Is your company leveraging its innovation story? Innovation is exciting. It is also rocket fuel for content marketing and building Brand equity. Not only does innovation drive business; it has the power to change lives and societies. For thousands of years the quest for innovation has been propelling human imagination towards the stars. People who understand the potential of innovation, will keep looking and never settle for business as usual (BAU). So, why do so many innovative companies and products miss the mark and fail to capitalize on innovation?
What I frequently hear from business leaders is this: “Our company is innovative. We do fantastic work in creating innovative solutions that give our clients a competitive edge. They love it. But our business Brand is still the best kept secret.”
Innovation: The Hard Currency of Marketing
Here is the thing. Innovation alone is not enough.
“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation” [Peter Drucker]
These words from Peter Drucker explain why so many innovations and innovative brands fail. They fail not because the idea was poor, or because the people who created it were not talented, passionate or bright.
The greatest innovations fail because they failed to tell their innovation story and engage the market with their Brand. They failed to attract enough attention, customers and loyalty to reach the tipping point and build momentum for their innovation.
Innovation is the hard currency of Marketing. Nothing is easier to promote, attract interest and generate WOM than something new and different. It doesn’t matter how small or grand the idea, innovation, in any shape and size, is rocket fuel for a Brand story and content marketing. It doesn’t mean it’s easy. Just easier.
The Value of Telling Your Innovation Story
“Good storytelling helps innovative ideas break through. Storytelling has always been important in business, of course, but in today’s environment, with executive and investor attention stretched thin by information overload, the softer stuff is ever more important for getting ideas noticed,” writes Professor Julian Birkinshaw in his recent article on McKinsey.com, Telling a Good Innovation Story.
People love a good story, almost irrespective of age, gender and geography. Let’s take the Harry Potter phenomenon. Stories don’t even need to be longer than 240 characters today to appeal to large market segments, like the 12.5 million entrepreneur followers of @richardbranson and 103 million followers of @BarackObama on Twitter.
You probably have a good idea by now. Here are three points to keep in mind to get your innovation story out.
- Good stories educate. If you have an innovative product/service, your priority is to ‘educate’ your audience in order to try and keep using your product, be it SaaS or consulting.
- Good stories impact beliefs and behaviour through emotions. You need to tap into your customers’ fears, interests, aspirations and other states of mind to connect with them on an emotional level.
- Good stories boost your ROI. They drive Social Sharing, which in turn, drives inbound traffic and lowers cost of marketing.
How to Tell a Compelling Innovation Story
Have you noticed that the most radical and disruptive innovation rarely comes from within our own industry? But, these serendipitous discoveries are rare. And, neither do they guarantee greater success than other, less glamorous sources of innovation.
In fact, three years of research and analysis of over one thousand ‘working’ innovations by Professor Julian Birkinshaw and his team at the London Business School, revealed that business innovation generally falls into these six broader categories.
- 20% – fall into the two categories known and referred to by academics as: “Fast follower” and “self-cannibalization”.
- 30% – fall into the “classic” innovation categories of: serendipity, perspiration, and underdogs;
- And, 45% (nearly half) – fall into the category dubbed by the researchers as “the winds of change”, i.e. leveraging the emerging trends, such as technology.
The thing is that these categories, created by academics, don’t necessarily resonate with telling a good Brand story.
What business brand wants to be known as a ‘fast follower’, that “mercenary ‘me-too’ who killed the real innovator”? Who wants to tell the world that they accidently killed their cash cow by stumbling onto a new product? And, while the notion of being an ‘underdog’ resonates warmly with Australian market, it requires very careful positioning. The most heroic ‘underdog’ story is how Steve Jobs and Apple re-positioned IBM.
Your business is unique and has done unique things to achieve success. Accordingly, the way you will tell your story will also be unique.
Here are six ways to anchor your Brand Innovation story, proposed by Professor Birkinshaw:
Source: McKinsey.com – Telling a Good Innovation Story by Julian Birkinshaw
Content: The Currency of the Mind in the Digital Age
Let me be very clear. Content drives Digital.
Marketing today has almost entirely moved to the digital model. According to chiefmartec.com there were 6,829 marketing technologies (MarTech) in 2018. Yet, as many Brands are discovering, stocking up on the latest shiny tools doesn’t automatically create inbound traffic or convert to sales.
Leveraging strategically interconnected stories that link your Brand with people’s needs, wants and emotions, Content is the marketing engine of the Digital age.
Powered by 5Vs: Visual, Voice, Velocity, Volume and Viral, Content strategy determines who will win the battle for the customer’s mind.
For the last fifteen or so years digitisation has transformed every aspect of business and is increasingly transforming our personal lives. Take a look at how Nestlé leverages content, using technology to engage customers, and drive continued innovation and build Brand equity.
Nestlé wants to help us manage our health lifestyle now. By enabling people to digitally submit images of what they eat, together with blood and DNA tests, Nestlé Wellness Ambassador, launched in 2017 in Japan, will provide subscribers with personalised information on their optimal nutrition needs! Oh, and don’t worry, Nestle have sold off their “sugar” division to complete the new Brand image.
Whether this program succeeds and to what end, is yet to be seen. But the story-line has been cleverly set for a long-running “series”. It opens almost unlimited scope for customer conversation and engagement, variety of market communications, and new research that will lead to further innovation.
This case demonstrates how Innovation and Marketing (Content Marketing) work together to maximize growth and ensure future potential by engaging customer minds through content.
The Price of a Good Innovation Story?
Good Content attracts, converts and explodes ROI, but it is not cheap. Therefore, you need to manage it wisely.
- Invest a little to get started in the right direction: know your customers and what space and keywords (search terms) you want to own.
- Always have continuity in communicating your content! It is similar to the sales process: it’s always about moving to the next stage. However, unlike personal selling, Content continues to work for you 24/7, for free.
- Aim for good quality Content that builds trust and respect, rather than for quantity. Cheaply outsourced quantity is not a substitute for quality. At best it will do nothing for your ROI. At worst, it will devalue your brand.
- Have a plan that is constantly evolving and improving through metrics and insights from your digital tools and the ‘front-line’.
- Execute the plan relentlessly.
Irrespective of how you innovate as a business, telling your innovation story with Content Marketing is your ticket to building your Brand equity and consistent sales. Content, enabled and augmented through technology is extremely powerful and does what no other form of market communication can do as effectively. It establishes the Brand’s reputation and positioning, builds trust and respect, and, therefore the customer confidence to do business with you!
When strategic content is properly developed and consistently managed, your in-bound marketing, including website and other online channels, will work for you 24/7 in perpetuity.
Is your business doing enough to leverage innovation to build stronger connection with your market and Brand equity?
Margaret Manson is the founder of InnoFuture, a growth marketing agency helping B2B Technology companies leverage the leading trends in marketing strategy and innovation to fuel their businesses.
If you need help with content strategy – CONTACT ME HERE.