starting a business
The key for SMBs is to recognise the single biggest threat in business - market risk.

SMBs need to constantly innovate to stay ahead of the competition, but how can keep find ways to continually improve your product, keep your customers engaged and make your presence known?

The answer lies in innovation and the systematic search for opportunities in your business space, according to innovation and marketing trainer and speaker Roger La Salle.

What does innovation mean for SMBs?

The term ‘innovation’ is a buzzword that’s tossed around a lot, but what does it really mean to mid-size businesses?

“The word ‘innovation’ is used essentially as a catch-all term that means anything that is new and different, often involving some sort of technology,” says La Salle.

But how should an SMB turn this rather vague definition into something that will help them?

“Governments are all telling us the world is fast-changing and we need to be at the cutting edge in bringing innovation to the forefront,” says La Salle. “While this is a valuable message that hopefully stimulates research and entrepreneurship, it’s too simplistic.”

The key for SMBs is to recognise the single biggest threat in business - market risk. La Salle says if you properly undertake and embrace innovation within your business practices you can begin to stay ahead of the curve.

Continually improve – be agile

Aim to incrementally and endlessly improve your product, or alternatively find one that is well received and use that as inspiration says La Salle.

Try to find products or services that are selling well in your industry and make improvements to your own, or analyse a competitor and innovate from that.

“For example, if there are two near identical products on offer and one of them has one added feature and is similarly priced, or priced lower that the competitor, putting brand aside, which one will the customer buy? Clearly the innovated or improved one,” he says.

Listen to your customers

Look at your product, your marketing, your brand and your business from the customer’s perspective and work out how you can improve, says La Salle.

Social media can give you direct access to feedback and discussion taking place around your business.

“In business there is always a drive to maintain market engagement using innovation as the fuel, so keep the market moving by incrementally improving your offering at every turn,” La Salle says.

Start thinking like a big business – for example, car manufacturers are forever changing and refining their models for little reason other than to render earlier models obsolete, he says.

A new way to think

Have confidence in your abilities, cast aside doubts and back your abilities, La Salle says.

“In my experience, given a properly defined problem most clear thinking people will be able to develop a solution, or be able to identify the difficulty in very short order at little or no cost,” he says.

People can be afraid of change, so discover something other people are doing and do it better.

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