Last week Clareity held the 10th Annual MLS Workshop in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona with an overlying theme of innovation. I have to hand it to Gregg Larson and Matt Cohen, they out do themselves every year with the content for this conference. Gregg did a great general session on innovation with some compelling examples and observations…
- GOOGLE didn’t invent the search engine, they innovated to improve it for the consumer.
- Apple didn’t invent the tablet or the MP3 player, they innovated to improve it for the consumer.
- Netflix didn’t invent DVD rentals, they innovated to improve it for the consumer.
I think the definition of innovation for me became abundantly clear during this session…. “delivery and/or improvement of a product or service for the benefit of the consumer.” It’s my definition, so obviously it’s subject to my biases. I started to think about how much time I spend trying to innovate. It’s never enough. I also wondered how much time my MLS colleagues spend innovating. My guess is probably not enough. One observation I quickly made was that in the MLS space we typically innovate in response to a threat or challenge. Is that really innovation or is it survival? In reality, it’s probably some of both. I think the MLS has an additional challenge of trying to identify who their consumer is and occasionally finds itself trying to serve multiple masters.
I’ve had many discussions recently with MLS executives and MLS vendors about the current revenue model for MLS and whether it’s sustainable. Most agree on some level that it is not. Early evidence from Clareity’s SAFEMLS customers indicate the predicted drop in members isn’t going to happen in Q1 – our customers overall actually experienced a slight increase in subscribers in February 2011. It’s hard to drive innovation around a fiscal challenge, though last week Gregg shared several examples of products born out of economic hardship, including TV and FM radio! I wondered, if I were to reinvent the model, what would it look like? Is there a new product or service I would offer as an MLS? Is there a model that isn’t so “one size fits all” that would allow me to deliver higher value (and receive higher revenue) from some of my customers? How and where would I begin?
I’ve been beating this drum for a while now and I know others have as well. You can’t begin to innovate, until you understand where you are now. I think all MLS organizations have to begin measuring their product demand and subscriber satisfaction if they aren’t already. Understanding which of your products and services are in highest demand, how your subscribers are using them and who your raving fans are can tell you a lot about where you should be headed.
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