The Challenge of Strategic Planning – Are You Ready?

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You may have decided that your company needs a comprehensive, formal strategic plan, but are you really ready for the challenge? Just as important as your willingness to plan is your commitment to expend the resources (time, creative energy and money) required to do it right. Proper planning always involves significant resources for implementation. You and your management team should be committed to following through before you commit any time to the first planning meeting.

A recent article by Kerry Capell at BusinessWeek, How Britain Jumpstarts Design (October 3, 2007), describes the government-sponsored process for helping small to mid-sized businesses re-energize their companies through innovative design. The author relates several different case studies in which a company identifies, with some outside help from Britain’s Design Council, ways to renew its products or make its company brand stand out from the crowd. There have been several brilliant and very profitable success stories from the program.

One interesting thing about the process is that the support of the Design Council is not simply a government giveaway. It is quite competitive to qualify for the program. All company applications to the program are reviewed by a panel of experts. No company is allowed in the program unless they have both the willingness and the ability to invest significant resources in product or process design. In short, the Council does not want to waste its resources helping the business with their design planning activities unless the management team and ownership can demonstrate beforehand that they will be able to follow-through with the good ideas that come out of the process.

This same philosophy should also apply to your thinking when you consider launching your strategic planning process. A comprehensive business planning process is bound to help your team develop many new ideas that will help you change your organization for the better. Implementation of these ideas will require management time and creativity (at the very least) and, in most cases, capital resources as well.

It is relatively easy to kick off strategic planning with the intellectually enjoyable discussions about markets, customers, competitors, capabilities, etc. In most cases, it is fun and exciting to begin the journey to examine your business with the tools of a good strategic planning process. It can be very costly if you are not willing to finish the journey with the resources necessary to achieve your strategic vision.

One of my clients learned this lesson the hard way. After completing the first two phases of Simplified Strategic Planning (Business Analysis and Strategy Formulation), the management team believed that their products and services were game-changing entries in the market. They all agreed that they could potentially triple the size of the business in the next 2 years. It was clear that the chosen business building activities required capital. At the beginning of phase three, Implementation Planning, the fiscally conservative owner announced to the team that he would entertain neither significant debt nor ownership sharing as a means to implementing their action plans. All growth would be self-financed from available cash flow. It was clear to all team members that their aggressive plans for growth would be starved for resources and would take at least twice as long to achieve. This so disheartened the management team that two very talented members left the company within the next six months — a huge loss in executive experience and industry knowledge!

This is just one example of the potential negative impact caused by lack of commitment for strategic planning follow-through. There are many other stories of companies that crafted great strategy and then suffered from inadequate support of their plans. Before initiating your strategic planning efforts, be sure that you have the resources and the determination to implement your great ideas.

Copyright 2007 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan

reprint permission granted with full attribution

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Source by Steve Rutan

7 Things to Do to Prepare For Your First Sales Call

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Whenever you have a sales call scheduled with a new sales prospect – treat it like a golden opportunity.

Because in fact this first sales call, could be a golden opportunity for you. What if your new sales prospect has the potential to become your largest customer.

What would the lifetime value of your largest customer add up to?

Here are seven things you must do before calling on every new sales prospect.

Thing you must do # 1:

Be sure to do your homework and that means making Google your first stop. Do a search on the person’s name, the company name, and the name of their best selling product. You might be surprised with the results you get.

Thing you must do # 2:

Now this is a little thing that can have a big impact. It can create a powerful first impression for you.

Go to an office supply store and buy a dozen red file folders. While you’re at the store buy Avery product #8366 which are white file folder labels. Prepare a label with the name of your new sales prospect.

Imagine your prospect’s reaction to seeing his name on this red file folder. He will immediately consider you professional, organized, successful, and different from most other salespeople he has experienced in the past.

A little thing with a big impact.

Thing you must do # 3:

You must have a written sales call objective for your first sales call. Your written objectives for this sales call can include: to build rapport, establish credibility, to ask 3-5 open-ended questions, to identify one common interest you share, and to secure agreement for your second meeting.

Your written sales call objectives will scream “Professionalism.” By contrast most salespeople arrive like a tourist just taking in the sights – pity the poor sales prospect who must put up with this display of mediocrity.

Thing you must do # 4:

To get the ball rolling, building rapport and establishing credibility, I suggest you prepare and practice 3 – 5 open-ended questions.

Nothing shows your interest more than the questions you ask – so be sure to ask good questions.

You can start with… tell me about your business… what are your responsibilities… in addition to you who else is involved in making decisions for… what are the biggest challenges you’re facing growing your business?

Once again asking these questions will demonstrate your interest and professionalism and differentiate you from most salespeople.

Thing you must do # 5:

If you enjoy playing the telephone tag game you can immediately proceed to # 6. It’s absolutely amazing how many salespeople neglect to secure the meeting time and date for the second meeting.

Once you have qualified your sales prospect as a potential customer don’t forget and never hesitate to ask for the second meeting. Do not attempt improvisation. Prepare and practice how you will ask for the second meeting.

Thing you must do # 6:

This next thing is especially important if you happen to be a serious person. Before you get out of your car check your rearview mirror to make sure you’re smiling.

Trust me, when you’re caught in traffic, running a little late, just ended a telephone call with a disgruntled customer – please don’t think you have a happy face on. Check your mirror to check your smile.

Thing you must do # 7:

Try this affirmation on for size “This will be my best sales call ever to a new sales prospect.”

Right after you check to make sure you’re smiling saying this affirmation fills your mind with positive thoughts and words squeezing out any potential negativity.

You may not realize this but you are in complete control of your thoughts. And of course you know how you think is everything!

There’s a huge difference between self-doubt and self-confidence and both are controlled by your thoughts.

This affirmation creates the perfect mindset for a very successful sales call.

Just try it once and see how much better you feel.

Now you know the 7 things you must do to prepare for your first sales call. Believe it or not you now have a 7-point system for making sales calls on new prospects.

Use this system to make every sales call better than the last one.

Let’s go sell something…

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Source by Jim Meisenheimer

The Stages of System Analysis and Design of an eCommerce Website

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How to get started?

Designing an eCommerce website is certainly the best thing for the website designers, because it allows them to use their creativity to the fullest. Today, the eCommerce website has become the great trend setter and is more associated with the customer’s morals and emotions. Every eCommerce website has a USP and something that clinches buyers to visit the website.

Whether it is Amazon, eBay or Alibaba, history tells that every successful eCommerce website has written their own success stories at the time of designing only. All these websites are so popular among the users not just because of their services or the range of products they offer, but because of their great user interface and extremely friendly website design.

Even a person who doesn’t know much about the computer or the internet can spend hours on these websites simply because they provide a very friendly design and architect. This signifies how important is the designing and analysis of the eCommerce website.

How does it all start?

Getting started with the design of an eCommerce website is a big challenge for the designers and also for the people who have initiated this idea. Having your own eCommerce store sounds quite resounding, but it takes a hardcore approach to materialize the idea in the real world. Before you began with the designing of your own eCommerce store, you must have the answers of these questions ready, so that you will end up in providing a great product to your audience.

What is the objective of your store?

What would be your target audiences?

In which area or demographics you are targeting your customers?

What products or categories of products you want to sell through your store?

Which major brands you want to associate with?

What would be the initial budget of your store?

Site Architecture and Wire Frame

Now, since you have all the answers ready with you that means you can move ahead and get into the real part of the designing. The site architecture and the wireframe are the most critical part of the eCommerce store. How much you invest your brain and creativity in designing the site architecture will write your success story. History tells that even after investing millions of dollars, many eCommerce stores have failed to get attention from the customers because of their poor architecture and wireframe. Though, you could take every bit of the technology for designing a great friendly UI and website architecture, but your own creativity will be the key to success.

Some of essential and vital elements of a good wire frame and the site architecture

Site Navigation

Site Home Page Feasibility

Menus, Sub Menus and Product Pages

Shopping Cart feature

Secured and fast Payment Gateway

Bradcrumb and Side bars

Header and Footer structure

Visualizing the design

All the great programmers or designers always take the blueprint of their design and use their visualizing skills to create a replica of the design in their minds. This will give them the sheer thought in which way they are moving and isn’t they are moving in the right direction. Most of the occasions, during the stage of the wireframe and site architecture, people get diverted from their original ideas and objectives. Here, visualization helps them to end up in a mainframe design that resounds well with their initial idea.

Began with the programming

The zest of the entire design is the programming. Once you have the sound visualization about the theme and concept of your website design, then it’s now time to do some ground work and get started with the programming. Doesn’t matter which language or framework you are using like Php or.Net, but it is important that programming must go with your initial idea.

The most important part of the programming is the workflow and work management. Designing an eCommerce store is really a tough deal for the programmer because they have to create thousands of pages and embed tons of functionality for designing a great user friendly website.

CMS and Content Delivery Networks

The highly critical part of any website is its database. While designing the eCommerce store, you must give a thought of having a comprehensive and extended database to accommodate all the information on the website. If you don’t want to have a static Data Base then you can certainly go with the CDN’s (Content Delivery Networks), that will help you in providing an effective database with a good uptime on the server that means your users’ will enjoy browsing on your website.

Make precise and good CSS and Java elements

The Cascade Style Sheet or popularly known as CSS will help you in involving the great design elements that will really cherish your users. Every user wants to browse through the website and have their preferences for the various design elements. Be it the font colour, font style, or header colour or may be the colour of your main navigation menu, every CSS design element makes an impact on the users. Like CSS, the Java elements specially the flash images also make a positive impact on the user mindset, but make sure that you must not involve too many javascripts or flash because it may increase the website load time and user doesn’t like this.

Uploading products on the website

The products are the zest of every eCommerce store; therefore a special care should be taken while uploading the products on the website. It is really an exhilarating job for the designers, if you are uploading the huge bunch of the products under different categories. Here you should have the high definition images of every single product and those images should be fragmented and processed by a professional designer. Though, it is also important that every image should be compressed before uploading otherwise, it will increase the load time on the server and user won’t be able to see the product images properly.

Testing and Launching of the website

Now it’s time to launch the website, but before that you must consider your website for testing. Testing is often the final funnel through the website goes before going live on the web. The professional website engineers conduct various tests on the website and suggest better ways to improve the feasibility of the website for the users.

After your website successfully passed through the testing, then it’s now time to take your website live on the web for the users with a bang. Make sure that you must consider various display marketing, PCC and digital marketing techniques for promoting your website to the users.

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Source by Rohit Shrivastava

Inspirational Sayings That Will Reach You

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When we need something to touch our heart, we look for inspirational sayings and stories that have a message. Feeling down and depressed is just part of our economic position right now. Not only in the US, but it seems around the world.

To combat these feelings, we must take positive steps.

Fortunately, the internet makes this so easy.

Searching for short stories that are uplifting is as easy as finding an upbeat blog or ezine that reaches us. Finding blogs that exemplify those morals and standards with which we agree can be as easy as using the right search terms in the search box of any search engine. Whether we want to read something encouraging that is humorous – or religious – or just business-related, the goal is to find something that reaches out and touches us.

The possibilities are endless on the web.

Our minds, our hearts, our souls, or whatever we call our inner beings can be raised to new heights with the appropriate words.

Whether it is a job loss, a family problem, the rainy weather – it doesn't really matter what is getting us down. Whatever it is can be attacked from within by an attitude adjustment.

Take a good look at attitude and perspective. Analyze it. Figure out what is motivating the downtrodden feeling. Once it is identified, it can be addressed. But until we know what we are allowing to trigger our depression or despair, we cannot take control of our lives and rise above it.

On a personal level: Reflect.

Seriously, sit back and reflect.

Take some quiet time with no distractions. Turn off the cell phone, the television, even the computer. Think about where you are and where you want to be.

It is a mindset.

Change your direction today. An attitude adjustment can be as easy or as hard as you make it. The sooner you realize this, the sooner the darkness will lift from your life.

Inspirational sayings, thoughts and stories, will bring you up. Allow them into your heart.

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Source by Michael Joshua

How Has Technology Changed Our Lives?

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In the midst of the darkness that engulfed the world, the technology changed the entire life of the human beings. Undoubtedly, we have some negative repercussions of the technology but the positive results of technology have more weight than that of negative. However, it seems a little bit difficult for us to believe that technology has changed our life because it has taken its place slowly and gradually. Therefore, there are innumerable justifications which have been spotlighted below which can prove us that how technology has changed our life in-toto.

Education System

Education is a broad field but if we take only a single aspect that is the way of learning then we can come across with great difference that how it has changed our life. For instance, when we were young, it was so hard for us to have a good education along with the variety of examples, and we used to go to buy different expensive books just for the sake of limited topics for making notes and can have good marks in our exams. However, in this technological world, it has become very easy to access different topics on the world of the internet in the very short span of time which also can also be shared with the friends on social media

Business System

In the ancient time, it was too difficult to give advertisement of newly launched business with outdated sources such as pasting posters on the wall, distributing the pamphlet to people in a busy market, etc. However, in this contemporary world, technology has made very easy for sharing advertisement of our business at different areas such as on internet sites, on social media, on big LCD’s at busy roads, etc. So, this is how our life has changed due to technical assistance and we can easily promote our business in no time.

Medical Department

Besides the field of business, Medical Department is at its peak just because of technology. In early life, it was the only Malaria, a fatal disease, because of that many people lost their lives, but now this Malaria which is caused by Plasmodium can easily be treated without any risk. Similarly, this medical science is working efficiently and it has diagnosed innumerable ways to live a secure life than earlier. Therefore, technology is the only liable course which has changed our life.

Communication System

Last but not least, the communication system has completely changed our life in this technological world and has made a world as a global village. Formerly, people used to send their message through the help of pigeons, then postman but now it has become very easy not to just send the message but also can have access to video call to the one you want to send the message. This is the internet along with smartphones which have made easier for every individual to connect himself with all his distant relatives around the world. Thus, it is the only technology which has made our lives easier than before.

In short, we are totally dependent on the technology and all we are eating, wearing, writing, etc. all made of technology which means we are totally relying on the world of technology, so this is how technology has changed our life without which it is impossible to survive such an easy life.

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Source by Atif Memon

Small Business Venture Capital Strategies

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When launching a new small business, often the entrepreneur will consider venture capital as a source of funding. Here are 3 tips to ensure that venture capital funding can be secured when sending out your business plan:

  1. Send your business plan to the right people
  2. Venture capitalists tend to specialize in certain kinds of businesses. Some will specialize by industry, only investing in new energy companies, for instance, while others look for a certain size of company to invest in. It is worth doing the research to determine who the venture capital backers are for your industry, before you start sending out your business plan. Venture capitalists who are not specific to your industry can provide recommendations to make your plan more appealing to other venture capitalists. However, it would naturally be a mistake to send your plan to potential investors who will not even consider it.

  3. Make sure your business has the potential to be profitable enough
  4. Most venture capitalists look for a return of about 5-10 times their initial investment. For example, an investment in a company of $ 2 million should yield a return of $ 14-20 million after about five years. To satisfy these requirements, it is generally necessary to have a business which has the potential for a high rate of return on the amount invested. If the rate of return can reasonably be expected to be lower, such as for a clothing retailer, then it is probably better to look for an alternate source of funding, such as an investment or commercial bank.

  5. Remember to include an exit strategy for your investor
  6. Venture capitalists generally do not want to be involved with a new venture for an indefinite period of time. Most will plan to leave the new venture after about five years, so you should offer a clear explanation of how this may be achieved. There can be a variety of reasons for this; some venture capital managers require that the holdings periodically be sold off to acquire other offerings. Nonetheless, by demonstrating that you understand the limited time frame for many venture capitalists, you automatically make your plan more appealing than those which do not.

In summary, by sending your business plan to the right people, by recognizing what rate of return is necessary for venture capitalist involvement, and by including an exit strategy, you can improve your odds of securing venture capital funding for a new and growing business.

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Source by Marc Mays

Fleet Risk Management FAQ

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Managing any business is tough, but when your employees are out on the road? Well, it only gets more complicated. The risk associated with managing a fleet is real and significant as mistakes can not only end up in damage to your property but, more seriously, a threat to life.

Most people know that if you’re operating a fleet of vehicles you need to partake in fleet risk management, but that leaves many questions unanswered. In this guide, we’ll take on the most commonly asked questions regarding fleet risk management. Let’s get started:

Q: How often should my drivers be tested?

A: Bad driving habits don’t take long to form, and even habits which have been taught out can creep back into our driving style if we aren’t careful. It’s a consequence of idle habit, and it means that testing your drivers regularly is utterly essential.

In general, it’s recommended that major training is undertaken on an annual basis, however, quarterly mini-assessments are also recommended in order to correct minor issues with driver style.

Q: My staff drive vehicles which aren’t cars, do I still need fleet risk management?

A: It doesn’t matter what type of vehicle your staff are in control of, whether it’s bicycles, motorbikes, buses, trucks or lorries, fleet risk management is a legal and moral obligation. Most fleet risk management firms will offer support for the wide variety of vehicles which are owned and operated by businesses like yours.

Q: Who in the company is responsible for fleet risk management?

A: Unlike certain legal obligations, there isn’t a set position within a business which is responsible for FLR. However, it is recommended that the role is taken upon by those at the very top of the business as this sets an important precedence for road safety within the business.

Ultimately, should your business not enact a fleet risk management program, your business will be held personally responsible for any accidents that occur. Thus, it’s recommended that FLR is taken seriously at the top of the business and, ideally, an individual is given the responsibility of overseeing it throughout the year.

Q: What kind of data can you get from a telematics device?

A: An optional aspect of FLR which some businesses choose to install are telematics devices. These boxes are effectively cousins of flight ‘black box’ technology and monitor everything that goes on in the car.

These devices can provide information on speeding, dramatic acceleration or braking, cornering performance and other, vital, risk management issues.

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Source by Alec James

Tips and Tricks for Building an Effective Direct Mail Marketing Campaign

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To begin your direct mail campaign, break down the process into manageable steps and take these factors into consideration. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Who is your target audience?

The first step is to identify your company target audience, or target audiences, and understand these demographics as well as possible. The more knowledge you have of their purchasing habits, needs, and wants, the more effective your direct mail campaign will be in helping them understand how your business can benefit them. Are your clients male or female? Old or young? Where do they live? The more detailed, the better. Look at the demographics of your existing customer base, but also imagine what other customers you might want to reach out to. Who uses your services, and who could use your services?

Who is on your mailing list?

Once you have a good understanding of your current and prospective clients, create a mailing list. Better yet, create different lists for different campaigns; the material you send to existing customers might look different and contain different information than that which you send to potential customers. The more tailored your pamphlet, postcard, flyer, etc. is to the specific recipient, the better the chance he or she will respond positively, if at all. Keep detailed and organized records of your lists for reference when creating future campaigns.

What do you want to say? How are you going to say it?

Now it's time to design the actual promotional material that you will send out. There are many types, including postcards, flyers, and pamphlets explaining your services and detailing special offers. Thank you cards and greeting cards for previous clients are just as important; they're instrumental in fostering a sense of community and letting customers know how much you value them and their business. After all, one of the principal reasons people respond so well to direct mail marketing is that it's more personal than electronic communication. Identify which types of mail you will be sending to which people and the text to include. Make sure to double-check spelling and grammar.

Next, focus on the visuals. Pictures are crucial. If you are a company that sells home products for elderly customers, include photos of people making it clear just how easy-to-use your products are. Other businesses, like law firms and real estate companies, traditionally utilize photographs of lawyers, agents, etc. Because they are businesses that rely on personal, one-on-one trust. Make sure whatever pictures you choose are high-quality and professional.

Graphic design plays a crucial role in representing your business as well. If your material appears outdated or aesthetically displeasing, you jeopardize the perceived reliability and quality of your company, which can greatly affect business. If you have no experience in graphic design, it is best to leave it to professionals. Some direct mail services offer in-house graphic designers.

With these tips in mind, you will be off to a great start designing an effective direct mail marketing campaign!

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Source by Alfred Ardis

Magento Development For Developing Ecommerce Websites

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Availability of several ecommerce solutions in the business industry can create a critical condition for business owners in the selection of best one to meet online business needs. Ecommerce solution is said to be very successful when it satisfies the visitors, sellers and buyers in all aspects of business on the web. Among various ecommerce solutions, the most popular and effective is Magento. In the world of online business, it is having a decent position. It is a unique system for doing ecommerce over the web having great features for the management. Magento is an open source ecommerce solution.

With an introduction of magento in the internet market, website development becomes easy and cheap. Going for magento development while creating a website is a good option as it includes attractive design along with functionality. The magento ecommerce platform brings the flexibility with industry leading features and provides merchants control over online store operations. Most of the reliable service providers offer:

  • Entire Magento installation
  • Configuring and customization of solutions
  • Template design, version upgrades and maintenance of magento based stores
  • Store optimization
  • Developing SEO friendly magento solutions

Magento development is very necessary part for ecommerce success. The technology with high end features gives online sales booming. Companies that have experienced and professional magento developers provide customized ecommerce application solution. Creating online ecommerce website is not an easy task. It is not a just design simple product website and integrate payment gateway, but complete ecommerce solution is one that gives you functionality of your website. In addition, a complete ecommerce solution also gives you success over the market competition.

According to experts, who have experimented a range of solutions of past years, doing ecommerce business by using magento. These experts have realized that it provides great professional environment to online businesses. It results in high profits in monetary terms and elevates performance ability in an industry. For developing the ecommerce website, one can hire professional magento developer from reputed web development firm to get the experience of powerful solution.

Hiring professional developer provides optimum utilization of ecommerce technology such as one can experience the automatic SEO, price change effect to whole site quickly, single page check out feature, ship to multiple addresses, easy-to-use admin system and administration of multiple sites. Expert designers will help you to build an attractive design for ecommerce store and developers will offer perfect integration to make it unique from others.

There are several benefits can be gained by hiring reliable magento developers from reputed magento development company.

  • An organize merchandising
  • Improved online store functionality
  • Business promotion
  • Beautiful visualization of online ecommerce store
  • Market expansion
  • Customer review, etc are some benefits which ultimately takes your business to the next level.

Not all the developers have the ability to deal with magento technology, so it is better that you choose the right company to obtain maximum benefits. Get the services at one point at affordable prices by making a thorough research online and decrease your hassles.

Conclusion

In this world of online searching and shopping, you should not stay behind. Get ready to adopt cost-effective magento services.

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Source by Paddy Jones

Innovation Definition – The Four Requirements For Innovation

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Innovation is the lifeblood of any organization. It is therefore important that we have a good working innovation definition. Innovation can apply to many things. It is usually the term applied to a new product, but it can also be used to describe new processes, methods or inventions.

Here are four essential ingredients to a definition of innovation:

1. Something New

Everyone likes something new. How many advertisements have you seen that use the words “new and improved”? We all want the latest and greatest products and ways of doing things. Newness, however, is just the beginning.

2. Better Than What Exists

New for the sake of being new is of little value. It must also be improved. A new and improved toothpaste must have a new that increases its perceived value. A new office procedure must actually do something better than the old way.

3. Economically Viable

Does it make or save money? If it doesn’t then it shouldn’t be implemented. If the new and improved toothpaste makes more sales that in turn makes more profits, it is a profitable addition. If your new office procedure improves the efficiency of the work place and therefore saves labor costs, it makes the organization more profitable.

4. Widespread Appeal

All the first 3 elements are very important and even related to this one. However, there needs to be a basic appeal to the new innovation. If not it won’t sell. If your new and improved toothpaste is licorice flavored, then it might have very limited appeal. It is new and improved. Licorice may even be a cheaper flavor to implement that any others. If nobody wants it, then it is not a true innovation.

The same would apply to your office change. if it requires an action that no one in the office likes, then it is doomed from the start.

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Source by Dee Reavis