For a business today to truly succeed, it has to either grow or disrupt. If it’s lucky, it will do both.
Being disruptive, after all, is itself a growth hack, which begs the question: How does one disrupt an industry? Because disruptions are nothing new: We’ve seen dozens of them in recent years: A young entrepreneur has a big idea, shakes things up and emerges with a multi-billion dollar business that leaves people gaping, imitating, disbelieving and envying, all amid a dizzying swirl of emotions.
But the question still lingers: How does this pattern actually happen? What is required for a business to ubiquitously reengineer its industry and come out on top?
The answers are disruption, and its byproduct, growth, which occur because the best entrepreneurs are watching for trends. Here are ten ways you can replicate their example in your own business.
1. Make an existing trend even better.
Piggybacking is a familiar business model. You enter the industry by building on an existing service in a different marketplace. For example, you purchase SaaS, which allows you to improve your Twitter usefulness or effectiveness. Then, because Twitter is itself a successful business, you find that piggybacking, using Twitter, improves your prospects.
There are variations on this story: Once a pioneer industry identifies a trend, it needs only to improve upon that trend. Take social media, for instance. Facebook wasn't the first or only social media platform. But its creators noticed that people wanted an exclusive network, so they allowed only college students at first to join. And the rest is history.
When you notice a trend starting, leverage it by expanding on it or improving it. The Facebook example illustrates why MySpace became a thing of the past.
2. Create on-demand anything
The on-demand economy is here to stay, writer Zalmi Duchman has said. And he’s right. On-demand is not just a great idea, it’s a consumer expectation.
Business Insider nailed it when it wrote, “The new on-demand models have opened the door to real-time fulfillment of goods and services, which consumers have embraced with a frequency that is unprecedented.”
3. Give people something as quickly as they ask for it.
Nobody wants to wait for anything. Uber customers can request a cab any time, day or night, and they'll have a ride. Amazon Prime members order a package, and they'll have it within two days.
Consumers want instant. If you can deliver instant within an industry that’s used to waiting, congratulations: You just disrupted that industry. In short, add "quick" to on-demand.
4. Infuse your entire industry with mobile adaptability
Any industry that hasn’t yet “gone mobile” is ready for disruption. The reason is that nearly everyone is tethered to a mobile device. Once this device can unlock doors (literally) or make lives easier, what's been created is a perfect disruptive opportunity.
A few years ago, I would have advised you to “go digital.” But the digital revolution is behind us. Whereas the “digital camera” was once the next step in photography, now mobile cameras have come to the fore. We are living in the mobile age.
Related: Is Your Personal Brand Disruptive?
5. Make customer service your entire focus.
If you can create an unforgettable and outstanding service for your customer, you have successfully won that customer. The thing to remember is that customer service is the sine qua non of marketing. While dozens of businesses pay lip service to this reality, only a relative small number have abided by it.
Take Zappos, for example. That company turned the sterile and impersonal world of ecommerce into the engaging and human experience of service.
If you can turn an unfriendly industry on its head by injecting awesome customer service into the mix, you’ll bring the entire niche crawling to your door.
6. Satisfy a human craving for absolute convenience.
Just as you will be wise to provide on-demand service, you'll find that satisfying needs with convenience is a simple recipe for success.
Convenience is the strategy GrubHub used to disrupt consumer expectations of food delivery. GrubHub made it easy for anyone to satisfy hunger without ever having to put on pants, get in a car or drive somewhere.
It became a pinnacle of convenience, and a model of disruption.
7. Turn 'complicated' into simple.
Less is beautiful, and when you transform a convoluted process, system or method into a simple and seamless experience, you win. Apple did this with computing; Nest is doing this with its thermostats. PayPal did this with payments.
Making a process essential helps to dismantle other products'/services' inconveniences, and spurs a torrent of attraction.
8. Remove something 'standard.'
What can you remove from a product or process that will make it better? Answering that question is challenging, but necessary, in order to initiate disruption. Consider:
- What happens when you remove film from a camera? You have the digital photography industry.
- What happens when you remove water from a toilet? You have the sustainable power of waterless toilets.
- What happens when you remove the dust bag from a vacuum cleaner? You have Dyson’s revolutionary vacuum cleaner.
You get the idea.
9. Give it away for free.
Some of the most disruptive businesses today are free. Think about it.
Skype transformed global voice communication, and you may have never spent a dime on it. Think about how many hours you’ve spent on Spotify, streaming music, and how it was completely free. Facebook? You don’t pay that company a monthly fee unless you're running ads. Twitter? Your 2,000 followers are entirely free. Google? If you had to pay for all those searches you’re doing, you’d be sunk.
So, what’s the common thread here? "Free," obviously.
Disruptive businesses grow by virtue of their price point: in this case, nothing. Then, those businesses reverse-engineer the business model in order to arrive at profitability.
It may sound backward (and it is) but look where Skype, Spotify, Twitter, Facebook and Google are today.
10. Make it a monthly membership.
Many Luddite businesses are still functioning according to a transactional model: You pay me X. I give you Y. Done.
That’s not the way today’s disruptive businesses are doing it, though. Instead, they rely on monthly membership models, in which you pay, pay, pay, and you stay, stay, stay.
The stakes are now higher for both the consumer and the business. The consumer knows that each month he or she will pay a set fee. The business knows that in order to retain that customer, it's got to deliver a consistent stream of goods or services that satisfy.
Disruption is a sought-after precursor of growth.
But being disruptive is notoriously hard. In some industries, you have to fight against decades of inertia and sluggish progress; in others, you have to fight traditionalism and entrenched modes of thinking.
Industries aren’t soulless, people-less entities. They are made up of living, breathing, thinking humans. These people, more often than not, prefer the status quo and are loathe to change their ways. And that very inertia is what makes certain companies ripe for change.
So, think about it: The only way to change your industry is to induce large-scale upheaval inside your business. Only then will you be ready to effect a positive and profound revolution on a wider scale. Only then will you win the sobriquet disruptive.