Build an Innovation Pipeline that Fuels Growth

May 3, 2017
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Focus ideation efforts on solving specific customer needs.

How do brands like Starbucks, Visa and 3M consistently deliver innovative digital experiences? These brands don’t take an opportunistic approach to innovation. They all have people, processes and technologies to support the ideation process.

Ideas that fuel innovation can come from three audiences (consumers, partners and employees) through programs ranging from expensive corporate accelerators and agency partnerships to less investment-intensive crowdsourcing platforms and employee hackathons. Each has its pros and cons, and each has the potential to help drive business growth. To get the most from innovation efforts, it’s critical to invest in ideation programs and processes to get the best results.

“Savvy marketers are building idea pipelines aligned with their innovation strategy to fuel their growth,” said Elizabeth Shaw, research director, Gartner for Marketers. “Marketers taking a more opportunistic approach are falling short and putting their companies at risk.”

As enterprise CMOs increase their marketing spend to fund innovation (by an average of 11% of their budgets, according to the Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2016-2017), marketing leaders struggle to identify ideas with real business potential and lack proven practices to drive the ideation process. For example, deploying a crowdsourcing platform to employees without guardrails or criteria shows a lack of purpose, confuses users, and undermines platform adoption, engagement and advocacy.

Create a pipeline of ideas that aligns with innovation strategy. Pipelines enable companies to drive innovation momentum, solve customer-centric problems and engage in a meaningful way. Carefully manage your innovation program with clearly defined objectives to yield actionable deliverables and expected outcomes.

Solve customer problems

Align idea generation toward solving a critical customer problem. Create strategies to disrupt your categories and produce ideas worthy of investment. Identify your customers’ current or future needs, and use customer journey mapping and voice-of-the-customer data to identify broken steps or areas of opportunity. Ideation programs must have focus, such as a critical customer problem.

Create a balanced portfolio

Pursue innovation ideas across various internal and external groups from employees to partners and consumers.

Employee-focused programs can be expensive to manage, but their benefits often transcend idea generation and strengthen a brand’s culture of innovation.

Partner-led efforts commonly take place with an agency or pure-play innovation shop such as Ideo or Frog. They often come with a high price tag, and savvy marketing leaders see the best results when they explicitly define the scope and evaluate the output based on its ability to solve for the customer.

Consumer-driven tactics often require fewer resources than other programs but typically yield the least actionable set of ideas. However, many enterprise companies find success with these programs, especially in the areas of customer experience and product.

Design an ideation engine using proven approaches

Proven tactics and program approaches within the employee, partner and consumer audiences each have pros and cons. Ask questions around cost, control, resource demands and actual output delivered to home in on the best-fit approaches.

“To successfully execute invest in resources inside and outside of your organization to generate ideas,” said Ms. Shaw.

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