Small Business Innovation: New Ideas

I believe that innovation is for all business. So here is the first in a number of occasional articles that relate innovation to small business and show that creative thinking is really just common sense. As an example here we have used a restaurant but the principles apply to all small business.

Do restaurants need to innovate? They do if they want to compete.

Think about innovation in the culinary world ? Did you think of Heston Blumenthal or Ferran Adria?

Sadly a lot of people do, and assume that innovation is not for them because they associate it with high-concept foods, which is all very well but it wouldn’t go down well with the Saturday evening crowd in the midlands.

But, innovation is so much more than culinary experimentation. Innovation is changing your product or process in order that you improve your bottom line. In fact, you’re probably doing it now; you just don’t call it that.  As we know, the only way that small businesses will survive is to listen to your customers and constantly adapt to your environment – the survival of the fittest!

There are many types of business innovation and they can be applied as easily to small businesses  as they can to a giant pharma company.

Here is the first in a series of tips for innovation for small business:

  1. Ask your customers. It seems obvious, but find out what you need to improve. Good feedback is good for morale but constructive criticism is good for growth. Don’t take it personally, for every customer that gives feedback, how many are thinking the same thing but will not say anything? Customer feedback is a great for generating ideas for business. Your customer usually has something that’s bothering them. If you can fix their pain you will gain their loyalty.

So, how do you get feedback without spending a fortune on market surveys?

Here are a few ideas!

I.      Ask after every purchase if there was anything that could be improved

II.      If there was no purchase, ask for feedback

III.      Ask frontline staff about their perception of customer satisfaction

IV.      Offer prizes for completed survey forms

V.      If you have a facebook page ask for suggestions, or if you have an email database create an online survey (e.g. surveymonkey)

VI.      Put yourself in the place of your customer by creating an empathy map or even walking through the sales process.

If you are creating a survey, make sure that you know what feedback you are looking for. This will ensure that you ask the right questions. Make sure that the questions and answers are formatted properly (e.g. make sure there is enough space for open comments).

Grainne Cleare (Business Innovation Specialist)

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