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Defining Innovation for Businesses in the Digital Age

By Cheryl Lock for America's Backbone Weekly
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With today's strong digital focus, small businesses may find it hard to determine exactly what innovation in business looks like, and what they need to do to stay ahead of the game when it comes to remaining innovative as a company.

In the past, an innovative company was often one that kept up with technological advances and offered technologies and services to its clients that other businesses did not. In today's world, providing those same technologies and services is still an important aspect of innovation, but doing so just means you're staying mainstream -- not necessarily moving ahead.

In a world where staying innovative appears trickier and more intricate, some experts argue that companies who want to be the most innovative are actually concentrating more on factors that may be outside the realm of technology -- or not related to it whatsoever.

"Innovation is about more than just technology," says Ivana Taylor, a DIY marketing expert and publisher of DIYMarketers.com. Taylor argues that small business innovation comes from a laser focus on three factors:

  1. The ideal customer -- and keeping him or her happy
  2. Your commitment and overall objective as a business
  3. What people can count on you for

Having a spectacular website, the ability for your customers to pay with debit or credit cards, or a smashing smartphone app are all basics for business to have these days. Outside-of-the-box innovation comes from focusing on these three, old-school values to really set your business apart from the pack. "All great innovations come from this space," argues Taylor. "Look at Apple. They didn't have a commitment to computers, per se, but they were committed to people experiencing more through their technology, hence their products like the iPod and iPhone, etc."

What it really boils down to is providing an excellent customer experience, which must extend above and beyond any user experience your customers get from traditional notions of where innovation lies, such as your website or social media presence.

"Great innovations come from a focus on people and improving their overall experience," says Taylor. Keep that as the main goal of your business, and you'll remain ahead of the curve.

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Cheryl Lock is a former magazine, newspaperand website editor turned full-time freelance writer. She has worked on staffat the Daytona BeachNews-Journal, More and Parents magazines, aswell as for Learnvest, theleading women's financial website. Her work has also appeared in Newsweek, Forbes, Ladies' HomeJournal and The Huffington Post, amongothers.
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