Small business product development is a key concern for SMEs. They face a different set of challenges than their larger counterparts when it comes to introducing new products and services.
With small business product development, molehills can quickly become mountains. Limited budgets can make every decision an impactful one, and small teams can find themselves overworked and underfunded. At the same time, small businesses can turn challenges into opportunities by focusing on agility and speed to become faster, more connected, and better prepared to pivot than their larger peers.
Let’s have a look at some of the concerns surrounding small business product development, and how SMEs can drive productivity and make the most of their resources to ensure an effective process.
By their nature, SMEs have smaller product development budgets than large companies. This means that they have to choose their services and products carefully, ensuring that the potential ROI is worth the development cost and associated risk. For many small businesses, this means concentrating on the development of MVPs (Minimum Viable Products).
Additionally, small businesses cannot develop as many products, or as often, as larger businesses can. This means that they will likely have longer product lifecycles but smaller teams, with most SMEs not having a full-time, dedicated product development team. This can lead to inefficient workflows and processes, which can pose a challenge in an age where speed-to-market is a key to remaining competitive.
While some of these challenges may seem imposing, many SMEs are finding ways to not only survive them but to thrive. Here are some ways that SMEs can develop and launch innovative new products without breaking the bank.
SMEs will likely have a smaller product development team, with some team members covering multiple roles. It’s important to get the most out of your business’s internal talent, but also consider supplementing the team with external resources. Small business product development requires diverse expertise and a mix of skills, from design and marketing to quality control and production.
Productivity and innovation go hand in hand, especially for SMEs with limited resources. Driving productivity through innovation is one of the best ways for small businesses to not only stay competitive but sprint past their larger competitors. The team leader, or ‘product champion’, should delegate responsibilities at the beginning of the project, making sure that expertise and tasks have been properly divided. From there they can create a blueprint for tackling ‘mission critical’ tasks, then see where innovative solutions might help. Another option is to seek assistance from an outside PDC, which can provide expertise on a for-hire basis.
It’s been said many times by many people that ‘there are no bad ideas.’ While that might not be an airtight philosophy, the reasoning behind it is sound. You never know when one idea might spark another, and another, and lead towards a true breakthrough that no one saw coming. This blue-sky thinking is a great way to come up with new products and services, especially if you involve all your stakeholders. Customer insights are one of the best ways to find gaps in the market and identify how your business can add value. Simply put, listen to your audience to see what they need and want.
One of the reasons why small business product development can be so challenging is the amount of risk involved. When one failed product or service can sink a company, it’s easy to automatically think small. But innovative thinking is critical to success, so the answer isn’t to avoid risk by growing smaller, it’s to properly assess your risk. Look at the marketplace; your competitors; the costs of incorporating new staff and technologies; the cost of going to market. When can you be ready for launch and what might the market look like then?
One thing that can help with risk assessment – and product development – is doing the required market research. Not only will you want to communicate with your customers to find out whether there’s a desire for a particular product or service, but you’ll also want to make sure that your business is in a position to successfully deliver it. Running standard market research is a good way to get an overview of demand, but you may also want to perform a SWOT analysis for small business to see how your company’s strengths and weaknesses may affect development.
Once a product or service has been developed, there may still be some steps to take before heading to market. If it’s a service that requires testing or certification, make sure that you’ve scheduled an appointment with the relevant authoritative body well ahead of time. If speed-to-market is a concern – and it often is in the current climate – then this is one of the first things you’ll want to do. If it’s a product you’re developing, you may want to see if you can have a low-cost prototype made early in the process, giving you time to solicit feedback and make any tweaks before release.
Hopefully, somewhere around the brainstorming stage, you managed to identify the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of your product or service. The USP is the thing that differentiates your offering from others on the market, and it’s the thing you’ll want to build your marketing strategy around. Think of it as your brand’s unique fingerprint. Highlighting the USP of your product is the first step. Making sure that the marketing campaign is in line with the overarching message of your brand is the next. Once your strategy is in place, you can use AI and CRM platforms to deliver personalised communications to your prospects and customer.
Once your product or service has been deployed and your audience is informed, there’s still work to do. Today’s competitive climate requires constant innovation. Be prepared to schedule – and budget for –new small business product development on an ongoing basis. Use customer feedback and insights to constantly improve products and services, making sure that you’re keeping up with customer expectations. Most importantly, be prepared to learn from your victories and mistakes, helping to close the knowledge and experience gap between SMEs and larger companies.
While SMEs may not have access to the same capital as bigger businesses, they may have access to brilliant ideas, a dedicated workforce, and innovative strategies and technologies that can help them drive productivity and stay ahead of the competition. When it comes to small business product development, the future is limitless.
To see how leaders can turbocharge their small business product development to achieve more in the next normal and beyond, download our free eBook, 5 Productivity Tips Every Small Business Needs to Know.