Innovation is essential to any brand that’s striving for a competitive advantage. It is usually related to products, processes, or services, and budget plays a very vital role in any decision-making process such as product innovation.
Product innovation is essentially the development and introduction of new or markedly overhauled goods. The main aim of coming up with a product in the first place is to fill a gap in the market, satisfy consumers, and generate revenue for the company.
That means that if your product does not perform well in the market, the essence of the innovation is lost. Going along this line of thought, it becomes imperative that for a product to perform in the market, you need more than just a quality product.
Your innovation must take into consideration different sections of the organization that will impact the product such as sales, marketing, R&D, quality control, excellent customer service, and most importantly, the consumers.
While it may sound unthinkable to consider product innovation without a budget, the reality is that it is very feasible and possible.
Here are four ways you can innovate your product with no budget.
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1. Differentiate strategically from the competition
For your product to assert itself in the market, there must be something distinct or different from your competition. You must ensure that your innovation differentiates itself with at least one distinct attribute from the competition.
You don’t need a new budget for this, you can facilitate this differentiation from the items you originally set out to use for the product. The only thing you need to do is to ensure that the differentiating feature is highly relevant to the needs of your consumers and that you can sustain it over a long period.
Looking at the battle between Apple and Microsoft over the music player market, it’s clear that Microsoft did not effectively use the differentiation strategy. Zune came into the market without anything new.
It was just an attempt by Microsoft to compete and poorly. However, in the Zune HD that replaced Zune, Microsoft did not intend to compete, since that would have required some colossal amount of money. Microsoft only innovated on the design which didn’t need any new budget.
2. Data-driven market research
Innovating on a product requires you to understand what your customers actually want. There is no need to add to the number of products in the market, your customers’ sentiments, desires, needs, and pain points must be taken into account before any product innovation.
You also need to know what the competition is doing and how they are doing it. All this relies on you having the relevant information – data.
What are the steps you need to take to access the data you require to understand the market?
All you need to do is to monitor the market and listen to the Voice of the Customer. You learn what consumers are saying about existing products with no budget and apply what you have to your product innovation.
While it’s true that the data you collect from product review data sites is unstructured and difficult to comprehend, data-driven market research, in the form of sentiment analysis and social listening, can help you understand your potential customers and respond to their needs.
Consumers leave comments, write reviews, and share their thoughts on social media. Their comments about the market and their views on the products they use can be extremely valuable, especially if you’re hoping to innovate your product or embark on product development with no budget.
Sentiment analysis enables you to have in-depth CX analytics about customers and competitors in a very short amount of time.
3. Apply the Blue Ocean Strategy
In Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, propose a new way of beating the competition in business. The whole idea borders on eliminating competition by searching for ways to gain access to uncontested market space.
As a brand that wants to embark on product innovation with no budget, this is an opportunity you must embrace with open arms. Going into a market where there is already competition, you need to budget for things like marketing campaigns, ads, and logistics to create brand awareness.
Product innovators must always be on the lookout for gaps in specific sectors of the market; as this ensures they can innovate even when there is no budget. Gaps are untapped opportunities or small voids in an existing or a market that is assumed to be filled up.
Established businesses don’t offer the specific services you want to innovate, so you can afford to fill this gap without any budget quite unlike where you have to compete in a market with many similar products.
4. Be receptive to uncertainties
Quite a good number of organizations still believe it must be the status quo. Anything that does not follow the rules must be discarded.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t breed well for product innovation, especially when you have to go at it without spending money. This is the way of left-brained organizations. Innovation is all about a new mindset, embracing right-brained thinking.
Uncertainties and new ideas should be encouraged; especially those that will not cost the organization a dime. Some ideas may indeed take time to mature, but you don’t need to kill an idea you assume won’t work.
Interacting with employees, friends, colleagues, and even family members may be a source of generating new ideas and improvements with no budget.
It has always been structure and order for a lot of organizations, doing things in sets and sequential order. Businesses are linear and literal, and tasks are repetitive. This can only suffice where you have a lot of money to throw around on product innovation.
When the budget is not there, you need to think out of the box, and these four tips will guide you.
Guest author: Alon Ghelber is the Tel Aviv-based Chief Marketing Officer of Revuze.it, who supports B2B tech startups in capturing customers’ (and VCs’) attention through marketing based on data-driven storytelling.