For many brands, crisis can be the stimulus for change. And where there’s change, there’s opportunity for innovation. This was the topic of a main stage discussion during The CMO Club Spring Summit, where panelists Andrea Ward, VP of Marketing at OracleCarol Kruse, CMO of Cambia Health Solutions, and Colin Hall, CMO of Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation discussed how brands can create an ecosystem that transforms a pain point into a great customer experience.

The underlying emphasis of the session was clarity. Two members highlighted this point as they gave examples of how they brought their brands’ problems and solutions into focus and then used that focus to make calculated decisions about future strategies.

Identifying the Problem is the First Step

To really understand how she could enhance the customer experience, Kruse decided to investigate the processes and systems that were being used internally each day. After she educated her team about customer mapping (a knowledge we take for granted as marketers), she worked with individual employees to pinpoint places where they were inadvertently causing problems for customers.

“Healthcare is extremely personal but – ironically – not personalized,” said Kruse. “We started with the customer pains and then leap-frogged to solutions. Then, once you’ve identified [problems], they can’t be ignored.”

By involving individual employees, Kruse empowered them to share their ideas about what wasn’t working and what might work better – and she effectively united the entire team around creating solutions that would make the whole brand stronger.

It Doesn’t Need to be New, It Just Needs to Work

When talking about innovation, marketers can get caught up in trying to create the next big idea. More often, though, great innovation simply means the next great idea for your brand – one that solves a problem and propels the business forward.

“Innovation is less about creating something new and more about creating a business plan that actually works,” said Hall.

He said a huge ‘ah-ha’ moment for his company stemmed from a pain point in their supply chain: what to do with the blemish stock that was filling valuable warehouse space.

Hall and his team decided to sell these products on-line in a flash sale – with a surprising outcome. Rather than devaluing their high-end brand (a concern held by several team members), they discovered their lower-priced, blemished shoes appealed to a whole new demographic of customers, selling 90% of their unused inventory with 50% of their sales bought by millennials who had never purchased from them before. By opening their doors to this new generation of consumers, they found that millennials love their shoes, but just didn’t have the budget for them at full price – yet.

Now, their marketing team is focused on cultivating these new relationships, staying with millennial consumers as their own careers and budgets grow. Their goal is to create loyal advocates that ultimately increase the lifetime value of each customer.

As you already know, there is never one set path in marketing, but by focusing less on trying to be ‘innovative’ and more on solving existing pain points, you made find a surprising outcome. When seeking innovation, the advice of both Kruse and Hall is to be open to making changes in the processes and systems of your brand.

“The risk for not changing becomes bigger than the risk for changing when crisis is involved,” said Ward.

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