Open Innovation is Alive and Well in the Pet Industry

Pets, Innovation, Business
Image Source: Getty Images

By Stephen Key
Co-founder, InventRight      

 

It is an incredible time to be a product developer. Like solving problems? Enjoy being creative? Today, you do not have to start a business to launch an idea into the market. You can go the licensing route and begin receiving passive income for your creativity instead. That’s the beauty of open innovation, the increasingly widespread practice of companies looking outside their own walls for the best new product ideas. By licensing your idea to a company that has existing distribution and relationships with retailers, you can get to market fast. In that way, as a business model, licensing simply cannot be beat. Innovative companies recognize this — even ones with a long and storied history of research and development like GE.

The pet industry is particularly ripe for open innovation and licensing. According to the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet today. That’s a lot! Last year, Americans spent a record $66.75 billion on their beloved companions. During the recession, the industry barely took a hit. Thanks to the Internet, dogs and cats are more popular than ever. And there’s the well-documented trend occurring worldwide of young people increasingly referring to and treating their pets like surrogate children. There’s a huge opportunity here for people who are creative.

Which is why I traveled to the annual pet trade show SuperZoo in Las Vegas earlier this week to ask companies explicitly: What do you need from us? After licensing many of my own ideas for products, I know what open innovation looks like in practice. But since I’ve made it my mission to help other people license their ideas, I’m committed to going one step further. The show is not as large as the Global Pet Expo in Florida, but it was very well-attended, light-hearted, and a lot of fun. How could it not be, with dogs of different shapes, sizes, and colors running this way and that? Turns out, people who love their pets like to have a good time. The theme this year was “Better Together,” which spoke directly to the inclusive nature of the industry at large.

As is typical, some companies were receptive to open innovation and others weren’t. You can tell which are and which aren’t pretty easily. Companies whose products all share the same beautiful design aesthetic? Not a good fit. These companies aren’t really innovating. Their focus is on designing products that are extremely pretty to look at. Their in-house designers are tasked with creating the look and feel they want their brand to reflect. These companies do not look at outside submissions. They’re more likely to acquire a brand outright or bring in a designer they like to keep working with them.

But I also met CEOs like Tim Blurton of Hyper Pet LLC who embrace open innovation emphatically.

“We love inventors and people with ideas. And we love being able to work with them and take their ideas and make them marketable, so we both benefit,” Blurton said. “Bring us any ideas you’ve got! We’ll listen and see if we can work on them.”

For Dr. Steven Tsengas of OurPets, intellectual property is of paramount importance. His company has something like 170 patents to its name. Electronic pet toys are increasingly popular, he told me, as he pointed out several products of his that make use of Bluetooth technology.

For companies like Ethical Products Inc., which has been in business since 1952 and markets its products under the brand SPOT, working with inventors is a way of life. Ausra Dapkus, the vice-president of purchasing and product development who is in charge of working with product developers and inventors, described her role in the following way.

“I take their ideas and then communicate them to our factories overseas to bring those products to life,” she explained. “I try to translate their vision into something that can actually work in production, which can sometimes be a challenge… but somehow we always manage to work it out.”

At the Ethical Products booth, professional inventor Chuck Lamprey showed off one of his licensed products. (Full disclosure: I know Chuck because he was my student.) Since he began developing pet products seven years ago, Lamprey has since licensed about nine of his ideas, all of which are still selling on the market. At first, he told me he struggled to make a good first impression at trade shows because he’s shy. But in time, as his knowledge of the industry grew, he became much more comfortable approaching booths.

These days, he’s confident because he know he adds value. He walks up to companies he wants to invent for and says something along the lines of: “Hello, my name is Chuck. I have many products in the marketplace. If you have needs in a particular area, I would love to help you out.”

This year, several CEOs explicitly thanked him for stopping by and expressed how much they appreciated that he was paying attention to the industry and actually inventing for them.

“Repeat trade show attendance is very useful in that way. They get to know me and that I’m serious about this,” he explained. “What I want to do is add value. It’s not about me and it’s not even about the company. It’s about the consumer. What can I give to the industry?”

His attitude is spot on. You cannot merely submit your ideas for new products to as many companies as possible and hope for the best. Becoming a professional independent product developer is all about communication and the relationships you build. That’s why attending a trade show can be so effective. You’re able to introduce yourself face-to-face and shake hands.

But some of the companies I interviewed were frank with me. In principle, they loved the idea of open innovation. In practice, they were frustrated. They’d become wary of working with inventors because so many of them failed to do their homework. The ideas these companies had received didn’t take their brand into consideration whatsoever, so they had decided to stop looking at outside ideas altogether.

The benefits of open innovation are enormous, but sifting through submissions takes time. So does getting back to product developers about why their ideas aren’t a perfect fit, which is a crucial part of the process. When companies decide their limited resources are better spent elsewhere, we all lose out.

If you have an apple and the company you show your idea to is selling oranges, that’s not a good fit. Most likely they are not going to be interested. And in that case what you’re sending is basically spam.

There’s a balance to be struck. Licensing is very much a numbers game. You need to contact enough companies about your idea, not just the major one or two players. At the same time, firing your sell sheet off to every single company in an industry isn’t going to get you very far.

So please, check out the websites of each company on your list of potential licensees. What are they all about? Can you tailor your sell sheet to better fit the needs of their consumers in some way? (Sometimes this is as easily accomplished as using a different color.) Remember, there are actual people reviewing your submissions at these companies.

Many people were honest with me about the fact that selling pet products has fundamentally changed. Between Amazon and other online retailers, brick and mortar sales are simply not as important. Savvy Internet retailers like the startup Chewy.com, which was recently acquired by PetSmart, offer better customer service. Before you show your idea to a company, investigate how it sells its products. If you don’t understand the retail landscape, you’re at a disadvantage.

Some companies were very clear with me about letting inventors know they could already be working on something similar, which is why they won’t sign a non-disclosure agreement right away. That’s perfectly reasonable.

Like always, I kept my eyes out for simple products, which are my favorite. I was not disappointed. Catit’s Flower Fountain water bowl is the best-selling cat accessory toy on Amazon, I was told. It’s a compact water fountain with a flower design on top that enables you to adjust the flow of water to your cat’s liking. Simple, very cute, and with smart packaging to boot: By cutting out a few pieces, the shipping box is transformed into a toy. If you own a cat, you know how much they adore playing with boxes.

This is an exciting industry to invent for, truly. Who doesn’t love pets? Open innovation in the pet industry is a win for all of us.

Article source: https://www.inc.com/stephen-key/open-innovation-is-alive-and-well-in-the-pet-indus.html

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
PUBLISHED ON: JUL 28, 2017

Pittsburgh Zoo reaches out to millennials with new app

Inbound Marketing, Animals, Digital, Pittsburgh Zoo
Image Credit: Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette
 

Snap a selfie in the Islands exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, and you may end up with big sunglasses on your face and a pineapple drink in your hand — at least that’s what might appear on your smartphone screen if you’re using the zoo’s new app.

The app, which was developed by the Station Square-based Schell Games and launched this spring, features a dozen Snapchat-style photo filters that the zoo communications team hopes patrons will share on social media.

A lion’s mane appears around a photo subject’s head when using the app near the lions’ den, and patrons can appear as though they’re scuba diving in the aquarium.

“We’re reimagining what this experience can be for that more screen-minded individual,” said Laura Gething, communications manager of the Pittsburgh Zoo, a nonprofit with the mission of conservation.

Ninety-two percent of 18- to 29-year-olds own a smartphone, according to a Pew Research Center study this year.

The app is just one way the zoo aims to reach the millennial and post-millennial generations.

According to Pew, millennials are those born between 1981 and 1997 — now the largest living generation. Other analyses define the post-millennial generation, or Generation Z, as those born after 1995.

“Kids automatically are intrigued by zoos, but how do we make our facility a great place for other than just that standard audience?” Ms. Gething said.

Experts find that…Continue Reading

Article source: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/tech-news/2017/07/10/Pittsburgh-Zoo-reaches-out-to-screen-minded-Millennials-with-new-app/stories/201707070184

Don’t Forget Your Customer in Your Revenue Performance Management Strategy

MPH, RPM, Revenue Performance Management

Does your company have an RPM? Nah, we aren’t talking about automotive Revolutions Per Minute or real-estate Real Property Management, but Revenue Performance Management. Throughout your marketing processes, what is your strategy for driving real sales growth? How do you quantify and optimize those processes?

Revenue Performance Management (RPM) appeals to a company’s marketing initiatives, because it validates their activities, projects, contributions and shows active revenue generation. RPM helps management evaluate sales and marketing activities in real time. They are able to measure the reach of activities, the pipeline value, customer spending and how marketing activities appeal to consumers’ emotions. This method leads to conversion, which is an important component to sales and marketing. Conversion shows revenue performance progress through each stage of your sales cycle.
(Retrieved from High Performance Marketing for Revenue Performance Management, September 4, 2012. http://ezinearticles.com/?High-Performance-Marketing-for-Revenue-Performance-Management&id=7251839)

Your sales cycle includes (a) prospecting or initial contact, (b) sales lead/building rapport, (c) identifying and assessing needs, (d) delivering persuasive presentations or proposals, (e) overcoming objections/negotiations, (f) closing the sales and getting repeat sales, and (g) follow-up and referrals. Management is able to evaluate how much time is taken in each stage of the sales cycle, their return on investment from sales and marketing activities, how to improve forecasting and reviewing stage-by-stage analysis for continued revenue growth.

Measuring volume-based metrics is not an easy process. Somehow the customer gets lost in the process of your repeatable strategy and all too often it is difficult to “buy” loyalty from a customer lost in the shuffle of the system. Optimize interactions with your customers, avoid wasting resources and missed opportunities. Ethically, you want to give customers a say and make their customer experience so exceptional that it leads them to become your company’s advocates/evangelists, which will lead to your revenue performance progress.

Creativity Works: Innovation lives on the other side of fear

innovation, ideas, creativity, The Tucker, The Morning Call
Image Source: The Morning Call (A replica of the Tucker 48. The man who conceived the Tucker 48, Preston Tucker, was a true innovator who had his ideas rejected, writes columnist William Childs.)
William Childs William Childs Special to The Morning Call        May 23, 2017

What is it about creativity that frightens some people?

Why does anything innovative tend to be met with resistance?

Oscar Wilde once remarked, “An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.” I think that an inherent bias against uncertainty and fear of the unknown is at the core of our trepidation when we get confronted with a new idea. For work to be truly creative and groundbreaking, it must depart from the status quo of what is known or accepted, and that’s where the challenge lies.

Innovation lives on the other side of fear.

You could fill an ocean with all the examples of people who had their brilliant ideas rejected. Preston Tucker, an American automobile designer, and entrepreneur who introduced a brand-new car design in 1948 was one such example. The car was so innovative when it was introduced, it sent the Big 3 automakers into a frenzy. The Tucker, as it was aptly named, was the first car ever to include seat belts. The engine was 150 horsepower with fuel injection and was placed in the rear of the car.

Another Tucker invention was the laminated windshield engineered to pop out during an accident, along with many other safety features. Instead of being celebrated, he was run out of business by unscrupulous individuals who were not ready for his type of forward-thinking.

They looked for any way they could…Continue reading

Article source: http://www.mcall.com/business/tech/mc-creativity-works-innovation-fear-20170523-story.html

 

You Don’t Do Marketing. You Live It.

Marketing, Creativity
CREDIT: Getty Images
And that means everything is a part of your campaign…

I talk to a lot of businesses that don’t know what they’re doing to market themselves. Actually, scratch that. I talk to a lot of businesses who can’t tell me what marketing is in the first place. To their minds, it has something to do with social media or videos or advertising or calling people to hiring more sales folks or writing blog posts but they’re just not entirely sure…

…and that’s why they’re blowing it.
It’s not that their marketing isn’t working, it’s that they don’t really understand what marketing is, or how it works, or why it works, or anything else. It’s pure chaos, and it’s pure failure just waiting to happen.

Here’s the key to this problem. Marketing and advertising are actually pretty easy concepts to understand. They’re any activity that puts your business in front of the people who pay your business money. It’s really that simple. When you speak to anyone in your target demographic about your business, you’re marketing it. When you write a blog post. Record a video. Change your…Continue reading

Article source: https://www.inc.com/jon-westenberg/marketing-is-any-activity-that-exposes-you-to-your-audience.html

Social Listening: How Brands Can Benefit From Positive and Negative Comments

Social Networking, Social Listening, Social Media, Marketing

Social Listening: How Brands Can Benefit From Positive and Negative Comments
By Kym Gordon Moore

Have you ever listened to conversations without an invitation? “Eavesdroppers never hear any good of themselves” is an idiom many people are all too familiar with. Essentially this phrase means if you eavesdrop on conversations where people are talking about you, more times than not you may hear many unfavorable things spoken about you. When brands read or listen to comments written about them it is not considered eavesdropping. Chatter that is in a social setting is open and not private. Hence, such conversations shift to social listening, as opposed to social eavesdropping.

Brands are doing more social listening as they connect to their audiences. Why? Oftentimes, customers do not feel that companies really listen to them. Sometimes out of frustration, they may post harsh comments that warrant immediate attention. Quite often, other consumers may jump on the bandwagon to fan the flames of negativity. Brands are finding out more than ever that social chatter through social media conversations can help them better understand their customers. Here are 5 beneficial reasons why brands should pay attention to social listening:

1. Social monitoring helps brands to enhance the customer experience. Eye and ear listening skills are used…CONTINUE READING

Article Source:
http://EzineArticles.com/?Social-Listening:-How-Brands-Can-Benefit-From-Positive-and-Negative-Comments&id=9406010

 

 

Colin Lewis: Innovation is the key test of marketers’ competence

OpenJaw Technologies, Colin Lewis, Innovation
Image Source: marketingweek.com

Marketing Week
18 Apr 2017 3:26 pm

We live in an age of technological acceleration and marketers are on the frontline. New ideas, new channels and disruptive technologies appear to be coming at us exponentially faster. The two most commonly cited responses to this rapid product and technological advancement (or indeed obsolescence) is to ‘disrupt yourself’ or to ‘innovate more’.

But what exactly is innovation? There is a plethora of opinions regarding innovation and why it is important. Innovation is about novelty and new ideas, about how we might create new products or services, business models or processes. The ability to develop new ideas and innovations is seen as a…CONTINUE READING

Article source: https://www.marketingweek.com/2017/04/18/innovation-marketer-competence/