Last month, I spent a week in Las Vegas at the Adobe Summit. The conference features the digital experiences that brands are offering their customers. It also aims to underscore the trends influencing marketing and branding that impact all businesses-- the key is to look at what others are doing and try to incorporate the lessons.

Weeks later, I'm still thinking about the three lessons that could be beneficial to all business owners and leaders. While not everyone has the budget of an Adobe or the resources of a big brand, that doesn't mean they can't make changes that bring them in line with what clients are seeing and expecting. Innovation is within everyone's reach.

After listening to dozens of speakers and talking to hundreds of leaders, it became clear that these businesses aren't all doing the same thing. But they've all adopted the three following perspectives and found their own way to implement them:

1. People-first thinking.

Adobe, with more than 9,400 employees, initiated a digital transformation, expanding from "the Photoshop company" to a full suite of marketing applications. Even a company with Adobe's resources couldn't manage such a large shift without the buy-in of its employees. Ranked No. 22 in the 2019 Great Place to Work list, the company invested in putting its employees first.

By doing this, the brand empowered employees to think for themselves to move their projects forward. It also resulted in radical transparency: Adobe's trust in its employees allowed leaders to share key financial data that enabled people to make decisions to benefit the overall mission. In doing so, the company positioned itself to take bigger risks and be more creative in its approach.

I've hired hundreds of people over my years of serial entrepreneurship. I've also advised companies that struggled in this area before prioritizing their people. Fast-growing companies know people must be put first. But this isn't just about the employees: When employees' needs are met, it frees them up to think about how best to serve customers. It allows them to engage with their projects in a deeper way-- and that includes improving the experience they offer customers.

2. The knowledge that experience matters.

To that end, Adobe has changed how its systems collect data and make it useful to customers' teams. In a typical scenario, data is collected only through conversations and recorded via customer relationship management (CRM) tools.

With new technology, you're able to see what your prospects are engaging with, too. Steve Lucas, CEO of Marketo, shared during his keynote, "The line between epic and epic failure is experience." Marketo was purchased by Adobe in 2018.

Coachella and the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) offer another example. While both are music festivals in the western U.S., the similarities end there. Based in Indio, Calif., Coachella's sets begin during the day, and the festival features camping sites, as well as large stages for its mammoth crowds. Efficiency is the name of the game as the festival has grown, with digital wristbands and VIP access added.

EDC, on the other hand, is held in Vegas; its performances start at 7 p.m. to ensure concertgoers don't melt in the heat, but the nighttime setting creates a carnival atmosphere. It takes that one step further and offers multiple free carnival rides to attendees; performance artists roam the crowd, and fireworks are an annual feature.

While Coachella attracts more big-name acts, EDC's DJ-loving crowd gets a very unique experience. These festivals offer completely different experiences and, therefore, attract different audiences.

3. An intentional approach to innovation.

When companies are committed to evolving, they make intentional choices to push beyond the current limits of work and technology. That's how they not only improve the experience they offer customers, but also their products and services.

Adobe hosts a segment called "MAX Sneaks" showcasing ideas from the brand's engineers, product managers and marketers. These demonstrations aren't about Adobe products or features. These feature ideas from forward-thinking employees who want to be part of the industry's innovation. The audience votes on the most desired ideas. Adobe coaches each Sneak participant on how best to demonstrate his ideas to the crowd of 15,000 people. Each idea is developed and shaped, incorporating AI and other transformative tech. From motion-enabled illustration brushes to 3D virtual camera apps, Sneaks include possibilities for a variety of areas the brand is involved in.

Fueling innovation and upgrading the customer experience comes back to an organization's capacity to put people first. Without these three priorities, it's doubtful that any company-- big or small-- will see the fast growth it wants.

Published on: Apr 25, 2019
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