SMEs generally survive big business, simply because they find niche markets, or because they are innnovative. Research shows that innovation is generally driven by SMEs. So how do you become innovative? Is innovation about coming up with creative ideas? Not really!
First off you have to know what is going on in the market place. So to do that you need to read, and obviously if you already trade within the industry, it is a lot easier to know what is going on in the industry. Often reading customer complaints in trade journals and other magzines, as well as internet websites that are specific to the industry, often provide an insight into customer needs. Never lose sight of the fact that innovation is generally driven by customer dissatisfaction.You need to read very widely. not only to find problems, but also to find solutions.
Remember that much innovation comes from other industries. A good example is Dell and Amazon. Dell sarted selling stuff locally in the USA using telesales and then moved to selling internationally on the internet. Amazon thought, if they can sell computers, why can we not sell books? Two very different markets - one solution! So get reading and find your next big opportunity!