Pardon me, but I’m up to here with companies that claim to innovate. Innovation is a buzzword, a cliché, a shiny distraction wrapped around nothing that benefits customers. It’s the last refuge of businesses that aren’t completely clear about the value they provide to their customers.
But I’m feeling hopeful. And I’ve got the kitchen and bath industry and homebuilders of the world to thank for that.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS). Combined with the International Builders Show (IBS), it’s a value pack of events. There, I discovered two things: One, neon yellow bathroom sinks are making a comeback. Two, many of the companies at these shows are demonstrating real value.
Tradeshows are live experiments in human behavior, and KBIS and IBS confirmed a core belief of mine: It’s better to inform your audience than to give them a sales pitch. It’s even better when information focuses on value.
A sink is a sink, right? And home siding is just home siding? The best booths at both shows invited attendees to roll their sleeves up, test the goods, and (metaphorically, at least) get dirty. Why just claim your product has superior dent resistance when you can give prospective customers hammers and invite them to do their worst?
There were examples of this everywhere I looked. I joined in and pressed buttons, flipped switches, opened and closed doors and cabinets, and experienced the value of products that are part of everyday life. I didn’t hear how innovative they were – I felt, heard and saw for myself.
Sure, there were gimmicks designed to scream innovative. But real value rose above the noise.
Here are several suggestions, in case you’re ever tempted to talk about how innovative your products are:
First, ask your customers if that innovation offers them any value. If it doesn’t, no amount of marketing will help it.
Second, don’t sanitize the selling experience. If you have something of value to offer, invite your customers to roll up their sleeves and test it. Glossy brochures can’t match hands-on experience.
Third, and finally, ban the word “innovation” from your marketing vocabulary. Because even the truly innovative companies never have to use the I-word. It’s obvious.