Being disruptive used to be considered something negative. You know, speaking loudly in class or bursting out with laughter during Sunday school. Disruptive classmates were sent outside or made an example of, not allowed on school trips or forbidden from taking the class hamster home. Little did we know back then that disruption would go from being every parent's nightmare to something celebrated and encouraged.

Industry disruption, in fact, is the goal of most emerging startups and entrepreneurs. They actively seek to shake up the system, break the mold and disrupt traditional industries. They look to offer customers something they're not currently getting, or fulfill a need that's not being met. Every entrepreneur wants to be a legendary disrupter like eBay or Airbnb.

But disrupting an industry doesn't have to be about reinventing the wheel. You don't have to figure out a way to offer a product that's radically different, or a service that's novel just for the sake of it. So, don't waste too much time thinking about launching something completely ingenious. Instead, analyze how you can do what's already being done - disruptively and with distinction.

Know the Industry (Inside and Out)

Yes, it's very textbook, but knowing the industry inside and out is the only way you'll know who you're up against. What's currently being offered? What do customers think about existing companies? Who are the key players on the scene? Find out who's on top and look for ways to improve their offering, or fill in gaps in the market.

The founders at Voila Mattresses realized that most people want to sleep in a bed; they weren't going to disrupt the mattress industry by offering a Tatami mat for their customers to sleep on. What they did find was a way of making the process of purchasing a mattress better.

By offering consumers the ease of buying online and the security of 100 days' free trial, they were able to make waves in the $14 billion mattress industry. They appealed to people who wanted a comfortable mattress, but didn't want to strap it onto their car and lug it home.

The takeaway here? Research is the key to disruption. If you want to solve a real problem, you'll make it your business to know everything there is to know about your industry - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Figure Out the Problems

Once you've conducted thorough market research and gotten a feel for the most popular competitors in your industry, it's time to see what needs to be fixed. And that means figuring out what the problems are. For some people, a problem may be that they hate buying clothes online that need returning afterwards. For others, it may be a delivery option that's too slow, or a product that doesn't suit their needs.

Whatever problem you are trying to solve, look at it from all sides and determine why nobody else has solved it yet. What attempts have been made to fix the problem? Are there industry regulations? What are the roadblocks? You might try making a list of any and all problems and constantly refer to your notes to make sure you're not missing anything.

Offer a Solution

Having done extensive research and identifying problems prior to this step, you should have a pretty good idea of what some viable solutions might be - which usually involves a better, cheaper, more convenient version of what's already available on the market.

For example, ClassPass offered a solution to two of the major problems people have with keeping a regular exercise routine: finding the time and not getting bored with their work out. Their platform allows users in big cities to find a studio near them, eliminating the problem of having to go across town to a gym they have a membership to. They can also try out a brand new class each time, so they're never bored. Problems solved.

But if you'll note, Classpass didn't re-invent the wheel (people still need to put in the work to exercise and stay healthy), they just made it more easy and enjoyable. Keep this in mind as you develop your own offering and you will work far more efficiently.

Provide Excellent Customer Service

Today's marketplace is demanding, with Millennials getting used to having authentic and tailor-made services. A recent Gallup poll found that customers were 6 times more likely to be highly engaged if they were offered speedy service and were 9 times more likely to be fully engaged if they received caring, courteous service.

One of the main areas in which disrupters can break the mold is their customer experience. Zaarly, a peer to peer marketplace that provides local services, made this their priority and have received a very positive response. Each small business on the platform is carefully selected based on their customer service and quality of work - making for an optimum user experience.

No matter what your product is, innovating a better customer service experience is one of the best ways you can disrupt your industry. In order to revolutionize your customer journey, try approaching your business as one of your customers would. Go through your own sales process as a non-biased party and see what you like / dislike about it. When you start thinking like one of your customers, you start generating better service solutions.

As you go forth and disrupt your industry, make sure that you're creating a product or service that doesn't just fill a need, but delights your customer and gets them coming back. Research the market, find the problems and offer a superior solution that changes the game for everyone.

Published on: Nov 22, 2016