Innovation, Disruption and Groundbreaking

pitch-session“Our technology is disruptive” said every founder at a recent venture capital pitch fest.

If that had been the case, it would have been a wonderful evening. As it turned out, not a single deal was discussed after the last slide deck reached its end. All said, the words innovative, disruptive and groundbreaking were frequently used and never accurate.

I have seen the same with marketers. As with startup founders, if you don’t understand the difference between these concepts, or you buy your own hype and assume your product is in a status it isn’t, you are unlikely to be profitable.

Innovation:

To innovate is to make changes in anything established (things that are disruptive are innovations as well, but of a different caste). If you devise a small enhancement to a product category that creates a minor but marketable advantage, you have an innovation. Likewise, if you overhaul your existing product to offer no new features but be much easier to use, you have an innovation. In short, innovations add value but do not fundamentally change anything. You market innovations as tie-breakers – differences that will swing a deal away from competitors.

Disruption:

Disruptions are radical changes. Competitors can easily deal with challenges from innovators, but disruptive changes require them altering product strategies. The market and target buyers remain the same, but disruptive products attach to different buyer motivations. Contact list software met a disruptive change when the concept of customer relationship management was introduced, because company-wide customer care is a different goal than simply knowing who is who at a customer location. The marketing goal is to make prospects believe the new way is how to fundamentally change their way of life or doing business, negating serious consideration of existing alternatives.

Groundbreaking:

Pioneers break new ground, quite literally. They till soil that has never been farmed. Groundbreaking products are ones that create new markets – products that simply never existed before. Apple created a truly “personal” computer. Google created a cross-silo data amalgamation engine for advertising. GoPro created a machine to capture experiences. Marketing a groundbreaking product requires demonstrating the benefits because customer’s do not yet understand the need.

Before pitching your product – be it to a venture capitalist or a paying customer – make sure you are honest with yourself about if the product is innovative, disruptive, groundbreaking … or none of the above.


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