As we are now at the tail-end of 2020 and the new year just around the corner, many SME business leaders and owners are actively seeking ways to generate revenues in a short-medium term while remaining aware of the need for a more sustainable growth strategy in the long term too.
Innovative SMEs leading business growth recovery
Even while many economies around the world are now entering a recession, it is clear SMEs are again demonstrating their determination, strength and resilience. Not merely to survive, but to reignite and build better, stronger, innovative businesses that are thriving more than ever.
Business growth through business innovation
In this volatile and uncertain environment, the key to SMEs long-term viability and profitability is to undertake business innovation. Meaning, making new introductions to, and/ or improvements across the business.
Studies have shown that persistently identifying and executing on innovative opportunities results in a significant contribution and improvement to SME revenue and business growth. (Source: The Impact of Persistence Innovation on Business Growth, Office of the Chief Economist, 2018)
Click the image below to learn more about business innovation in this short interview with Craig West on the Mid-Market Matters podcast
How to identify innovation opportunities in your business
In response to changing market demand, many SMEs have pivoted and have developed or are developing new or modified services. Offerings such as the provision of remote services traditionally provided ‘in-person’ are now becoming commonplace.
Opportunities to innovate your own SME and drive business growth can be achieved by identifying, watching and analysing the following five sources:
1. Analogous business
Examine what other innovative companies are doing to successfully move their business forward. Consider companies that are both:
- In your industry, but operating in other geographic markets
- Outside of your industry, but are recognised for their innovation.
As you observe these other companies, try to identify:
- What kinds of innovation drove them to success?
- If those innovations are applicable to your industry and company?
- What could you replicate in your business to create a market opportunity?
2. Surging trends
These are trends that are having strong momentum in the market. For instance, in this current environment, there is a strong trend towards self-education, virtual experiences and virtual service offerings.
However, in order to generate ideas and insights to enable your SME to take advantage of these trends, you’ll need to get out of your bubble!
Read, watch and listen to people, perspectives and publications beyond what you normally would. This can be achieved through:
- Attending virtual events and webinars hosted by thought leaders, experts both within and outside of your industry
- Reading publications such as Medium.
- Utilise trend reporting services such as trendwatching.com or Wunderman Watchman Intelligence.
3. Extreme customers
Obtain feedback from your existing business customers who:
- Love your company
- Hate your company
- Stopped doing business with you
- Have never bought from you
By listening to these customers, you could potentially discover:
- New product or service offerings
- New support or ‘value-add’ options
- Ways to better manage and service these customers
Tip: Be sure to obtain input from the people that actually make the decision to buy (i.e. the decision-makers or buyers) within those customers.
Key questions to ask during your discussions include:
- What key opportunities, problems or threats are they currently facing?
- What will you need to be doing differently to overcome the challenges in your market?
- What desired change would you like to see in the future?
4. Customer needs: Addressing frustrations, concerns and complaints
At some point, your business customers will likely have some issues or frustrations with your products, services or processes. For instance, the capabilities you promised aren’t being delivered at the speed, quality or service levels they require. Or perhaps decision-makers are seeking additional advice or reporting that you are not providing.
Being easy to deal with is a key requirement in B2B. When a customer expresses frustration with your product, service or support, ensure their feedback is captured and handled as an opportunity to improve.
In this current environment, convenience and safety are now two requirements many of your business customers will expect from you in order to meet the needs of both their staff and their end-customers.
5. Collaboration: Putting ideas into action
While the first four approaches will provide you with insights to potential opportunities, you must gain alignment among your leadership and staff as to which opportunities your company will pursue.
An effective means to do so is by conducting strategic workshops. Here are some guiding principles:
Have a clear focus – Identify which of your offerings have the potential for growth.
Aim to have a diversity of thinking – Seek participants from across relevant functions of the business, e.g. marketing, sales and client delivery. Operations input from buyers from key current clients/ hot prospects could be appropriate so you can gain their feedback on proposed solutions.
Keep it short – Generally, 1 day, or 2 days if the topics to be discussed are very complex.
Note: As many workshops may be conducted virtually, break up the workshop into 2-3 hour segments spread out over a couple of days.
Be prepared – Ensure that participants attend the workshop having completed necessary reading, e.g. company performance, customer feedback, market trends, so the focus of the session is spent on sharing knowledge and brainstorming ideas.
As you identify and assess the potential opportunities, a few considerations to keep in mind include:
- They should offer a sustainable path to profitability, one that preserves and enhances brand value in the minds of business customers
- The opportunities must be a lateral extension of the firm’s existing capabilities, solidifying – not undermining the firm’s strategic intent.
- They should align with surging/ longer-term trends, e.g. the increased use of technology and remote working, shorter supply chains, the contactless economy.
Take action now
To start assessing your innovation opportunities, download your free Business Innovation Checklist today.
Need more help?
Don’t miss out on identifying the right opportunities for your business!
See how we can help you develop and implement your innovation roadmap with our new SME program, Refocus, Reignite & Rise – the B2B coaching program providing CEOs and their teams with the strategy, action planning and execution support to achieve the recovery and growth they seek