The connection between revenue growth and innovation is a powerful one.

Marketing executives report that 30% of their revenue and 26% of their revenue growth in 2014 is attributed to innovation initiatives. 

If B2B organisations are to survive in the face of industry disruption, their rate of learning, innovation, and performance improvement must match or exceed that of their competitors.

This leads to many questions around the capabilities of a B2B organisation: can they truly be creative on demand? Can companies rely on introducing new ideas about key priorities whenever needed? Ultimately what does it take for B2B marketers to achieve ‘standard operating innovation’?

These questions are exactly what we wanted to explore in our Pursuit of Standard Operating Innovation Report, produced in association with Sparks Grove.

This report is based on an online survey, fielded in Q4 2014 and focusing primarily on changing dynamics at the enterprise level, resulting in a sample of 243 responses from manager level and above.

Here are a few takeaways from the report, but you can download the full document for more in-depth insight.

How does creativity differ from innovation?

The marketing community isn’t actually sure. Some use the term interchangeably, while many more see innovation as ‘creativity plus something else’.

That ‘something else’ can mean “new capabilities” (30%) or simply “something new” (19%).

Perhaps the most useful definition of innovation centres on the idea of generating value from creativity. Value is essential because it helps justify the pursuit and achievement of organisational goals.

The 30% of respondents who described innovation as “creativity with new capabilities” reflects a reality where marketers have every opportunity to explore new technology but limited resources to fully understand or utilise it.

Take data for example. Many organisations have the potential to capture data but fewer ways to manage or understand it.

It is therefore important not to neglect the application of new thinking to existing processes and products.

Types of innovation in B2B marketing

Here are the common outcomes from B2B innovation programs:

As you can see these range from activities that improve customer retention to increasing productivity and improving employee retention.

Innovative companies have a more varied approach, while more traditional companies typically focus their priorities in areas of retention and new product development. 

In the traditional model, customer satisfaction and retention may well be the only areas where marketing has the ability to innovate.

However as the marketing role expands so too do the opportunities and areas for innovation.

Achieving ‘standard operating innovation’

Highly innovative marketing teams are much more likely to allocate budget, measure the impact of innovation and create a fertile environment for creative thinking.

A priority without budget is simply a good intention. Funding not only supplies the daily resources that innovation needs, but also defines them as important within the organisation.

Without that importance, marketing innovation will be marginalised and less likely to survive a failure or two.

Measurement is also an essential requirement for moving innovation from the occasional brainstorm session into repeatable success.

Highly innovative organisations are 57% more likely than the mainstream to examine innovation using the lenses of speed, quality and quantity.

Roadblocks to innovation

The traditional mindset is the number one obstacle facing mainstream companies in their pursuit of innovation.

For the mainstream, the top challenges share the common thread of fear. Fear of change, fear of leaving the traditional path and a fear of failure.

Innovators on the other hand have long since moved beyond “should we innovate?” to “how do we innovate?” Highlighting that culture is the fundamental advantage highly innovative B2B marketers have over mainstream companies.

It’s difficult to overcome traditional mindsets, but a good place to start is by raising the tolerance for failure higher up the organisation.

Innovators need to believe that their initiatives will have value as long as they produce significant lessons and inform future efforts, despite failing in other areas.

For more insight, download the full report: Pursuit of Standard Operating Innovation Report

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 3 March, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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