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need to innovate
What does a business need if it wants to constantly innovate? How can you keep ahead of the competition and come up with new ideas to help you to stand out in your field?
As part of our series of Smarketing blogs, we sat down with specialists from within SBM itself to get their insights into all areas of marketing. Watch as James chats to Jude Rus, our Head of Development, about how businesses can keep on top of changing technology and use it to drive success!
James: Jude, thank you very much for catching up and hanging out with us!
Jude: Absolute pleasure to be here.
James: So obviously, Head of Development, in charge of what can sometimes be seen as the most mythical department in any agency.
So we’ve had a few chats ourselves, and I thought it’d be cool to bring it into more of an open forum so other people can hear and learn about some of the ways we think about development, which is a little bit different.
So we were just touching then on how people see development. They see it as a necessity, it’s a ‘need’, or just a requirement, but actually, it’s far bigger than that. It’s an opportunity. So how do you see development in business?
Jude: Well, exactly that. Some people see it as a need, some people see it as an arcane art… we throw money down there and what comes back.
I see it as the innovation area of a business, almost like the area that’s going to drive the next big success in a business. You do a lot of things to stabilize and grow your current business; development allows you to take on new opportunities, to do new things, to explore new areas…and of course, I see it as a bit of magic. It’s the pizzazz, the little bit of extra that you can do for your business.
James: It’s so true. I think the thing that blows me away is that we look at all companies now and every time you hear about some kind of crazy innovation or disruptive thing that’s happening, at the core of it there’s some new technology. And really it’s a software solution that’s allowed that to come to fruition.
We could all harp on about the big ones – Facebook, AirBnB, and we do- but at the end of the day it’s all based on the platform of technology that’s now available. Maybe 20 years ago, that technology just wasn’t accessible.
Jude: Absolutely, and that’s the amazing thing: you’ve got the really big players to have these massive, worldwide, everyone knows them, Uber, Facebook, all of that. You’ve also got that innovation happening in thousands of small businesses, and in fact if you’re running a business, your competitor probably is doing that innovation. They’re trying to do something new, they’ve got coders building something new. They’re trying to innovate and stay ahead of you.
This doesn’t have to disrupt every market, but it might disrupt YOUR market, and that’s the power of having developers, and having this kind of team.
James: That leads onto the next question, and what we were touching on before. How do we stay ahead of that? How do we stop that from being the competitors doing it, and how is it that we as a business owner/organisation can be the ones developing that innovation.
Jude: Obviously you’ve got to have the idea first. You’ve got to identify the area you can innovate in. You don’t want to go out there without a plan, and without a SMART plan. You’ve got to put something together first!
But the next step is putting together an innovation budget, and that’s something that a lot of businesses don’t have. They have a marketing budget, they probably have a materials budget, they might have a staffing budget, but an innovation budget is something that new and successful and disruptive businesses are doing. They put money aside to say how are we going to do things better next year, how we can automate more, how are we going to lead an be successful?
James: It’s a really cool way of thinking, because one of the challenges I know, that we’ve probably both seen when we have someone who comes to us with a good idea, and they might be a marketing manager or they might be head of technology, or whatever they are in their business- could be just a salesperson who’s been tasked with the job of seeing how much it’s going to cost, and then as soon as the budget comes up, there IS no budget available for it.
So actually, even just having that opportunity to have a free budget to innovate…what did that bring in terms of success, the year after, and then how do you measure the success of that budget?
Jude: And without outlining that from the start, you have to have a champion in your business who’s coming up with ideas and able to get them through to management, through to the board, wherever they need to get, and it relies on the ‘hero’ to emerge in a business to be disruptive.
If you have an innovation budget, if you have some idea of a business, we’ve got a strategic plan, we’re going to do this, then it drives itself and starts to become a self-motivating force, because there’s money there and money drives the business.
James: So are they maybe some key types of development that are usually the things that are focused around this innovation, or this development of new ideas?
Obviously there are apps and things, but what are the accessible software solutions for businesses?
Jude: So there’s a few different categories of innovation that every business will look at. Of course there’s cost saving: how do we automate things that we’re doing over and over again? How do you make them more efficient?
There’s bringing in more leads, so how do we innovate in a way that brings us more sales and more inquiries, and that overlaps with marketing and websites.
And then there’s disruption: how do we do things really differently? How do we do something that everyone else in the market is doing, but do it in a way that’s going to change the game? And that’s where often a mobile app or an automated website or something else will come in. A platform will come in and be built to lead that charge.
James: If someone’s like “I’m ready, I’ve got some ideas, or I want to start coming up with ideas,” a good starting point for them would be looking at potentially some time-saving systems and technology that can be used to remove competitive tasks, basically save time.
Then everyone has access to a website. There’s obviously more potential to innovate to generate more leads, and more cash. And then on top of that we’ve got maybe software as a service or an application.
So when it comes to building an app, because I know it’s a hot topic and everyone’s always got an idea for an app. Even in a business everyone’s got an idea of how they can make their interaction with a customer better or easier or smoother. What sort of checks and measures, what thought process do you go through when you’re starting that road to ‘do I create an app, or not?’
Jude: Yeah, the first one is always ‘has it been done before?’ There’s a first mover advantage in building an app; the first person who does it has an advantage. It’s not a game changing advantage…so you’ve got Uber, and you’ve got Lyft. There’s almost always a complementary business in that disruptive framework, but if someone’s done it before, it doesn’t mean don’t do it.
There’s some advantage to coming in second and doing it better, and doing it where someone hasn’t done it before. There’s an opportunity to take some things off the shelf. So rather than building everything from scratch, you’re able to say “I’ll take this piece, and this piece…” and maybe outclass or outpace the competition who are building it all from scratch.
There’s some thinking you’ve got to go with there…
James: So check to see whether or not it exists to start with…
Jude: Yep – then evaluate what value it’s going to return to your business. And that’s really hard to do, because you’ve got the best case scenario- everything’s automated, no one comes to work, we make a million dollars an hour- and that’s the innovation gold standard. Then you’ve got the reality right down the bottom: it doesn’t work and we’ve thrown the money against the wall and we haven’t got what we’ve achieved.
It’s a whole spectrum, and what you need to do is have down from your best case, what’s your realistic case? For that you need to consult with people who’ve done it before and get an idea of ‘if we build this app, how could it work?’
The third thing you need to do is some usability testing, or some market testing. So for this you might even run a Facebook or an adwords campaign. See if we had this app already, would people be buying it, would they be using it and signing up.
James: See whether there’s actually the demand for the service or the app that you’re putting out there.
Jude: And we’ve done that before, which is like a guerilla marketing campaign. You take your app idea, you make a landing page for it, you sell it first, and if people sign up, then you go ahead with building it. But you don’t do that ever under your business name!
James: But still, you can measure engagement, even in the case of signing up with pre-registrations. You can at least gain interest in the application or the idea
Jude: And sometimes people have a real fear about “I don’t want to put my idea out there, because I don’t want to steal it.” But the secret sauce in most apps is your business knowledge, and your knowledge of how to innovate. It’s not the idea itself.
James: It’s not the benefit that the consumer’s going to be receiving, it’s actually how it’s then calculated behind the scenes, how it’s put together is where the IP and the idea is.
Jude: That’s exactly right, yeah. Again, that harks back to why you can have competing apps with similar ideas and similar functionality that have completely different success and outcomes. It comes down to how well it was it built…hopefully someone like me has built it and it’s done a good job! What’s the secret sauce, so what’s the inside knowledge, and the wisdom behind it, and then of course how it’s marketed and released into the marketplace.