Your market is growing at 3% and your operating plan says you’ll grow faster than this next year. Of course, your competitors have similar plans… meaning everyone plans to grow faster than the market served. As TV psychologist Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that been working for you?” Could it be time for a different approach… e.g. understanding customer needs far better than competitors?
More in Leader’s Guide Videos Lesson 1, Recognize your growth challenge
Some companies use the front end of innovation to validate hypotheses or make financial projections. Wrong approach. The front end is a time for learning what you didn’t know, not analysis. Successful teams usually pursue a market without a solution but with an open mind. Converge too soon, and you’ll often miss the best fodder for innovation.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B
First, how interested are they in this topic? Second, how confident are they that this supplier can help them? The first condition puts a premium on your ability to find the right people in the right companies. The second requires you to demonstrate serious intent and—if possible—past successes in market-facing innovation.
More in article, 9 Best Practices for Recruiting Customers
In the long-term stockholder and employee interests align. This is also true of customer and community interests. In the long-term, it’s in the best interests of everyone—except your competitors—for your business to develop high-value products, sustain strong growth, provide stable employment, and increase market capitalization. Given this alignment, doesn’t it seem odd that many business leaders seem so fixated on the near-term?
More in e-book, Leader’s Guide to B2B Organic Growth (Lesson 30)
In B2B we can do even better than “understanding” customer needs. We can “model” them. Use customer interviews to understand customers’ key outcomes. But don’t stop there. Ask how they measure these outcomes… and how good is “good enough.” Then create a model so you can test how they’ll react to any product design you imagine.
More in article, How to model customer needs
I’ve seen many new-product teams foiled by organizational turmoil: A travel ban blocks customer meetings… Spending freezes delay critical work… A reorganization creates uncertainty until the “dust settles”… New initiatives overshadow their project… Key team members are given new assignments. Success requires persistent focus.
More in article, What’s Restraining Your Growth? Your Time Horizon
Developing B2B customer insight skills for this growth requires a commitment your competitors may be unwilling to make. Good. You need them to remain shortsighted. As you gain insights, you may enjoy a bonus: Customers are impressed with suppliers that listen to them… and often offer near-term adjacent opportunities.
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 15).
Keep your process… but don’t expect a neat, linear progression for all projects. Product development is like preparing a fine meal: There’s a messy kitchen somewhere. Look at the unpredictable, messy paths of your own company’s earlier blockbuster products. You need nimble, open-minded teams to complete such journeys quickly.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B
Should your employees learn customer insight skills from an external firm… or should you develop home-grown training? If the external firm has worked with many companies across many global industries, it will probably advance these methods faster and further than you can. Think of them as the golf club maker. The glory belongs to the golf pro… so focus on your practice time, coaching and desire as the pro… not in making clubs.
More in article, You Already Answered 4 Questions, but… Correctly?
“Market Growth” is the tide that lifts all boats… your reward for being just average. “Inherited Growth” comes from great products developed long ago. These are the gifts that keep giving… until they don’t (when you’ve been commoditized). The only one you control is “Earned Growth,” when you understand and meet customer needs better than anyone else.
More in article, Better get used to mediocre growth