Innovation success depends on savvy marketing. We’ve seen this over and over with our clients. It’s worth focusing on why marketing your innovation program is necessary, and how it works.
I’m not talking about Super Bowl ads, or website SEO. Corporate innovation programs need guerilla marketing. You have to influence internal stakeholder groups, create belief among colleagues, and build a network of brand evangelists.
Running an Innovation Challenge – or almost any other innovation initiative – only works if people show up to participate. Which means appealing to incentives and aspirations of your coworkers, customers, etc. And you need to appeal to leadership, too. Without the ability to acquire stakeholder / senior-level buy-in, it’s difficult to gain the channels to get the word out.
This starts on-the-ground with the very first initiative. Getting stakeholder support of your innovation program starts with getting people excited about contributing from day one. Clear communication of the “ask” you’re making – and the associated business value it will yield – is critical for motivating action and spurring collaboration.
The right positioning will get you asking the right questions during your Innovation Challenges, and will help you frame the challenge around a specific need and challenge statement.
Take global IT services firm CSC, where the CFO wanted to boost efficiency in their client billing process. So they launched a challenge asking for ideas to reduce the number of Day Sales Outstanding (DSO) between invoicing and payment. Or Wal-Mart, which asked employees for ways to “go green” and further reduce their electric bills. Both initiatives, described in clear, compelling terms, and then promoted smartly, added $$ millions directly to the bottom line.
Promoting your Innovation Challenges
But that’s just the beginning. Once you’ve decided on the Innovation Challenge theme, the participants, rules, timelines and the judges – and the compelling messaging – you still need to spread the word.
After you’ve launched your Innovation Challenge space online, there are a multitude of channels you can utilize to push your challenge out to your audience. The following methods are just some of the ways Imaginatik recommends creating buzz amongst your employees, partners and customers:
- It starts with email and word-of-mouth. These days, everyone uses email, and it’s the easiest, least time-consuming way to reach out to your designated audience. Begin by introducing the business opportunity in your first email, along with providing reasons why their participation is so critical and valuable to the success of the Challenge. Even better if you can supplement this by creating personalized word-of-mouth buzz in parallel. Reach out to colleagues you know who tend to be (influential) gadflies – and get them excited! They can get others excited too, in a snowballing effect.
- The comms folks are your friend. Most likely, your company has its own internal communications team. Our best advice is this: use them! Working with your comms team can help you land real estate in your monthly or weekly newsletters, announcing the Challenge, recognizing participants, and sharing the results. You can also utilize your communications team to create buzz on social media, if it makes sense to your business.
- Spread physical reminders of your brand. Swag – who doesn’t get excited by free swag, especially if it’s a little unique? Beyond just boring t-shirts and pens, offering branded selfie sticks, LED bike lights, headphones or portable battery chargers are products that offer true staying power. You can complement dissemination of these items with posters around the office, digital banners or promotions on internal workplace systems (CRM, intranet, etc.), and announcements on company newsletters or internal TV channels.
- Appeal to deep-seated motivators. Appreciation is a fundamental human need! When your Challenge participants are recognized and their work is valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they’re motivated to improve their work. Just make sure to concentrate primarily on intrinsic factors – which have consistently proved the strongest motivators for innovation engagement. Make sure people really understand that submitting good ideas will gain them new respect and recognition from colleagues; that they can use Challenges to advance their career interests; and they can use innovation forums to advocate for work projects and business initiatives they’re passionate about.
Knowing how to position, brand, and market your Innovation Challenges – and your innovation efforts more broadly – can be complex and time-consuming. That’s all the more reason to put careful time and attention into how you market your innovation program. Getting it right will pay renewable dividends many times over, setting you up for subsequent successes well into the future.