Welcome back guest blogger, Kristin Neperud Merz! Kristin is a multi-talented founder of Unscribbled, Inc. where she has been designing, branding and practicing the art of creative problem-solving since 2000. Kristin also serves Catalyst Ranch as a Creative Strategist and is our designer of all things digital. You can see some of her fabulous work in our special events website redesign which is now live! She is also the author of ”Unscribbling: The Art of Problem Solving and Fulfilling Your Ideas.”




There is often a phrase thrown around that in business you need to “innovate or die.” It is a phrase that I think can be very misleading.

Merriam-Webster says that “Innovation” means:

1: the introduction of something new
2: a new idea, method, or device

Now if you are Apple, or competing with Apple and the like, yeah, you better innovate or you will be circling the drain for sure. But most of us small business owners aren’t competing with the likes of Google, and I think there is a better phrase that would be more appropriate for small business owners to keep in mind . . .

Serve exceptionally or die.

Most of our businesses are services. Even if you have a product, your product most likely serves a function or a need, so it is in service too.

So when your boss reads some other blog post telling him or her that the company needs to innovate or die and comes to you in a panic, remember to keep YOUR eye on the ball and keep it on ways to SERVE better.

So how can you keep your eye on great service and “innovate” at the same time?

Zero in on the feeling and experiences you want your customers and clients to experience when they work with you or your product. Once you find that, THEN you can start brainstorming innovative ways to provide that feeling or experience.

Why a feeling or an experience?

All of our desires in life come down to what feelings or experiences we want to have. With business, we are all working to serve others by providing a feeling or experience through our services and products. So by getting to the heart of the feeling and experiences you want to provide, you will get to the point where you can look for improvements, innovations, and ways to set yourself apart that will better serve and provide those experiences.

Before you get to any “innovating” ask yourself the following questions:

• What feeling or experience do we currently provide with our product or service?

• Are these the feelings or experiences we want to provide our clients?

• What feeling or experience do we want our clients to have?

• What negative feelings or experiences is our target audience going through (with other vendors or with us)? Now what is the opposite of that?

• Have you recently had a great experience when you were out? WHY was it so great? (Keep asking yourself why until you get to the feeling or the experience.)

And don’t just ask this about your main area of business. Ask these questions about EVERY aspect of your business. What feelings or experiences are you providing your clients when they deal with you . . .

• when they get your bill?
(Do you say, “thank you for your business” when you send your bill?)

• when they call you on the phone?
(Ever been in automated phone hell?)

• when they walk in your door?
(Is the place clean? How are your clients greeted? What are they experiencing? What does it say about your business?)

• when they use your product?
(Is your product designed to be user friendly? What about for someone who is say 75 years old? Is your product easy for them to use? Did you hire someone to do even rudimentary UI testing, or are you assuming since you know how to use it everyone who can’t figure it out is an idiot?)

• when clients send you a note or inquiry, how fast are you returning answers?
(What does that say about how much you care about your existing clients? P.S. If you aren’t getting back to them in 24 business hours, even if it is to say you can’t get back to them right now, you are taking too long!)

Once you have your list of feelings or experiences, THEN go nuts and brainstorm improvements, innovations, and/or ways to set yourself apart. (Keep in mind that you should NOT limit yourself to just “innovations” – that puts too much pressure on your team and makes you miss out on a lot of ways to provide wonderful serve.)

When brainstorming improvements, innovations, and/or ways to set yourself apart, ask yourself:

• What can we do to make our client’s experience with ____ more _____?

• How can we make our clients feel ______?

• How can we use our current unique talents to provide a more ______ experience?

• What talents could we cultivate to provide a more _______ experience?

• What would make our clients feel more ______?

• How can we use our talents to create an experience that sets us apart from our competition?

Your business is in the service of providing a feeling and/or experience. Look for ways that you can provide that feeling or experience in ways that are uniquely you. Set yourself apart by providing the best product, with the best service, that provides the kind of feeling and/or experience that your clients are looking for. Don’t just innovate to innovate. Keep your eye on the prize – the feeling or experience you want to provide. Then brainstorm ways you can SERVE others by providing that feeling or experience.

Not only will you make your clients happy with these new wonderful ways you are serving, but you will also make yourself happy. For . . .

“You’re happy when you help others become happy.” ~ his holiness the Dalai Lama

Now get your boss happy by serving your clients in such a way that will make THEM happy and you will make yourself happy in the process too!

Serving the best feelings or experiences your company can provide will make you . . .

“Happy! Happy! Happy, Jack!”  (Just like Si Robertson from Duck Dynasty.)