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In part 1 and part 2 of this series ("Five Keys to Engaging the Customer to Produce Real Innovation"), we discussed using voice of the customer (VOC) in defining innovative core products and services.

The focus was on breakthroughs in the basic product, on hitting the home runs. Here, we take a different perspective—using innovation to acquire and retain customers once the core product or service is defined.

As you will see, innovation can occur in all aspects of the business, not just the basic (i.e., core) product. For example, innovation can apply to the sales/marketing approach and to the additional goods and services that are offered in combination with the core product/service in order to make a more robust solution.

You will also see in many of the examples below that a big innovation often results from a series of small innovations.

VOC continues to be critical, since innovation is valuable only if it ultimately benefits the customer. Marketing therefore has a crucial role to play: It typically orchestrates and conducts VOC activities, champions the results throughout the organization, and often acts directly on the customer input.

Now, five keys to using innovation to acquire and retain customers:

1. Expand the scope of your solution

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Leland D. Shaeffer is Managing Director or PLM Associates ( Reach him at