I’ve just read a report from Circle Research about ambition. It reveals that ‘achieving growth’ is the biggest single ambition among small and medium enterprises (SMEs). However, less than half of all the respondents want to introduce new products and services, penetrate new geographies, or expand their business premises. This got me thinking: how can SMEs fulfil their growth ambitions by making the most of what they already have? Here are my suggestions.

1. Ask the audience

Nobody knows what they want, better than your customers – so ask them. Crowdsourcing is a way of obtaining ideas by enlisting the services of people online. It’s benefited big brands like Lego, Netflix, and McDonald’s. But it can also help smaller businesses. giffgaff, a mobile network operator in the UK, uses its online community to answer other customers’ questions. Threadless, an online T-shirt retailer in Chicago, gets new design ideas from its customers. While GooseGrade, a free copy editing site, uses crowdsourcing to edit web copy. So, what could your customers do for you?

2. Embrace risk

You can’t grow by standing still. You need to be willing to adapt, evolve, and take risks. But, try not to look at such things with caution – think of them as opportunities. Learn what works, what doesn’t, and go from there – that’s what innovation’s all about. Who knows where it could take you?

3. Engage with customers in creative ways

When it comes to connecting with customers, everybody’s talking about social media. But there are other ways of engaging your audience. Educational events can be a good way of meeting customers and positioning yourself as an industry expert. If you make running shoes, why not host a fitness event? Or, if you’re a finance business, how about some free, expert advice for the public? Be creative and think how you could bring your brand to life.

4. Join forces with other businesses

As an avid online shopper, I get packages and make returns weekly. It’s hard to ship parcels during office hours, so I often use the returns service at my local store. It not only benefits online retailers, which can provide better customer service, it also benefits local businesses, such as the newsagent, which can branch into new services. How can you connect with other businesses?

5. Automate your processes

How much of your time is spent on routine, admin tasks that could be automated? If the answer is “too much”, you should think about a technological solution. SAP offers software solutions designed especially for the needs – and budgets – of small and medium-sized enterprises. They can help you to automate tasks across your whole business and, in turn, increase efficiency. So, you can spend more time on the important things – like growing your business.

You can read the report, “Ambition: why being ambitious matters and how SMEs are achieving their goals”, sponsored by SAP, SME Ambition Study

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