What’s Your Next Big Thing? 4 Hints from Watching Samsung

I’m all Apple. For now. I have an iPhone, an iPad, Apple TV and way too many iTune purchase notifications in my email. Yet, Samsung is getting to me. I’m starting to believe the next big thing just might be here and I don’t have it.

Samsung is masterful at either developing features that customers care about – or masterful at translating them so they matter. Or both. And, without ever mentioning Apple.

Waterproof phones – nice. As a mom of boys who have been known to jump into pools and lakes fully connected, this will save bowls of dry rice and searching for sage advice online on fixing water damage.

And, I can use voice activation to add captions to my photos? Larger screen, simple photo sharing and sorting as I take pictures? And, that Jetson watch is real now?? Last week a participant in my workshop told me her Samsung bends when it’s in her pocket. Seriously? It bends?

I’m amazed now and feeling like there is a party underway and I missed the invitation.

According to a Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) survey held between June 2012 – June 2013, only 11% of users switched from Apple to Samsung. Yet, first time buyers favor Samsung by about a three to one margin which must concern Apple.

While the pain of switching from Apple may make me stay put for now, Samsung’s translation of meaningful features is a reminder to stay fresh and relevant in our work and businesses. And, that you can gain on even the greatest competitor.

Here are my basic take-aways in the battle of the smartphones relative to our clients, customers, teams, partners, or the marketplace:

1) Success is in the here and now. That was then this is now. Don’t rest on your laurels. And, the most cynical – ‘what have you done for me lately’? Yet, that is the reality. Past success is just that. Your business and success will be measured on today. Apple’s growth and innovation has been unprecedented in the past ten years and even they can’t rely on that success going forward.

Last night I watched Andrew Luck, in his second year as quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, outduel Peyton Manning, of the Denver Broncos, who is one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history. The past is just that  – in business and in sports.

2) Keep asking, “what do my customers want today?” Samsung has added lots of features that matter to users, such as my favorite, waterproof phones. This means refreshing our knowledge and skills, continuing to ask and assess customer needs, and not relying on what they told us two years ago. The goal is to stay two steps ahead. We need to think about what they’ll want tomorrow today.

3) Experiment with a deadline. An experiment is a “test, trial, or tentative procedure; an act or operation for the purpose of discovering something unknown or of testing a principle or supposition.” Experimentation must be timely and quickly serve as input into your longer term plan. When there is this much innovation coming out of Samsung, rest assured they are experimenting.

We need to experiment too. This is an important part of innovation and staying fresh. Try some ideas on a small scale to see what happens. Remember, an experiment is different than a pilot. A pilot is to confirm your plan works before you introduce it. An experiment is to learn what works and what your customer likes.

4) Translate meaning for your customer. Again, I think Samsung has done a masterful job at translating, in a very simple and compelling way, how their innovative new features will change how you communicate with friends and family. All tied to “the next big thing is here.” In comparison, Apple’s ads about the new color choices feel inconsequential. I know the new iPhone 5s has interesting features. It may just be me, but I can’t name one of them.

Our customers, clients and partners need to see that we have new ideas to make their lives better too. You can introduce countless wonderful, new tools, features or programs, but unless the user or customer sees why it matters, it will come up short.

We can’t rest on past successes or assume that our customers know why our new ideas matter. We have to make it clear. And, tomorrow’s next big thing is being defined today. 

What’s your next big thing?

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults. She can be followed @pattibjohnson or her company @people_results.

Photo: Eric Rudder, chief technical strategy officer of Microsoft, holds a prototype Windows smartphone with a flexible OLED display during Samsung’s keynote address at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas,  January 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)