Product companies are cool. They develop the next big thing, pushing out products that can massively scale, affect millions of people and truly change the world. On paper, service companies are, well, often less exciting.
In truth, though, service companies can be imaginative and exciting. Here are some ways service companies can get innovative:
1. Focus on needs.
Just as a product company would create a product based on the wants and needs of consumers, so too should a service company. Pay attention to trends and listen to what people are saying to think ahead and anticipate people’s future needs.
Develop services and niches that are growing and expected to increase in demand. For example, we decided in 2011 to focus Cutler PR on the tech industry because of its limitless potential. All of our clients, ranging from ad tech to health tech to ed tech to consumer tech companies, are in one large tech industry, which brings synergy to our efforts when contacting the media, creating marketing materials, etc.
2. Pick a core service and make it rock solid.
When Apple, one of the most innovative product companies, started in 1976, the company solely focused on creating computers. It developed and strengthened the core product of its business, the Mac, for more than 20 years before it developed new products and launched the iPod in 2001. The company gradually introduced new products as the business grew and became stronger.
In the same way, service companies should focus on building a core service before venturing into new areas. Gather data and analyze services to determine which ones perform the best. Then, capitalize on the findings.
Develop the best performing service as the core of the business. Once this service is strong, potentially work on branching out and developing other services.
3. Look to new markets.
The hottest software companies are investing resources to expand to China, India, Latin America and other emerging markets. Service companies can capitalize on the same opportunities. For example, Cutler PR, after establishing a solid base in the U.S., has expanded to Israel, the U.K. and Asia-Pacific.
4. Create stunning marketing materials.
When it comes to visually-appealing marketing materials, product companies have the advantage. They lay out key information with beautiful photos of products and call it a day. Visually-pleasing marketing materials are just as important for service companies but pose more of a challenge – there’s often a lot of information and not always a lot of visuals.
Take the time to think creatively about the service, the message the materials should present, and how visuals could enhance that message. A service business should have crisp brochures, slide decks and one-pagers to present its brand and message.
5. Be an incubator for products.
Just because a company provides a service doesn’t mean it can’t get its hands dirty and develop products during downtime.
Hootsuite, the social media management system, was born this way. Founder and CEO Ryan Holmes wanted a better way to manage social media and devoted time, resources and staff from his digital services agency, Invoke Media, to create a product to address his needs.
Service companies should develop ideas for products, especially if the potential product complements the original service. The service team can work on creating the product when they have little to do. Then when they are busy, the product can take a backseat to the service side of the business.
How do you drive innovation in your company? Tell us in the comments section below.