Wipro started out selling vegetable oil. It now provides global information technology, consulting, and outsourcing services and is known as the “IBM of India.” It has grown annual revenue to close to $8 billion. It is hard to believe that Wipro actually stands for Western India Palm Refined Oils!
For your brand to grow continually, what you sell today is not necessarily what you will sell in the future. Your marketing messages of today are not necessarily what they should be tomorrow. Your key differentiators today may not necessarily be relevant tomorrow. To that end, you should build innovation into the DNA of your business to thrive long-term.
In my new book, Rethink Your Marketing: 7 Strategies to Unleash Revenue Growth, I point out that the foresight to strategically plan for the future can open up game-changing growth opportunities for your business, whereas the failure to consider your future can have devastating consequences. Consider the Fortune 500. According to Capgemini Consulting, 52% of the companies in the Fortune 500 have gone belly-up, been acquired, or shut down operations since the year 2000.
As a marketing leader, you need to be working on two businesses – what you are doing today, and what you should be doing in the future. You may sell vegetable oil today, but that does not mean you shouldn’t sell enterprise-level technology solutions tomorrow. With this in mind, innovation and evolution are business imperatives.
RIM vs. Apple
Take the case of Research in Motion (RIM) and compare it to Apple. RIM helped reinvent the concept of communication with its Blackberry smartphone. Its arrival on the scene in the late 1990’s nearly singlehandedly tanked the pager business enabling people to send messages instead of pings or vibrations. Introducing the Blackberry in 1998, RIM quickly came to dominate the phone market. By 2007, it owned 60% of the market.
That was its peak, as Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 and by 2012 had more than three times as many users as the Blackberry. RIM never rethought its future, ignoring the fact that what people really wanted in their hands was mini-computers. RIM has since fallen to less than one percent of the market.
In contrast, Apple, which started out by selling circuit boards and then computer systems, eventually evolved to build a broad networked ecosystem, including the iTunes platform, App Store, Apple TV, and Apple Pay. It even launched the Apple Store, which became the fastest-growing retail chain ever in the US. Apple is now one of the most valuable companies on the planet.
RIM remained stuck in the past, while Apple continually reinvented its future. The results are undeniable.
More proof of the imperative to constantly reinvent one’s business is Amazon. How did a company that started out by selling books end up being a technology and retail giant with close to $136 billion in annual revenue?
Simple, by rethinking its future during every step of its evolution.
Jeff Bezos’ original plan for Amazon when he started the company in 1995 was to make a wider selection of a product people wanted – books – available in a more convenient shopping channel. He knew physical book stores were limited in what they could carry and that books would be easy to pack and ship without risk of damage. He even located his business close to a major book distributor so he would not have to store inventory.
Once he got rolling, Bezos realized Amazon’s growing sales and distribution model could be expanded beyond books. In 1998, he moved into music, DVD/video sales and acquired Internet Movie Database, the first step into the power of leveraging information to enhance customer satisfaction.
Then Amazon introduced home improvement products, software, video games, and gift items. Then came the introduction of toys, photo equipment, as well as additional product categories.
By 2002, Amazon was humming along, building warehouses and developing a sophisticated technology infrastructure. Bezos could have been content to continue growing the online retail business, but he instead was thinking more strategically about the powerful IT environment Amazon had created.
Leveraging Amazon’s highly advanced infrastructure, the business entered the cloud computing market. As a result, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was born – now itself a roughly $12 billion-a-year business.
Amazon transformed again with the launch of the Kindle e-reader. The Kindle Fire was released later, launching Amazon into the tablet market. Its latest innovation brings it into the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) with Amazon Echo, better known as Alexa.
One of the keys to Amazon’s innovative culture is that it is not afraid to try something new. From books to CDs, electronics, and fashion, and from AWS to Kindle e-readers, Amazon Lending, and Alexa, Amazon is continually reinventing itself.
As Bezos points out, “What’s dangerous is not to evolve.”
Rethink Your Future
In summary, to thrive long-term, you should be working on two businesses concurrently – your business of today, and the one it will become tomorrow. This requires a commitment to continually rethinking your brand’s future. To inject innovation into the DNA of your brand and to strategically plan for the future, consider the following questions:
- How can you systematize innovation into your business planning process?
- How can you elicit more business ideas from your employees, customers, suppliers, and partners on an ongoing basis?
- What waves of change are you seeing in the market? How can you ride the momentum?
- How are your customers’ expectations evolving?
- How can you transform the customer experience?
- What complementary products or services would appeal to your existing customers?
- What completely new solutions would appeal to them?
- How can you leverage your expertise to enter new markets?
- In what area are you most profitable, and how can you translate that into a concerted push for greater innovation?
- How will you capitalize on the advances in technology in the coming years?
- How will your marketing change?
- What should your business look like in three years for you to have a powerful competitive edge?
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Tom Shapiro oversees and manages Stratabeat, which provides branding, design & marketing services that drive client revenue growth. Stratabeat operates on the foundation that strategic thinking is the heartbeat of everything the agency does for clients. Services include marketing strategy, branding, web design, web development, SEO, PR, and conversion optimization.