Forbes Technology Council — You’ve most likely heard the following expression: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Think for a minute about how this applies to your small business marketing. Relying on the strategies that have served you in the past is not the way to build your business in the future. To stand out from the competition, you shake up the way you do things. In other words, you need to become a disruptor.
What is a disruptor?
The concept of “disruptive innovation” was introduced in 1997 by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. It describes a creative product or idea, usually by an up-and-coming company with fewer resources, that disrupts an existing market, sometimes even taking it over. Disruptors are most often associated with the fast-moving tech industry.
For instance, consider Netflix. It started in the late 1990s as a service that allowed customers to rent DVDs by mail. It was so successful that brick-and-mortar video rental stores couldn’t compete; it eventually put Blockbuster, the largest of them, out of business. Then, Netflix pivoted again; in 2007, it forever changed the way we watched movies when it added a streaming service.
Wikipedia is another good example of a disruptor. Dismissed as unreliable when it first started 20 years ago, it has grown into a trusted source, replacing encyclopedias as the go-to research tool. And after more than 200 years in business, Encyclopedia Britannica stopped publishing those heavy volumes. Now, it, too, can be found online.
Disruptors focus on solutions, not problems.
To create a disruptive mindset, you and your team need to start thinking differently. Instead of focusing on a problem, disruptors brainstorm solutions. Their ideas are likely unconventional—the ones that work often set precedents.
Disruptors look at their existing products in a new way.
While your company may not have the next big thing that’s going to take the world by storm, you can still disrupt the market by using what you have and presenting it differently. The pandemic has changed consumers’ needs and buying habits and created supply chain issues, forcing some companies to think outside the box. For instance, many fine dining restaurants started offering take-out or delivery for customers who stopped eating in restaurants during the pandemic. And some hotels rented out rooms to remote workers seeking a quiet place to conduct business.
Disruptors don’t compare themselves to the competition.
Like a jockey on a winning racehorse, you don’t want to keep pace with your competitors; you want to pull out ahead. Yet by consistently measuring yourself against them, you can’t help but wind up with a similar marketing strategy. If you want to be an industry leader, don’t worry about the competition; worry about the customers and find what they really value.
Disruptors create new markets for their products.
Your potential customer base is most likely much larger than the number of people served by your business combined with those served by your competitors. Instead of fighting for a bigger share of the pie, it’s time to bake a larger pie. To do this, you need to identify potential customers and find ways to meet their needs. New technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning can provide you with valuable data about consumer needs. This will help you identify segments of the market that are ripe for disruption.
Disruptors are continually evolving all aspects of their company.
To truly be considered a disruptor, it’s not enough to adopt a new mindset. You must also adapt your business model and your company culture. To do this, you need to create an atmosphere where creative, outside-the-box thinkers can thrive. The right people can make all the difference, whether they are new hires or current employees who’ve been trained in this new way of thinking.
If you continue to challenge your employees to keep your company ahead of the curve, you will set the pace for the market, and your competitors will be working to keep up with you.
Article by Forbes Technology Council Member and President/CEO/CTO of Our Town America, Michael Plummer Jr. Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives.