Innovation is the most common buzzword thrown around in SME discussion. Every business, company, and entrepreneur wants to be hailed as doing ground-breaking work in their industries. However, with every industry becoming saturated with various innovations and SMEs, it’s hard to break the mould and become the best of the best. Ireland, specifically, has lead the way in innovation for SMEs according to an EU Commission scoreboard. Irish SMEs are ranked the highest in Europe for their records of innovation, which makes standing out a daunting concept for new businesses. Here’s a short guide on how to make the most of innovation in your SME.

Ireland is facing fierce competition from not only the vast amount of innovative SMEs in the country, but also abroad. Differentiating yourself in a packed market begins with the customer. It’s imperative to investigate your customers’ needs and what exactly you can do to help meet these needs beyond anyone else. Solving their problems in the tenfold sounds daunting – but simply communicating with your customers and opening up a dialogue can help build trust, loyalty and understanding – ensuring customers will pick your business over others.

In such a connected world – the online space formulates more competition for SMEs than it used to. So, a good way to combat this is to find a niche. You may already be tied down to a specific industry, but you can still branch out into making your business unique in your area of expertise. For example, if your product is easily found on the high-street but you sell it online, why not find a way to make the product customisable to your customers? Free shipping? 2-for-one? There are numerous ways to change what you do so your business goes above and beyond.

Look outside the realm of making money. Get a good working practice. Innovation isn’t always about customers. If you innovate in the workplace itself you may find yourself soaring above the competition with well-rounded workers. For example – get everyone connected to an encrypted cloud so employees can work outside of the office. Set up real-time software allowing all employees to be connected at all times. It’s little things that allow for flexible working conditions, ensuring employees can be ready to work whenever, wherever at their own discretion.

Lastly, look at what isn’t being done. It’s great to watch big companies take the lead in industries and attempt to emulate their success on a smaller scale, but what will give your SME the edge is looking at what they’re not doing. For example, if a company has a whole region of distribution – look for where they’re not reaching and target that area. Small efforts like this will show the world exactly how your SME is listening to consumers and reading between the lines of their business.