This is both an enjoyable and challenging time of year, as we are nearing year end and soon we will have a chance to pause, take stock of where we are now, review the past year, and plan for the coming year.  Most of us will have some things we can look at with pride for a job well done, while other things take more courage to look at honestly so we can stay open to making improvements.

We need to keep a good mixture of delivering on what we know now, while still thinking of how to address next year. For me, that means to keep innovating and building toward better content generation, delivery, and syndication, while still being sure to build relationships and emotional connections.

The relationships matter so much because they will help keep us grounded and connected to our customers during those “in between times” of innovation.  Change, even for great reasons, can be difficult since it requires learning and adjustment to something new, and let’s face it – some of us feel like old dogs trying new tricks these days, even if we are still quite young!  The emotional connections we have already built with our customers will help them feel they can lean on us and work with us during our times of innovation, rather than just walking away because we made a change.

There is always value in focusing resources RIGHT NOW on building relationships, no matter what innovation you are planning.  There is no better time than the present to set the stage for a high ROR (Return on Relationship™).

At the same time, though, it is also important to remember that just because something is working now does not mean it will work equally well tomorrow.  Of course it is vital to become better at what we already do, but it is also imperative to have some focus on the benefit of continually innovating — always learning and staying in front of the competitive landscape.

Think about how quickly social media has gone from something new to now being an ingrained part of our lives and businesses… that is not going to slow down anytime soon, so we need to be one step ahead in our planning, and always ready for action.

One area I feel certain will gain ground, be a part of the innovation/evolution to come and become an intrinsic part of the consumer/shopper experience, is location based service.  I believe LBS is finally ready for a breakout as the value for consumers becomes more apparent.  Facebook just acquired Gowalla and the whole location based concept, as it evolves to passive (reactive) check-in, makes it so valuable to retail and the shopping experience… and can/will have a dramatic effect on sales.  The innovators, those most willing to take the technology beyond its current limitations and add storytelling capabilities to drive value, build relationships and the ever important emotional connection, will be the winners by creating a shopper tool to power insights and the connection to the shelf.

This year during your year-end review, ask yourself what you can do to build even stronger relationships with customers, friends, family, and colleagues through the rest of this year.  Then if you really want to innovate wisely, ask THEM the same question because in the end, it is still all about relationships.


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