Small businesses are the true innovators

Josh Stailey

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Josh Stailey from the Pursuit Group is back again this week to talk a little about innovation and how you can innovate your business to keep your customers happier.

Hi, this is Josh Stailey from The Pursuit Group. I want to talk a bit today about innovation as it relates to small business.

Last week, I was at a trade show for safety engineers, of all people, we had a client that we went with. I managed to walk the show in addition to spending time in their booth. And what I noticed was really interesting. Throughout the hundreds of booths, there were lots of interesting, innovative and sometimes startling products. But what I noted most about it was that the bulk of those innovations came from the little booths; the 10x10 booths, not the giant booths with the Fortune 500 companies out front. That tells me that innovation is not only alive and well, but is working best in small companies that don’t have reasons why not, but look for reasons why.

The company that I was with for this actually brought their own innovation. I want to chat a little about it to give an example because the innovation came out of a defined need and the ability to listen.

Last year when I went to this conference, they brought a product. And everybody said, “You know, this is really good, but what we need is something that will stand up to forklifts and pallets because your product is really nice, but we’ll tear it apart. Well this year they brought something new. This is called Durastripe; it’s a lexan-based product, ultra tough with a massively aggressive adhesive on the back. You peel it, you lay it down. It replaces paint, which chips and cracks and costs a lot to fix. It replaces vinyl and other type of materials that they can use for this. This comes in regular signs that warn you about stopping or forklifts or safety goggles or whatever. And they brought this out in response to a need. It took them a year to figure out how to do this and a lot of trial and error. But they brought this out and it was one of the hits of the show. They have more than 200 people there now sending samples out. Most of which are those Fortune 500 corporations that need it on their manufacturing floors and in their warehouses.

They achieved this because, one, they listened to what people said the year before. We need this. This is good and we can use it, but if you really want to get my attention, bring out this. And then they came back and figured out how to do it. And it took a year of hard work to figure it out and they just released it. But it is a success story and it’s an innovation.

Every company out there probably has some of those same issues. They have customers that say, this is great, but can you do this or this is close, but I got to have this kind of thing too. Your ability to win that customer’s loyalty and to grow that relationship with that customer has much more to do with how you respond to what they just told you than to their ability to buy what you have today. They may buy it, but somebody else is going to come along with this and they’ll buy it from them tomorrow instead of from you.

So, innovation, one, is not just for big companies, it’s for everybody. Two is, it’s not just a new revolutionary product, but it’s any way to make that customer happier and to do his job better. And three is, it’s more than anything else a function of listening and responding.

About Josh

Our friend and contributor Josh Stailey passed away unexpectedly on September 10, 2011. We have valued his expertise and willingness to share his insights with us. We discussed the appropriateness of sharing content he provided before his death with his business partners at The Pursuit Group and they agreed sharing his expertise was a fitting tribute to Josh.

Josh Stailey was a 40-year veteran of the marketing and sales wars, a journalism-trained professional who understood the role of information and technology in today’s business world. A consultant and writer, he was a founding partner of The Pursuit Group, which specializes in designing and implementing demand-generation systems for small- and medium-sized businesses. He has also consulted with Fortune 500 companies on customer experience management and content system design.

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