Is your technology truly disruptive or just another flavor of ice cream?
Arguably, the iPhone (2007) was a game changer not only in personal communication devices, but also for information retrieval and dissemination. Consumers quickly traded up to smartphones (iOS, initially and later Android) when they understood the value proposition. It left the once dominant Blackberry, Nokia and other devices in the dust. Apple’s disruption of the cell phone industry was classic, introducing new uses for a telephone.
Creating a technology that can forever change an established way of doing something is not easy. It requires a left brain-right brain approach to identify the need, develop a solution and quantify its business potential. Where should you begin?
- Study the current system to find true, not perceived, pain points in the process.
- Ask how those pains are addressed.
- Quantify the costs associated with the pain.
- What will it cost to eliminate it?
- Are customers willing to pay for a solution?
- Will you need to educate customers on how to use your solution?
- How large is the global demand?
- Can you make a long-term profit?
Let’s assume you have quantified a substantial business opportunity, your technology works and potential customers are buying. Congratulations! Life is good. So what’s next?
There may be some truth to the saying that the first one to market owns it. Unfortunately, there have been occasions when the first to market failed to innovate and lost customers to creative upstarts.
Look over your shoulder. Competition is on the horizon. That’s a good thing and a validation of your success. However, this is not the time to grow complacent. Competitors will attack with lower pricing, a similar product or a better product. They can also influence the capacity of your supply chain.
Respond to the competition by continuing to innovate. Eastman Kodak was built on innovation and changed the photography industry. However when the digital age approached, they ignored the new technology hoping it would disappear by itself. When digital didn’t go away, Kodak tried to combine their existing technology with new technology. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and has since emerged as a technology imaging company.
Innovation is creating something new, not adding a bell or whistle to the existing product and calling it “new and improved.” When you stop innovating, you become vulnerable. When competitors have the next big idea, your sales slow and you try to grow by creating another flavor of ice cream. It’s just not the same anymore.
Not everyone has the capacity to bring forth a technology that reshapes the norm. So, where do these folks fit in? In many cases, they are able to find a niche and make money. Use the information above to verify market need and demand. Then it’s all about positioning, how you want customers to remember you in relation to your competitors. We’ll speak more about positioning in the future.
Your homework assignment is to do a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Strengths (SWOT) assessment of your product and your competitors. You will discover the differences and be able to identify your unique position in the market. Hint – no one should position his or her product as a low cost alternative. Never. No excuse.