I saw something in the grocery store yesterday that caused me to wonder if perhaps the apocalypse is nigh. A nationally-known pet food company has introduced a line of appetizers for cats.

I’ll repeat that in case you thought it was a typo.

Appetizers.

For cats.

Not being a cat owner myself, I was unaware that the world’s feline population had begun demanding multi-course dinners. Can dessert and coffee for the whiskered set be far behind? (Cattucino, anyone?)

I have to give the company credit though. It’s a bold move. And it’s exactly the kind of innovative thinking we need more of to pull ourselves out of this recession.

It’s a well-researched move too. Surveys consistently find that large percentages of pet owners place a high priority on pampering their pets. One study I read recently found that, in these economic downtimes, more than 2/3 of respondents were willing to switch to less-expensive brands of eggs, milk and over-the-counter medications, but less than 1/3 were willing to switch to a cheaper brand of pet food. So while launching this new line during a recession may be a gamble, it’s a pretty smart gamble.

This brings up two questions:

1. How well do you know your market?
What do they want or need that they’re not getting now? What do they value? What are their priorities? What do they want more or less of?

2. What innovative actions are you taking?
Are you introducing a new product or service? Have you initiated a new marketing campaign? Are you training your sales and customer service teams?

If you want strong sales now and in the future, you need to understand your market better than anyone else does and you need to take more innovative actions than your competitors. (Which shouldn’t be too difficult, considering how uncreative and risk-averse most companies are.) If you haven’t begun these two processes already, the time to start is now. Before your sales go to the dogs.

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