Keeping your business growing requires a constant influx of new ideas–ideas for marketing your products and services, for providing outstanding customer relations, and coming up with new products and services that will better serve your existing clients and many new ones. After working in your industry for years, it may seem that all the angles have been covered and that there are few, if any, new ideas that can invigorate your business. Finding and developing new ideas means keeping an open mind.  Your willingness to look for inspiration in areas that might seem like they have no connection to your specialty will serve you well.

Avoiding the Same Old Thing

You are an expert in your industry and you know what your clients need and want. You understand your products and services and can easily relate the benefits to your clients and prospects.  This type of in-depth knowledge is essential to your ongoing business, but it can lead to idea stagnation where any approaches or concepts you come up with seem like they’ve already been tried or are too stale to be effective.
When you look at companies within your industry for inspiration, you’ll only see what has already worked for selling products and services like yours. These methods may be solid and reliable, and may still work. But when you benchmark only against your competition, all you can hope for is to be as good – or as bad – as they are. When you want to see something new and when you want to stand out from the crowd, the techniques used by your peers and colleagues just might not cut it.

Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places

The next time you need to inject a shot of creativity or a different type of thinking into your operations, take a close and careful look at successful companies operating outside of your specialised industry. At first this may seem like the long road. For example, a call centre or service industry company might wonder what insights or different ideas an auto dealership could offer. On further evaluation, however, the service company may recognise that the close, personalised interaction between customers and sales staff is a characteristic they could adapt to ensure better relationships with customers. This insight could lead to new ways for the call centre to interact with clients, improve customer support and encourage more sales.

The Importance of Looking outside Your Industry

Turning your attention to the products, services, marketing techniques and sales processes used by companies outside your industry gives you the opportunity to gain a different perspective on how other businesses go about their most important functions. Here are some of the reasons why it’s so important to find inspiration outside your industry.

  • Looking at different industries inspires creative thinking: When you look at the blogs, websites, and marketing materials of a competitor, it may seem dull and boring to you. You may think, and rightfully so, that you’ve seen it before. When you look at the ways other industries conduct their business, you will immediately see the different processes and techniques they use. You and companies in other industries have some goals in common: finding leads, acquiring customers and making sales. When you see how someone in a totally different area is making that happen, your own creativity will be triggered and you’ll be better able to come up with new ways to apply to your own company. You may be able to adapt some of the techniques from the other industry, and even if you can’t make a one-to-one transfer, you can discover elements that are appropriate to your needs and put them to work for your own business. 
  • Your competitors probably aren’t using other industries’ techniques: If it takes you a significant expenditure of time and effort to look at other industries, you can be relatively certain that your competitors are also finding it difficult to look in other areas for ideas and inspiration. You’ll see new techniques that will be fresh, innovative, and effective when applied within your industry. Be bold and stand out from the crowd. Give your customers and prospects a reason to choose you. 
  • Assessing different industries reveals different channels: Looking at different industries business processes will reveal the marketing, advertising, and customer service channels they use. If these channels are not often used in your own industry, you may be able to see where they can be applied to boost your company. New communication techniques, advanced software, service models or specialised online resources could revitalise your company and give you access to a whole new audience of potential customers. 
  • Studying the evolution of other industries can provide you with a useful framework to think about how your industry might evolve in years to come.  The intersection of that natural evolution with the current political, economic, social and technological climate might provide new product or service opportunities for your business.  How do people consume your product or service today and will it always be the same?  Think about the newspaper industry and how it has been affected by technology and social trends. That degree of change might or might not happen to you – but know this, change is a constant and it’s best to be prepared.


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Neil Parker
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