How to become an innovative thinker

How to become an innovative thinker

Time to stir the pot, so to speak. While other companies and perhaps some of the competing VARs are panicking or sitting around waiting for something positive to happen to the economy, it’s time for you to step up. And I mean step up. No more using marketing tactics in the tried and true ways. Forget pulling out last year’s marketing plan and “tweaking” it. And if you think your customers are going to call you and say, “Sign me up for what I ordered last year,” forget it. It’s a new world out there in this down economy.

But those resellers who become out-of-the-box thinkers and get creative about how they plan to do business in 2009 and beyond will be the ones who will thrive for years to come. How will you connect with your customers in a different way than you have in the past? How are your customers doing business differently these days? Those responses will affect your new shift in thinking. Today’s customers display different purchasing behaviors than in the past. They are facing challenges that have our solutions. Provide those solutions. You will not be able to solve your problems using outdated methods. How are you going to set your own internal scenario so that it has positive effects for your customers? Now is the time to “get to work” and, probably for the first time, really put that thought cap on, as if your life depended on it, because it does.

So, let’s look at some of these ideas you can get up and running today:

o Make a goal board. Now is the time to stay focused on the task(s) at hand for optimal efficiency and effectiveness. Hang a dry erase board in your office. Check spaces for short-term (weekly, monthly) and long-term (quarterly, yearly) goals. Make sure they are measurable. For example, don’t set the goal of “add more customers.” Be specific: “Add 10 new customers next month.” By making your goals measurable, there will never be any doubt as to whether you achieved them. Set goals in each category. Make a list of five things you can do today to get closer to achieving those desires. What does it take to stay on task and deliver – or beat! – those goals?
o Call five customers. Your best source of new sales and increased knowledge of the market and business trends comes from your existing customers. Today, pick five, any five. Call each one. Ask about his business. What are they working on? What sells well? What is not? Identify a need that you can address (either right then, or do some homework and come back to them). Find a problem that you can solve. So solve it.
o Survey your customers. If you want to know what your customers need, want, and don’t get, ask them! Call five of your regular customers today and ask them what they would like to see added or improved on your site. “How can our site be more valuable and useful to you?” Then call up five customers who have fallen off your radar and ask what you can do to bring them back! They will all appreciate your sincere interest. And you’ll unlock the answers to how they’re changing their business model during this down economy, and then you can change with them.
o Answer questions on LinkedIn. Go to the LinkedIn “Answers” tab and click “Answer Questions.” Here you will find a wide range of problems waiting for the right solution. Participate to become a knowledge expert! Now it’s your turn to be the thought leader.
o Talk to your providers. You are not alone in your business. You can, and should, trust your vendors to support your sales efforts. At least once a quarter, contact your vendors and find out what resources, ideas, and promotions they have available to you. Check out the additional training they offer to help you sell your products more effectively. Ask about promotions (freebies, bonuses, rebates, packages) that you can use to increase sales in the next quarter. These are your partners, friends, so work together!
o Think of a brilliant value-added idea to better serve your customers. What would make your customers stand up and take a fresh look at your business? The broad answer is: exceed your expectations. Give them something they value without charging them for it. Add convenience to their lives. What can you do to tempt your customers with something of value that provides good ROI? If you don’t try, you are likely to lose them to those competitors who follow this advice. And you’ll miss out on the priceless value of that viral word-of-mouth advertising that exceeds your customers’ expectations!

These ideas are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to “thinking ahead.” You must encourage yourself to be innovative, to think differently, and to act in new and unique ways. Your customers will notice. Your extra efforts will show that you are genuinely interested in how this recession is affecting them, and that you are doing something to help them. Think of your own tips and tricks. For a few more ideas to jumpstart your brainstorming, you’ll find more in my eBook, “50 Smart, Easy, and Effective Ideas to Jumpstart Your Business Today.” All it takes is an idea to get things going. But if you don’t move on now, you’ll soon be left behind.

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