Innovation is critical to the success of any business in today’s “what have you done for me lately” economy, where consumers are constantly inundated with new products, technologies, services and ideas.

For product-based companies, innovation means developing the “next big thing” that can change the world and revolutionize consumers’ lives. But what about service-based businesses?

Experiences are the hot new social currency. The last time you made a hotel reservation, you might have noticed they are no longer just selling a place to get a night’s rest, but are now adding on culinary experiences, wine tastings and even morning runs hosted by a local guide. These experiences are all meant to make your stay more memorable and build greater brand loyalty.

What do you do when your brand is an experience? Whether it’s personal training, massage or beauty services, brands that offer experience-based business models must systematically invest in innovation to continue attracting new customers and retain existing customers.

Innovation without an overarching strategy, however, is a risky approach that can introduce unnecessary risk into your business. Consider these four groups of stakeholders when sparking innovation in a service-based business to ensure you choose the right strategy:

1. Owners And Managers

Creating a culture of innovation in service-based businesses always starts at the top. Owners and managers should lead with passion and enthusiasm for sharing new ideas and be the example for others to step outside their comfort zone and think in new, innovative ways.

Innovation is messy by nature. There’s always a risk of failure when it comes to trying something new, but a fear of failure will prevent a culture of innovation from ever developing within your organization, so leaders need to focus on creating a sense of safety and security when new ideas are pitched.

2. Employees

Employees often have the best ideas because they are closest to the customer. By engaging them in the innovation conversation, business owners can drive a spirit of ownership among their employees and create incentives around engaging customers at every level — from frontline employees to back-office support — and coming up with new, innovative ways to serve them.

Contests, for example, are a great way to inspire employees to innovate. For our Elements Massage brand, we created an “innovation lab” that encouraged massage therapists to submit ideas for how to improve certain aspects of the customer experiences, and the best ideas were recognized with praise and prizes.

3. Customers

Even if the product is good, customers don’t want to align with boring brands. How many of the brands that your parents or grandparents loved are still relevant to us today? Even if a customer may not engage with every innovation you offer, you benefit as a brand by developing an innovation halo.

When we launched a new massage service incorporating CBD oil at Elements, the brand received recognition through the media and customer feedback on being an innovative, cutting-edge leader in the wellness industry, despite only a small percentage of clients choosing to add this enhancement to their massage service. This brand halo has also extended to our employment brand, with massage therapists now more interested in employment opportunities with their local studios.

To read the full article by Trever Ackerman, Chief Marketing Officer of Elements Massage®, click here.

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