How to Innovate in the New Year

The trusty garage may become a thing of the past.

You know, the large spaces found in most American homes — designed to accommodate two or even three cars — but are just as often used for storing junk?

Thanks to technology, the need for garages is slowly diminishing. Services like Uber and Lyft are giving people the freedom and mobility of the automobile without the hassle and expense of ownership.

KTGY Group’s “Concept Community of the Future” eliminates internal streets, driveways and garages – replaced for better density with more shared, public space.

But that’s just the beginning. The idea of a subscription model, in which people rent a car only for the times they need it, is also gaining traction. It may seem farfetched now, but it’s not difficult to imagine a future in which car ownership – and therefore garages and even driveways – are no longer necessary.

The question for home builders then will become how they will use that space to greater effect? It’s predicted that autonomous cars will fuel a new construction boom… as reduced parking demand will open up valuable urban real estate, taller buildings and more-profitable development. How can and should developers adjust other plans to stay ahead of consumer demands and set themselves apart from the competition? What other staples of their building designs will become a thing of the past?

But this isn’t an article about building. It’s an article about marketing… and the same realities and questions builders must face must also be addressed by marketers.

What are your sacred cows?

This is the time of year when people take stock of their lives and make promises to themselves to be better. They make resolutions to lose weight, to quit smoking, to read more, or a myriad of other self-improvement goals.

It’s also a time for businesses — especially marketers of building products —  to do the same thing.

Every marketing organization has a number of practices and approaches that are being threatened by the changing dynamics of an evolving marketplace. Yet they still do them, because “that’s the way we’ve always done things around here.”

We like to call them sacred cows. Those marketing tactics that have been used forever, despite their declining efficacy. The end of the year, and the beginning of the next… is the perfect time to examine those.

Like the garage, are there big, space-consuming parts of your marketing plan that are becoming less and less useful, and are due to be rethought?

Few would argue that the marketing landscape has changed dramatically in the last five to ten years, and that the speed of change is accelerating. Yet many marketers continue business as usual, despite the fact that the world is changing.

One way we like to avoid this is by following our own 80/20 rule.

Committing to that rule, we identify the 20 percent portion of our activity from the previous year that didn’t perform as well as other campaign results, and cut it out. Of course, in order to really evaluate… every program must be measureable.

With that 20 percent gone, we have more “blue sky” and brain power to innovate. We look for new ways of doing things. New approaches that will keep us ahead of the curve and help us reach new heights in the year to come.

What’s in your 20 percent? Are your sales people creating their own marketing materials? Is your print advertising stagnating?

Now is the time to look at all of your marketing activities — be honest with yourself about what’s not working — and don’t be afraid to slay the sacred cows.

But the thing is, the time is not just now.

Make Innovation a Year-Round Process

When people make New Year’s resolutions, they are gung-ho about going to the gym, reading new books, and kicking bad habits… for about six weeks.

Then, for most, comes the slide-back to old habits.

The same thing happens in marketing. Marketers often go into planning mode in the fall, doing all of their innovation under the specter of looming deadlines and defined budgets. And a ramp-up to the International Builders’ Show.

Then, in the new year, little changes. And sacred cows flourish in the pasture… soaking up precious resources for minimal gain.

This is something marketers must guard against. They must be intentional about making innovation a year-round endeavor.

One of our regular practices is to set aside time each quarter for developing new ideas. It’s built into our calendar, which prevents our client-agency partnership from getting stuck in any potential ruts.

That process has many benefits, including consistently dealing in fresh ideas. But most importantly, it frees the practice of innovation from the shackles of timing and budget… and allows new ideas to grow and be considered, based on their merits.

Most importantly, it keeps brands fresh, and helps prevent our clients’ sales & marketing teams from sliding back into old, ineffective practices.

3 Strategies For New Results

In order to achieve new results in the new year… you must work in new ways. Test new approaches. Improve efficiency. And stop doing things that don’t add to brand equity. In a changing world, maintaining established patterns can lead to irrelevance.

  •  Clarify The Vision. Your approach must be strategic. Trying dozens of tactics at once isn’t a business model based on sustainable process.
  • Set High Standards That Are Easily Measured. Sales & marketing resources are precious and limited. If it can’t be measured, It can’t be managed.
  • Provide Frequent Feedback. While seemingly random events (in theory) can eventually form a pattern… nurturing and evaluating incremental results will ultimately lead to more predictable outcomes.