Typically, you don’t look to mid-market companies to lead innovation. A business that makes between $10 million and $1 billion in revenue—the loose definition of what is considered a mid-market company—is, in some respects, immobilized. Large corporations can afford to invest in research and development, and small companies have to pivot and adjust to establish a foothold. Meanwhile, mid-market companies have neither the budget of a major corporation nor the flexibility of a startup.
This causes most mid-market company leaders to make conservative decisions. Even coming out of the pandemic, 43% of middle-market leaders would prefer to save their money rather than invest it back into their businesses. Unfortunately, this is a losing proposition.
Investing in your company’s future growth is the key to success. During the quarantine, 39% of mid-market businesses experienced accelerated digital transformation—and the last thing you want to do is lose that momentum. The importance of research and development cannot be overstated. You have a tremendous opportunity to secure market expansion opportunities right now, which means it’s time to take some risks. Here’s how you can help your company usher in the next wave of innovation:
1. Listen. It’s not exactly news that leaders should keep up with market trends. In addition to listening to the market, you need to listen to your users (i.e., customers directly impacted by your products or services). This includes current and prospective users as well as nonusers and those who have abandoned your offerings.
You don’t need external consultants, a formal research and development group, or effective crowdsourcing to get started. No one knows your company’s pain points like your employees. Use your team’s knowledge and what you know about your users to prompt effective change. Samsung, for instance, examines customer feedback for contradictions after releasing every new product to pinpoint potential opportunities for innovation.
2. Plan. Some companies decide to innovate without a concrete plan in place, which is a critical error. You need a growth strategy that allows your company to pursue innovation and establishes guidelines for your efforts. Additionally, you need formal procedures for each step of the innovation process (e.g., ideation, selection, design, and implementation).
Remember that innovation and invention are inherently different. Innovation is an extreme form of product improvement — a remix, if you will. It takes existing workflows, interactions, and services and asks, “Why is this a thing?” at every stage. The end result of innovation should feel both familiar and new. For instance, Nintendo didn’t really “invent” a new console when it released its Switch; the gaming company simply created a hybrid of everything people loved about handhelds and consoles.
3. Iterate. Nothing is perfect the first time, and no solution can remain frozen in place. That approach won’t promote growth or work for your customers. Don’t create the rarely satisfactory minimum viable product (MVP); create a first release product (FRP) with the intent to continue iterating as part of its natural evolution.
Ensure your solution remains as dynamic and user-friendly as possible through recurring looks at the backlog, frequent innovation checkpoints, and metrics-driven analysis of performance. Your business doesn’t stand still—neither should your products.
Digital innovation will be a crucial component of success as the world transitions into the next normal. As a mid-market company leader, you need to jump on the new wave of innovation now if you want to expand your market and grow at a healthy pace.