Wal-Mart Reconnaissance

John Nottingham and his business partner, John Spirk – a pair of 50-ish guys from Cleveland, Ohio – spend a lot of time in what they call “Wal-Mart Reconnaissance.” It’s a pastime that has brought them 464 patents and more than $30 billion in sales.

Their success is based on a simple process: find the things ordinary people use every day and make them better. The team invented things like the Sherwin-Williams Twist-and-Pour paint can that saves us from blobs of unintentional color on our otherwise neutral carpeting, and the Crest SpinBrush – the bestselling electric toothbrush on the market.

I heard about them through a profile on NBC news.

The Nottingham-Spirk story makes it clear that a bit of innovation and creative thinking can change an “ordinary” product or service into something extraordinary and wildly popular. Increased function or ease of use equate to higher value and desirability, which leads to increased sales.

Incorporating “Wal-Mart Reconnaissance” into your business might involve:

•  finding and expanding a niche area overlooked or underutilized by your competition
•  developing collaborative partnerships with industry-relative but non-competitive businesses
•  reworking the content and design of your websites, blogs, or brochures

Do your prospects and clients view you as “extraordinary”?  If you’re not sure, it may be time for a trip to Wal-Mart.