Whether yours is an established SME with an existing customer base, or a new start-up looking to get off the ground, businesses are facing some challenging times ahead as the country emerges from lockdown.
As circumstances change and competition evolves, the new insights and inventive ideas that could be just what you need to get the ball rolling may come from many an unexpected source.
With that in mind, here are three tips to inject fresh innovation into your business and propel you towards the future.
1. Encourage internal innovation
Having a strong team isn’t just about hiring the right people who share your business values and work ethic. It’s also about creating the right sort of environment for your team to perform at their best.
Therefore, your workplace should be an open space, free from fear, that inspires individuals to create and share new ideas, and all team members should feel heard, valued and encouraged to share their thoughts.
You can foster this environment through fair management, strong leadership and clear communication, but bear in mind that your team should also have a good relationship with one another as well as yourself.
Team-building exercises can be valuable for this. While the lockdown may restrict these, a Zoom pub quiz or online escape room could be the perfect opportunity to build relationships and encourage internal collaboration.
2. Connect with other businesses
Wherever you are in your business journey, your SME can always learn from other enterprises – whether that’s new customer-facing concepts, for instance, or more efficient ways of operating.
Arise Innovation in Harlow offers working space that opens up opportunities to connect with other businesses. It’s a business base that stimulates growth and collaboration and enables you to source new expertise.
Run by Anglia Ruskin University, it also has links with the academic world which makes it a unique networking opportunity.
3. Engage with your customers
Who better to tell you how your business can improve than the users that rely on its products?
Inviting customers to engage with your company allows you to tap into demands you may not otherwise have been aware of. Customers can provide invaluable feedback on your products and services, and even enlighten you on how your business measures up against its competition, giving you the inspiration you need to bring in new ideas and get ahead of the game.
SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo and Qualtrics are just a few of the most popular online survey tools that make it easy for customers to share their thoughts with you in ways that bring quantifiable results.
But for something a little more personalised, direct contact can create a bond that helps your customers to feel recognised, listened to and appreciate. Active engagement such as a live-chat feature on your website, or direct responses on social media show your customers that you are actively invested in their experience and encourages them to share their opinions.