One of my last blog entries discussed the need to create affordable and accessible solutions as a way of staying competitive. Given globalization, cheap labor, and a damaged economy, this makes more sense than ever.
Here are three starter questions to ask to help you generate new ideas:
How can you productize a service? One way to make a service more affordable and accessible is to turn it into a physical or digital product; something that requires little or no human intervention. In my earlier entry, I talked about Cybersettle automating insurance claims processing. My Innovation Personality Poker enables people to recreate one of my most popular speeches/workshops. Self-assessment tools can reduce reliance on consultants. Remote diagnostic technologies can speed medical exams and pre-qualify patients before they come to the doctor. Legalzoom.com offers affordable legal advice for people who might otherwise not seek counsel. TurboTax simplifies tax filing. Experts convert their intellectual property into books, mp3s, DVDs, digitally delivered training (including eLearning) systems, or online databases. The possibilities are endless.
How can you offer a low-cost product/service? In an earlier blog entry, I quoted Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, who once said, “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away.” I love that. Ask, “Why are people really using our products/services and what are the bare minimum ways of delivering the desired outcome?” $300 netbooks are stripped down computers because most people want to do word processing and surf the net. Tata is offering a $2,000 car in India (ok, maybe that is a bit too scaled down). Ernst & Young Consulting (now Cap Gemini) once offered a subscription service, Ernie, which provided small businesses with a low-cost alternative to high priced consulting. Dow Corning, the maker of silicone-based products, created Xiameter, an internet-based division that sells product only in bulk… with no call centers. Which features, services, or qualities can be reduced in order to tap into a new market?
How can I make my product addictive? Drug dealers know that if you get someone hooked on your product, they will come back to buy more. This strategy can be useful for attracting – and retaining – customers. Last month I spoke with the CEOs of three software companies. The one strategy that was pertinent to all three was the development of a stripped down version of the software…and potentially offering it for free. The idea is to get the customer hooked and using the software on a regular basis. Then as the customer’s needs grow, they will need to upgrade (note: this is not the same thing as offering something free today and then charging in the future). I worked with a major computer manufacturer many years ago where this concept was applied. Their flagship computer was (let’s call it) the “F” series. But that was too expensive for most companies, so they introduced a much slower and less expensive computer – the “E” series. Interestingly, the two models were 100% identical except a computer chip was added to the “E” to slow it down. The company knew that many customers would eventually want an upgrade, and they simply pulled out the chip and charged an exorbitant fee.
All three of these strategies move your innovation to the left-hand part of the bell curve (above) rather than the right. All three can be used by any company to augment their existing products and services. The point is to make your “core competency” available to a broader market – without negatively diverting energies.
I will be including more strategies in future blog entries.