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Demands for a solid customer experience as well as new products and competition are forcing business-to-business (B2B) marketers to master the art of innovation—that is, go beyond throwing around creative ideas and actually implement change. In a Q4 2014 study by Sparks Grove and Econsultancy, B2B marketing execs in North America ranked the pressure to deliver a consistent and positive customer experience (38%), product innovation (34%) and emerging business models and competitors (33%) as the top three organizational challenges driving the need for innovation.
B2Bs need to look at innovation from every angle if they want to succeed, as strategy, customer focus and technology all come into play. When asked about the leading factors fueling innovation, respondents were most likely to cite strategic ones such as committed leaders and prioritizing efforts. Other top innovation drivers were a customer-centric focus as well as tools, meaning marketers can’t just look at this from a human or tech angle—they need to collaborate and integrate across channels to innovate most effectively.
While B2Bs acknowledge the need to innovate and understand key drivers, roadblocks abound—and they’re mostly centered around close-mindedness.
Among marketing execs, 35% said that a traditional mindset was the biggest barrier to innovation. Risk aversion was also a key problem, as was low tolerance for failure.
The need for innovation isn’t limited to B2Bs, of course. Among US marketers polled in February 2015 by the American Marketing Association (AMA), Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and McKinsey & Company, 14.0% said innovation was a leading priority of customers. Though this percentage may seem low, it was up from 9.0% in August 2014, while quality, service and low prices—the most-cited priorities in August—fell or remained the same.
It’s not enough for marketers to wait for change to just happen. To remain relevant and outpace the competition, professionals must take a well-rounded approach, be open-minded and actually put ideas into action.
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