit of innovation.
Here are three questions your company can ask to ensure your efforts toward and investment in making an impact can continuously adjust to current and future needs:
- What systems does our company currently have in place for assessing our research and development efforts?
- How could those systems be improved so that we can innovate faster and with greater efficiency?
- How can our team members become an even more valuable asset in our pursuit to improve and evolve?
To set trends, B2C leaders continuously assess their commitments and look at where and how they could improve. Your company can do the same. You may be able to shape your own distinct culture of innovation that helps you become industry trendsetters in the process.
Impact, investment and ongoing assessment are three key areas where all those who set trends—B2C and B2B alike—excel. The only question that remains is will your company commit to lead or are you merely content to follow?
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