Marketing innovation tends to emerge through a curve very similar to technological disruption and diffusion. First, there are innovators who come up with marketing strategies and tactics that are uniquely their own. Second, there are early adopters who quickly take notice, adapt, and replicate these innovative tactics while they’re still relegated to niche or fringe status. Third, the large majority of marketers (i.e., most of us), while open to new trends, will only implement them as they become the norm and are well documented. Finally, the laggards will only adopt new marketing practices when forced to by a fast-changing environment that's leaving them behind.
The reality is, for the most part, you won’t find innovation on industry blogs or in marketing books. The best ideas (which are usually the most effective ones) remain hidden in plain sight. This is where research and creativity come into play.
Innovators and early adopters know right from the outset that new ideas are riskier and don’t always work. That’s why they talk to and listen to target customers before settling on key assumptions. And once they implement a new tactic, they always keep an eye on killing those efforts that don't end up working as expected.
Now that I’ve stressed the importance of keeping an eye innovation, here are some ideas that will help you stay ahead.
Your Technology Stack is a Strategic Advantage
Try and test new tools that will give you and your team superpowers. Make sure that you're subscribed to beta releases of your favorite software vendors and stay in touch with anyone working on new, innovative marketing products. This way, while your competitors may spend the usual amount of time and resources to get things done, your marketing team can move faster to implement tactics that couldn’t scale in the past.
Test New Channels that Fit Your Audience
New channels can be anything from an app, a place, or a group of people congregating in-person or online, where marketing messages and offers haven't yet made headway. Think beyond common social media distribution channels, where everyone contributes to the noise by shouting out their message. Any place that lets you interact with your target audience in a meaningful, authentic way will do the trick.
Develop Your Own List of Innovative Marketers
Track their every move. Don’t wait for them to share their successes through their marketing content that every marketer in the world can access and see. At that point, they’ve probably moved on to the next thing. Instead, test these tools, observe your buyer's response and figure out next steps to take to make the initiative a success.
Will you come up with ideas of your own to outsmart other marketers? Or will you steal the best new ideas out there? The choice is yours, but remember that innovation is nothing without great implementation. Keeping up with the latest marketing innovations isn't really about what your next move is, but how, when and where you are going to execute.