News on the death of Steve Jobs, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Apple, shocked and saddened the whole world. His death became a Facebook status for different people around the globe. It was a favorite tweet among Twitter users. A keyword check in Google AdWords revealed that there were at least 1.8 million global monthly searches for “Steve Jobs” in Google search engine. Overnight, “Steve Jobs” transformed into a household name among people in different continents, speaking different languages, of different races, fields and ages. Suddenly, he was the earth’s man of the hour!
Steve Jobs' viral global appeal rests upon his passion for innovative creation. Who would not admire a man who turned around Apple from the brink of collapse in 1997 to a profitable company in a very short time? Through Jobs’ tumultuous passion to introduce revolutionary products and services, Apple survived and became the Apple that it is today, a powerhouse of consumer technology. While Apple does not fit the small business description, the company’s emphasis on achieving and maintaining breakthroughs is worthy of emulation.
Suku Bhaskaran, in his article titled Incremental Innovation and Business Performance published in Journal of Small Business Management, defines innovation as strategic experimentation that entails risk-taking behavior. To Bhaskaran, innovation includes activities such as:
1.) Introduction of new-distinguished products. Consumers have insatiable demand for varied choices. A small business may present a new product as either a substitute for past products to cater to loyal users or as fundamentally a new product to promote adoption to new clients.
2.) Expansion of product lines. Lifestyles and shopping behaviors change. Small businesses should accommodate clients’ changing preference. They should be able to observe and produce a shifting matrix of product and service packages to capture customers’ patronage.
3.) Development and implementation of strategies to penetrate new markets. A small business’ ability to open a branch in another location with a shift on consumer segment. For instance, from a newborn-only apparel shop a small business opens in the nearby city an all-inclusive kids’ needs shop after a market research confirmed the feasibility of the move.
4.) Identification and development of new supply sources. Should a small business import its supplies or not? Hire a freelancer or in-house staff? Factors small businesses should consider in their decision include cost, set-up time and the availability of expertise.
5.) Creation of new sales formats. Small businesses, tapping e-business marketing approaches, can compete effectively and efficiently with large companies.
6.) Creation of new organizational forms. Value adding partnerships and business networks will help small businesses establish brand recognition to increase sales. The more partnerships, the capable the business will be for the innovation process.
7.) Creation of new promotional modes. Cyber advertising is perceived as being strategic experimentations and risk-taking activity in small businesses. However, it should be fully integrated with other marketing strategies.
While radical and high technology solutions were the means for Jobs to get Apple back in the loop of Silicon Valley giants, market development initiatives could be the means for small businesses to be competitive and profitable. Technology-advanced or not, both approaches are testaments to the importance of innovation on this tough and competitive business condition. Any small business owner can be another Steve Jobs provided the fervor for innovation is present.
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