All posts by trishnicolas

Chef Gusteau on Innovation

gusteauChef Gusteau

Chef and Author of “Anyone Can Cook”

In the Pixar and Disney film, Ratatouille,  the masterful chef, Rémy (who just happens to be an extraordinarily talented rat living in Paris) takes to heart Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” Taking some broad literary liberties that I hope Walt will graciously pardon, I propose: “Anyone can innovate.”

Everyone in your organization can be an innovator. It may be that not everyone *is* an innovator, but they *could* be. In fact, I’d contest that many people in your company are innovating each and every day, often without even knowing it. Like Ego, the insipid food critic in the movie, stated in his review of the rat’s gastronomic artistry, “Not everyone can become a great artist [innovator!]; but a great artist [innovator!] *can* come from *anywhere*.”

Every time they think about a problem and come up with a solution, they are taking the first steps toward innovation. Granted, solving problems does not equate to disruptive, ground-breaking, revenue-generating business ideas, but identifying and addressing issues – or seizing opportunities – happens daily in your business, at all levels and in all departments.

It sure happens in marketing and sales. Each and every day, your marketing and sales teams are breaking down barriers to drive adoption of your product or service. Sometimes their approach is methodical, often it requires creative thinking and communications. How is your organization capturing and acting on the insights garnered by sales and marketing? Because these insights can become the seeds of innovation for your business if you have the right process and perspective.

 

“Creativity is about thinking up new things.

Innovation is about doing new things.”

– Thomas Levitt

For example, if your marketing team does a survey to gauge pain points for your customers, with the right process and perspective, you may derive opportunities for product or business extensions to address their pains, and – voilà! – innovation potential. Like Terry Jones (founder and former CEO of Travelocity.com, Chairman of Kayak.com and CIO of Sabre, Inc.)  said at the Technology Association of Georgia Technology Summit today, innovation is about experimentation. “It’s like baseball: if you fail 70% of the time, you are actually quite good.”

So, innovation does not necessarily need to come from top-down, or from a dedicated innovation team – their role should be to nurture a culture of innovation, harvest the best ideas and create an environment and process to nurture them. Everyone can contribute to innovation! Keep your eyes and ears open for innovation opportunities through your business interactions with customers, prospects, influencers and competitors.  Marketing and sales are a great place to start.

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“Short cuts make long delays.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

In recent conversations with CEOs, marketing executives and sales leaders of technology companies, one of the topics that often comes up is the ever-increasing insight that marketing automation, CRM and sales enablement solutions provide. Technology has certainly become an ally in opening up the conversation between sales, marketing and the C-suite in the past 26 years I have been in technology marketing and management.

With the increasing sophistication of software and Saas solutions, sales and marketing have become distinctly more measurable and, as a result, more accountable to each other – as it should be. However, technology should not replace the cadence and content of *real*, meaningful conversations between sales and marketing. The conversation provides the context; technology fuels the conversation.

In short: Technology and data enable the conversation between sales and marketing. They do not *replace* the conversation between sales and marketing.

I’ll be talking with more companies and executives over the coming weeks about what effective, powerful sales and marketing alignment looks like (hint: what technology solutions they use does not constitute the whole answer!); how sales and marketing collaborate and communicate with customers and internal/external constituents; processes for driving action from sales and marketing data, both internally and externally; and how their results might improve with enhanced alignment.

Which companies are doing a great job aligning sales and marketing to maximize revenues?