Finding Clients Who Are Open to Innovation Even in Risk-Averse Markets

When the purchasing decision chain is full of doubters, these tips can help you woo more customers.

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By David Peto

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Risk aversion comes in many forms and faces. When the purchasing decision chain is full of doubters, this can bedevil an entrepreneur's attempts to find innovation-minded customers who will go out on a limb and try a new way of doing business.

The media and entertainment industry offers a great example. It's all sparkle and sizzle on the outside but when it comes to internal processes, decision makers often have an intense fear or change. The resistance is understandable. Much is at stake with TV and film production: There's a need to monetize assets so that everyone is paid, plus the reputations of all involved on the screen and behind it are on the line. The pressure-packed global production cycle and 24/7 news cycle mean there's little spare time to recover should a new technology fail to deliver.

Related: 4 Customer Personalities Your Sales Team Wants to Reach

No wonder even the most ardent internal advocates can be hesitant to disrupt proven work flows. I found this out personally after founding an all-Apple, all high-definition, entirely tapeless video-editing shop in London in 2006, a time when many were still shooting and editing on tape. And I learned it all over again when starting my current cloud-based video-platform company in 2009 in the trough of a global financial crisis.

A startup's infancy is usually the first excuse offered for customers' not considering its new solution. That's usually easy enough to overcome. Next are the "what if" questions about important concepts like security and control. What if I accidentally erase the only copy of a shoot? What if cloud computing means the public can access outtakes that I don't want people to ever see? What If I authorize someone on one project but don't want this individual to access another work?

Add economic uncertainty to the mix, and the target customer market may simply hunker down and ignore a great new product or service idea.

Yet whether it's my founder's optimism or delusion, I believe that somewhere some customer is ready for a better way. Learning how to quickly find the customers who are ahead of the crowd gives a startup a major advantage.

Here are five ways to locate the innovators within any organization and any market:

Related: Sleepwalking Through Sales -- How Vendors Are Ignoring Buyers' Intelligence

1. Look for those who challenge the status quo.

Some people believe in taking risks and push the envelope to improve a company's return on investment and boost production values. They're sales prospects who can see beyond today's needs and who are watching evolving new capabilities, efficiencies and possibilities, perhaps while speaking, writing, using social media or participating within industry groups. Keep reinforcing your startup's role in marshalling industry-defining trends when interacting with these potential customers.

2. Use success-defined trials wisely.

Let potential clients prove a product's concept in their own environment through clearly defined success criteria. Prospects who instantly understand the value of a new approach demonstrate this quickly. Frame a small but successful test case and provide training so potential users become comfortable. But don't offer so much training so that this process becomes a time drain. Watch for rapid assimilation of the technology and look for those who can find ways to integrate it into their companies' existing processes.

3. Cement the relationship and the possibilities.

Convert a sales prospect into a buying customer. But more important, explain the betterment the product is bringing to established work flows. Help these individuals become internal champions. Spotlight additional applications or features that they could use as well as how this new solution can fit into a broader context with other third-party products or other departments.

4. Spotlight successful clients via social media.

Showcase these clients and the innovative methods they've adopted from every hilltop. Consider using social media to reinforce other dialogues, as a way to leverage these champions and expand the startup's visibility.

5. Build a return on the investment.

Provide the metrics and user support to help a customer justify adoption of the new product or service. This leads to cross-selling and upselling opportunities that can benefit both the startup and the customer.

Celebrate a new client's being on the vanguard of seismic shifts in technology and smarter, better ways of working to deliver a competitive edge.

Related: Customers Are Still Slow to Adopt Innovative New Tech. Why the Lag?

David Peto

CEO of Aframe

David Peto is CEO of London-based Aframe, a company offering a cloud video platform used by professional TV production creators and editors to organize and streamline video production. Previously he founded Unit Post in London, an Apple-based video-finishing business.

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