Is Inertia Winning Over Innovation?

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My friend Sasha has been facing some tough personal and financial challenges, and has threatened many times to close her business. After years watching my business advice fall on deaf ears due to her indecisiveness and inertia, I finally stopped giving it.

We recently surveyed our B2B community, and inertia was a recurring theme.

I’m not naive. Credit is tight, buyers are slow to make purchasing decisions, and global economic malaise hampers innovation. When it comes to investing in growth, today’s volatile economy clearly makes many of us risk averse.

We recently surveyed our business community to learn how company leaders were responding to these dynamics; we wanted to identify the biggest issues they’re facing, and discern how and where they’re investing to activate organic growth. Hopefully, the survey insights below serve as preventive measures to help you avoid falling into the inertia trap in your business.

Respondents shared their biggest challenges:

  • Attracting more clients (49.5 percent)
  • Increasing referrals (34 percent)
  • Defining their company’s unique value (27.2 percent)
  • Staying focused on their top priorities (27.2 percent)

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Some companies are investing in a number of areas to grow in spite of this challenging economy. The most common strategies mentioned were:

  • Eliminating non-core operations and offerings (13 percent)
  • Hiring more salespeople and adding more business partners (10.7 percent)
  • Purchasing books, planning tools, or joining mentoring/coaching programs (10.7 percent)

Now for the most disturbing insight from our study: 49.4 percent of the respondents are either unsure (“Other amount”) or unwilling (“Nothing at this time”) to invest funds to address the growth gaps. That means they are vulnerable to competitive attack, customer defection, and stagnation.

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What is causing this? There is no single answer. The key lesson is that inertia is a symptom of uncertainty, and, unfortunately, it’s winning the battle over innovation.

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It’s possible to break free from this mind-set and behavior. Here are strategies we recommend:

  1. Be clear on how ready you are to grow. Are you really committed to growth, or are you running a lifestyle business? Is it time to sell out? Any answer is fine. Just be honest with yourself, and with those whose livelihoods depend on you. Select the areas to improve or stop doing, and position your company for success in 2012. Our Wealthy Company Scorecard looks at 49 key areas that a company should consider to ensure that it’s prepared to grow.
  2. Use the slowdown to your advantage by identifying new or underserved markets. Your competitors are probably sitting on those cash stockpiles right now. They may be cutting back on marketing spending, networking, and alliance building. Revisit your go to market strategy. 
  3. Pump up your marketing messaging. Many companies–especially professional services and technology firms–fall in love with their methodology and expertise. Clients don’t care. They want to know what specific outcomes you help them achieve. Get clear on what makes you unique, and why people buy from you. That will inform all of your messaging and all communications materials. More important, it will drive more leads in your direction.

Image Source: image flickr user halco

Copyright 2011, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

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