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Innovate Your Small Business

No business can survive in perpetuity without innovating, and true innovation can cost a bundle … but it doesn’t necessarily have to.

Innovation can be thought of in a number of ways, but most simply put, it means change. That factor of change can be anything, from small tweaks that hone and perfect your product to wholesale reorganization and revolution that changes the face of your business. But companies large and small have to innovate to survive.

Just consider Procter & Gamble, which started out as a candle-and-soap company that eventually became a consumer staples titan that currently boasts 22 billion-dollar brands, including Bounty paper towels, Braun electric shavers and Crest toothpaste. Some of these brands were developed organically, while some of this “innovation” came through acquisitions. All of these were necessary moves, however, to usher P&G out of an age when candles literally were being replaced by Edison’s electric lights.

Yes, there’s a monstrous gap between most small businesses and Procter & Gamble, which still was a giant in its own right when it started to make its fundamental innovations. So how can you expect to achieve your own critical change?

The following are some creative ways you can innovate your small business without spending a fortune:

4 Tips to Innovate Your Small Businesses

1. Ask Questions, And Listen: One of the biggest inhibitors to change is keeping to yourself. You’ve built a small business, which is no tiny feat and that says a lot about your work ethic and ability to generate ideas. But differing perspectives can help you with the innovation process in a number of ways.

For instance, you could start asking questions within your own company about anything from processes to actual product and offerings ideas. Employees provide a perfect balance of brainpower because they may view the world differently than you do, but still understand how change would best be implemented within the constraints of your business. Customers are another rich source of information. After all, if you find out that there’s a consensus of what your customers want, and you’re not delivering it, you have a pretty good idea about what you should work on next.

You also should consider listening to people who have nothing to do with any link in your business chain. For instance, TED Talks bring out some of the world’s top minds to talk on any number of subjects – and even when that’s not about business, these events can help open your mind to channels of thinking that can spark the creative surge you need to come up with the next big thing.

2. Watch: Do not go out today and start a full-blown campaign of ripping off all your competitors’ best ideas. But many companies see success because they’re doing something right, so you may be able to learn or thing or two by paying attention to those within your space.

One thing to watch for is how your competitors react to certain trends. If they start to pivot in certain ways – whether it’s by adding new offerings, or even pulling back from other parts of their business – studying that for the “why” could help you make more informed decisions in the future, whether that’s addressing gaps your competitors fill, or getting out ahead of them on the next major trend.

3. Experiment: It’s one thing to compile a bunch of ideas, but if they sit on a notebook and never see the light of day, how can you reasonably expect any sort of meaningful change?

Experiments don’t need to cost an arm and a leg, either.

Small business owners looking to optimize their websites and marketing campaigns, for instance, can use cheap providers such as CrazyEgg and even free Google Analytics to run tests that will determine what works and what doesn’t.

You can run offline experiments, too, by compiling data and comparing results on things, such as customer behavior following differing promotional offers, or retention rates, with or without follow-up customer service calls – costing you little more than your own time.

4. Talk to the Pros: Sometimes a strategic planning session with business professionals is enough to get the creative juices flowing. The business consultants at McManamon & Co. can help you with just about every aspect of your business – from recruiting to tax planning – but also facilitate conversations about strategy that may help you look at your own business in a new light.

If you’re looking to stop iterating and start innovating, call McManamon & Co. at 440.892.9088 or contact us online.


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