Like the old saying says “You can’t go it alone”. Nowhere does this matter more than in the early stages of innovation commercialization. The challenges faced at this stage of business development are substantial and mined with company killing miss-steps. It is critical to investigate the eco-system of potential partners, collaborators, industry leadership, complementary companies, marketing outlets, etc. that might have even the smallest potential for leverage. Many entrepreneurs (especially academia founders) do not see the benefit of “schmoozing” among business circles. But dividends will appear. Make sure solid value propositions are created with each potential partner. The process of “hunting/gathering” value propositions with each partner is prime rehearsal for the development of value messages to your target markets.
Map complementary technologies to your innovation and use this exercise as a way to find new partners. This also helps uncover substitution solutions that may alter your perceptions of your value to the market.
Diffusion of innovation dynamics clearly point to the necessity of finding thought leaders that can carry your messages forward. It is imperative that you win these key individuals over to your innovation. Do not fall in the trap of many early stage companies: waiting and waiting until the innovation is mature and final to internal company audiences. It will be too late. This is a process of SELLING and will require multiple “at bats”. If your innovation is just developing it is the thought leaders who will be the most forgiving of incomplete/beta products. These individuals will be the best source for new ideas and new ways of thinking about your innovation. If you are open to the idea that your innovation is not perfect (and many are not) then thought leaders are free consulting.
Attach your company and innovation to a major brand company or product. Leveraging the marketing acumen of major brands, and finding ways to associate the benefits of your innovation to this brand, can save money, accelerate your business evolution and attract other companies that might be in competition with this brand. Become a scarce resource in the room of big players and you have leverage.
And finally, seek leverage in all dimensions of business: financial, marketing, technology, operational, manufacturing, etc. Leverage can come from anywhere and while you might be focused on product innovation, innovation with a partner’s help may enable your real impact in other business disciplines. Money is made in strange ways.