Today's business leaders love to talk about innovation. It sounds flashy and modern and makes the company or product sound like they're always on the cutting edge of progress. But the hype and overuse of this buzzword has diluted its meaning--which means it's time to find better ways to describe what makes your company special.
We asked a group of entrepreneurs to share some different, more accurate descriptors companies can use instead of "innovative." The next time you're tempted to use that word, try one of these improved alternatives.
A business's primary purpose is to provide solutions to customer needs. Customers don't care if you needed to be innovative to arrive at that solution, says Serenity Gibbons, local unit lead for NAACP.
"Just get them the resolution they need, whether you choose to be innovative, creative, disruptive, etc.," Gibbons adds.
Businesses that strive for innovation tend to forget that the real goal is to be responsive to their customers, says Corey Northcutt, CEO of Northcutt Enterprise SEO. While innovation may help make your business responsive, customers value real solutions more than they value novelty.
"Innovation might impress, but the most loved businesses are those that respond to their customers' needs quickly and carefully," Northcutt explains.
Instead of focusing on how innovative they are, Maria Thimothy, a consultant for OneIMS, suggests companies should think about quality.
"Always pressing for quality is going to reap profits beyond what you may expect," says Thimothy. "From retaining clients longer to becoming the industry leader because of your quality, it's going to make a big difference."
According to Firas Kittaneh, CEO and co-founder of Zoma Mattress, businesses should be focused on ways in which they can deliver more value for customers.
"It's easy to get carried away with cool and creative ideas, but the end result might be more exciting for you than it is for users," says Kittaneh. "Instead of being innovative, focus on being value-oriented."
One way to showcase your innovative nature in a practical way is to describe your business as one that is not afraid to experiment, says Syed Balkhi, co-founder of WPBeginner.
"This means that you work with data and try new things until you find something that clicks," Balkhi says. "Experimenting is part of the growth mindset and is a powerful way for any business to truly innovate."
Stephanie Wells, founder and lead developer of Formidable Forms, reminds leaders that if their companies aren't creative, they'll never be able to think outside of the box and create content and products that excite their target market.
"You need to be creative to come up with new ideas your audience will love," Wells explains. "If you don't have that, then forget about innovating anything worth investing in."
Few businesses are truly "innovative" in the traditional sense of the word. That's why Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, says companies should try the word "genuine" in its place.
"You can talk about the good your business provides to its customers, and speak about why and how you started your company, which lends to being genuine," says Schrage. "You can tie 'genuine' into a lot of other benefits your business provides."
"Innovation" has become synonymous with making something new, says Matthew Manos, founder and managing director of Verynice--but making something new is not always what we need.
"Sometimes what we need is to elevate and scale or replicate something that is already working in order to solve a problem creatively on a larger scale," Manos says. "Creative problem-solving reminds us of the importance of being useful."