There were many speakers at the recent Breaking Boundaries LIVE event that inspired the audience, but one person stood out: Daniel Flynn, cofounder of social enterprise Thankyou.
Flynn is the pin-up boy for Australian food & drink businesses — and businesses in any other industry for that matter. With Flynn at the helm, Thankyou has grown from supplying one product – bottled water – to 38 SKUs through more than 4,000 outlets across Australia. If there’s one lesson that business leaders can learn from Thankyou, it’s that being different is good for business. How else do you explain how Thankyou has broken into the competitive consumer market, dominated by multinationals, to become a household name? (Just on bottled water, you may find these 4 bottled water trends to watch in 2017 interesting.)
So what does it mean to be different?
Being different is about stepping outside your comfort zone, asking questions and really thinking about new ways and better ways of doing things – in short, we’re talking about innovation.
Usually, the word “innovation” brings to mind the latest technology. But innovation doesn’t need to be technology driven. It also doesn’t mean creating some breakthrough product or service. After all, there’s nothing revolutionary about bottled water. Rather, innovation is the mindset of not accepting the status quo. Looked at this way, innovation can be everything from continuous improvement, to processes, a unique operating model, communication or marketing.
This lesson in what it means to truly be different couldn’t come at a better time: Australia recently slipped in global innovation rankings, sitting way down at 19th in this year’s Global Innovation Index. That’s two places lower than last year and — more significantly — below other Asia-Pacific nations, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand.
How to get ahead by being different
There are lots of ways to be different. Here are some ideas and examples:
- Using new funding avenues
Crowdfunding is when a large number of people each contribute a small amount of money to a start-up or project. And it’s become a mainstream fundraising model for businesses around the world — Australia included. A great example of this in action is Thankyou’s latest enterprise, the launch of a baby range and a second standalone social enterprise called Thankyou New Zealand. To fund the projects, Flynn penned a book about the social enterprise entitled Chapter One, and invited consumers around the world to buy the book at their own determined price. This crowdfunding campaign, which took place earlier this year, raised enough funds for both projects to get off the ground, while simultaneously spreading the good news story of the brand. Genius. Learn more about how crowdfunding can benefit your business in our article here.
- Challenge your thinking
Question everything — especially the accepted wisdom. This probably means challenging the way you think about the business and its processes. Struggling to do this? You’re not alone — that’s why it pays to surround yourself with people who can help. Encourage your staff to continuously ask questions, challenge the status quo and look at things from the customer’s point of view.
- Connect with consumers
Another key idea to come out of Breaking Boundaries LIVE, and this is something Australian businesses need to embrace with gusto. There are lots of ways to connect with and engage consumers, from creating an online community of “citizen influencers” to adding smart labelling to your products. For example, Carman’s (of the museli fame) has recently launched Carman’s Kitchen Table, an exclusive online research community where customers can “share thoughts and ideas together”. Thankyou products are each fitted with a digital ID, allowing consumers to track their global impact; while Camperdown Dairy uses a unique, serialised QR code on each product to authenticate its origin and allow consumers to interact with the brand (You can read and watch the Camperdown Dairy case study, or catch the news item.) Creating a compelling customer experience, which garners loyalty and trust, is a recipe for success.
- Use social media for business growth
Following from above, social media is a powerful tool for your business. Not just to post updates, launch products and garner a community of loyal consumers, but to actually ignite change and build a stronger brand. Thankyou used social media to prove there was demand for its product. Before their one and only meeting with 7Eleven – their shot at the big-time – the founders asked all Thankyou’s fans on Facebook to jump onto 7Eleven’s Facebook page and tell them that if 7Eleven stocked Thankyou, they would buy it. It was a gamble that paid off thanks to Thankyou’s strong and passionate following. In one day, 7Eleven was overwhelmed by Facebook posts, and Channel Ten’s The Project featured Thankyou’s plight that evening. Needless to say, the meeting was a success and Thankyou water was on the shelves within weeks.
Five years later, in 2013, the company was preparing to present its range to Coles and Woolworths, and the founders again looked to social media. This time, they bolstered their strategy with viral video and a couple of helicopters carrying a banner reading: “Dear Coles / Woolworths, Thankyou. for changing the world (if you say yes)”. Both supermarkets did indeed say yes to the entire range.
Why was this so successful? Because social media amplifies the brand message and creates a point of connection. The power of social media is one thing, but the power of people is undeniable. And what Thankyou proved via social media is that people want their products.
- Don’t stick to the plan
Don’t get us wrong, planning ahead isn’t a bad thing. The problem comes when the situation changes but the plan doesn’t. By all means create a plan for your business, but use it as a starting point and, if it’s no longer working, don’t be afraid to rip it up and start again
There’s a fine line between being different and adding value to your business (and customers), and being different for the sake of being different. So how can you make sure you are adding value? The key is to create a culture that’s different; one that encourages staff to ask questions and give feedback; one that doesn’t accept the status quo. This will uncover new and better ways of doing things – they might be small and even seem insignificant at first, but in the long run, they will set you apart from your competition and pave the road to success.
As Flynn says, “Impossibility is only someone’s opinion, not a fact”. Constantly push the boundaries beyond your comfort zone.
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Image credit / Eskemar