In today's episode of Battle of the Marketing Maxims, we'll pit Henry Ford against the elusive Deep Throat to explore the question: is it smarter to innovate, or should you "follow the money" and stick to markets where people are already spending?

Representing Deep Throat, we have a quote from Marketing Coach Terry Dean:

Step One: Solve a problem people are already paying for.

My biggest mistakes have been right here. Whenever I came up with a brilliant idea that didn't already have a proven market, it meant trouble.

Whenever you're thinking of a new information product, check to see if there are already other products on this subject being sold on Amazon, Clickbank, and in pay-per-click. Competition is a GOOD thing because it means people are BUYING.

Hmm. A powerful argument. Here we have a successful marketer revealing not just theory and speculation, but wisdom gained from his own experience. And it's advice I've heard many times from many people. Can Henry Ford hope to convince us otherwise?

Representing the Henry Ford point of view, Ray Edwards wrote:

Every great innovation arose, not from striving for improvement, but from striving for originality.

Henry Ford famously said that if he had listened to the public, what he would've delivered was faster horses. Instead, he sought to do something different, and brought us the mass-produced automobile.

Before Steve Jobs introduced the iPad, very few people were asking for one.

Wow, not only Henry Ford, but Steve Jobs too! Their examples are undeniable proof that innovation can lead to great success. But are they superhumans who we can only gaze at in awe, but not emulate?

Our path to the truth leads us to more of what Ray Edwards wrote:

Don't be afraid to think different.

Yes, you will fail more often than the average person. But a function of failing more often than the average person is that you also succeed more often than they do.

Hmm, more advice that I've heard from various people. And it reveals the first key to succeeding as an innovator: not fearing failure. The farther you stray from the beaten path, the greater the odds of going nowhere. So be prepared for that. How many people do you think have given up after their first attempt at innovation flopped?

But the real answer to the question comes from a correct understanding of the first quote in this post. Terry didn't say "sell a product that people are already paying for", he said "solve a problem people are already paying for."

Before Ford's Model A, there was no demand for mass produced automobiles. But there was demand for transportation.

Before the iPod, well, there was demand for MP3 players. Okay, before the iPhone, well, there was demand for cell phones, and even smart phones. Fine. Before the iPad...hmm, there was demand for computers, and even some for computers without keyboards.

Apple just found innovative ways to meet existing demand -- so innovative (even if sometimes in small ways) that they greatly increased that demand and redefined the way it's met.

This Ain't No Hockey Match

And so ends another dull episode of Battle of the Marketing Maxims, with the competitors turned friends. Innovate. But not by creating products that solve problems nobody has or cares about or is willing to pay to solve.

Find new, even radically new ways to solve the problems that keep people awake at night. And if one innovation flops, pause to learn what you can from the experience, turning financial failure into learning success. Then get back up and try something else.