Innovation is vital to your company’s success in today’s highly competitive business environment, especially as customers become more demanding and savvy.
Entrepreneurs need an edge to survive and stand out. Innovation can provide that edge—boosting your productivity, growth and profitability.
Yet, only a quarter of small and mid-sized businesses planned to invest in innovation and R&D in 2016, according to a BDC survey of 4,000 Canadian entrepreneurs.
Innovation doesn’t have to be a world-changing breakthrough. It can involve simple, incremental improvements in any area of your company.
Here are four concrete benefits innovation can bring to your company.
1. Improve sales and customer relationships
Failing to improve your products and services can put you at risk of losing customers to more innovative competitors.
If you invest time and money in innovation, customers will notice and appreciate the extra value you’re bringing them. That should translate into more sales.
You can start with simple steps like regularly surveying customers to identify potential product improvements and setting up an innovation team to spearhead your efforts.
2. Reduce waste and costs
Innovation can help you reduce waste in your business and leave you better positioned to focus on the long-term goals, rather than always putting out fires.
Innovative BDC clients have implemented operational efficiency changes such as streamlining order processing, eliminating production bottlenecks and reducing machinery and employee idle time.
The goal is to constantly be on the lookout for ways to eliminate waste. That can bring a host of benefits—lower costs, better profit margins, improved customer service and increased competitiveness. An efficiency expert can help you identify such innovations.
3. Boost your market position
Innovation can help you anticipate market changes more quickly and get ahead of opportunities, so you aren’t forced to react to shifts. It can also help you differentiate yourself from the competition.
Such innovation can come from continuously analyzing market trends, listening to your customers, suppliers and advisors, and studying what competitors are doing in order to spot opportunities and jump on them.
Also, it’s often useful to look at what’s happening in your industry in other countries. You can find fresh ideas for your business by studying what leading companies are doing abroad.
4. Improve employee relations
An innovative workplace is stimulating for employees. Cultivating pride in your products and a desire for your company to be an industry leader should reduce workplace turnover and boost productivity.
That can, in turn, lead to still more innovation success because employees are often a company’s best source of ideas.
Be sure to listen to them. Ask for their feedback on innovation in all areas of your business, including how to improve products, marketing and efficiency. They can give invaluable insights into ways to innovate, and they will appreciate having your ear.