As entrepreneurs, all of you are innovators. You’ve disrupted categories, solved problems and met unmet needs. You’ve weathered the massive headwinds of a global pandemic. You’ve done what entrepreneurs do best: adapt. You buck the status quo and break what is not broken only to make it better; you’re agents of change!
So, given the above, why is it that you’re not approaching discovery and trial with the same commitment to innovation? In prior articles I’ve referenced the purchase continuum. On one end of it is discovery, and on the other is replenishment. Shoppers move up and down this continuum and in and out of its two planes, digital and physical. Our jobs are to find as many places to intersect with shoppers as possible.
Honest feedback here: Too many of you are rushing to the same intersections. Demos, influencers, TPRs, paid social and more. Few of you are daring to do something different. Most are crowding the major thoroughfares that cross the continuum. Why not find a few quiet streets that you can have to yourselves?
I’ve witnessed a couple of brands that have used old-school methods in cool new ways. For example, leveraging direct mail to help announce their products are available on a local retailer’s shelf. Another example is telemarketing in a low-pressure conversational way to build relationships with shoppers who recently placed an online order.
More and more founders are collaborating, working to increase awareness in a capital-efficient manner. And yet, this is the exception, not the norm. For the life of me, I don’t understand why that is the case. This is a great space to innovate.
The other constant lamentation I hear is the lack of access to buyers. Blind submissions, the rage of late, suck! It’s impossible to convey a brand’s “why” with a single-page document and samples. But why in the world would you accept that without trying to find another path, a new route?
Years ago, the buyers I was hoping to meet got a simple package in the mail, asingle baby shoe with a card that included all of my contact information and a short message: “I am trying to get a foot in the door.” Not one of my prouder innovations, but guess what? It worked and resulted in many meetings, and it started some long-term vital relationships. Even something dorky that is different can change the level of engagement.
You get my drift. Innovation doesn’t stop with products, packaging and the like. It should be pervasive, part of every element of your business, especially related to driving shopper discovery and opening doors to buyers, investors and other key stakeholders.
I’d love you to take up this challenge and would love so even more if you share some of the things you try. Don’t just offer up what worked; the epic failures are always fun to read about and often carry with them the most profound wisdom. Let your innovation freak flag fly—doing so is what will move your business forward.
Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group, a practice focused on helping emerging food and beverage brands grow.
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