From exciting new tech gadgets to innovative services, startups are revolutionizing almost every industry. Although big brands like Amazon continue to dominate retail, smaller businesses have become serious competitors for large corporations. Their proactive approach to winning customers means established businesses must find ways to constantly evaluate their offerings and find ways to keep things fresh.
If you're running an established business, you may feel that you've painted yourself into a corner. You've grown a customer base using the business you created and it's too late to go back. But as you watch new competitors come in and steal those customers away, you may realize how important it is to reinvent yourself every now and then. Here are a few ways you can use startup thinking to win the market, no matter how long you've been in business.
1. Out with the Old
Any business that has been around for a while relies on an established set of products or services. Whether your business started a couple of years ago or is a couple of decades old, you should take a serious look at your offerings on a regular basis. What worked in 2014 may not work in 2016, since markets are constantly changing. Even if you know the market is strong for your product, step back and seriously consider rebooting some of your offerings to keep up with modern technology. In some cases, businesses find that the products or services they offer aren't the problem. They merely need to rethink the approach they take to getting them in the hands of customers.
2. Care What Customers Think
New startups usually conduct ongoing market research, constantly asking customers their opinions. Once a business has been around for a while, it often loses touch with those customers, assuming the research they conducted in the early days still holds true. Over time, customer opinions change as new products and services are introduced that change the way they work and play. To remain relevant, you should never stop asking customers what they think. In addition to surveying the consumer market about your products, you should also pay close attention to market research related to your industry. If your competitors know more about the market than you do, they may win your customers away before you even realize it.
3. Build a Lab
Innovation labs have become a popular way for big businesses to encourage innovation within their walls. These labs allow a subset of employees to dedicate at least part of their time to coming up with innovative ideas that will drive the business forward. But you don't have to be a major corporation to implement this concept into your business. An innovation lab encourages your team to not only come up with ideas but to test them and find ways to prove them to investors or superiors. Even if you have a small staff, you can appoint several employees to an innovation committee and ask them to present ideas on a specified schedule. Be sure to allow those employees dedicated time each week to work on their concepts to get the most out of your lab.
4. Take a Tour
One of the best ways to get into the right mindset is to take a tour of an innovative new business in your area. A corporate innovation initiative called DVTorque, in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) aims to connect established businesses with some of the most well-respected businesses in the world. Calling them "Executive Immersions," BCG realizes the need that exists for entrepreneurs to continue to learn long after their businesses have achieved their growth goals. In addition to networking with your own community, you can land tours by contacting exciting businesses in your area and requesting a tour for yourself and your team.
At every stage of development, a company can benefit from reevaluating its business model and looking for opportunities to reenergize its offerings. By using startup thinking, established businesses can avoid going stale and continue to remain relevant in an increasingly-competitive marketplace.