Blog Category: Awkward Realities

The growth you earned may be less than you think.

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“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

Connect the dots between customer outcomes and your growth.

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I’ve come to believe two principles: A) The only way to create customer value is by improving their important, unmet outcomes. B) A supplier’s only path to profitable, sustainable organic growth is in creating customer value. Do you agree? If so, you might want to place a very high priority on understanding which customer outcomes these are.

More in article, Your Best Path to Profitable, Sustainable Organic Growth

The only business area where you want surprises is customer-facing innovation.

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In every other business area—e.g. production or accounting—surprises are unwelcome. But when you are surprised by customer needs that competitors have missed, you have an edge. Seek these out in free-thinking, customer-led interviews, maintain a probing curiosity, and avoid rigid schedules that discourage flexibility. Be surprised. And be happy about it.

More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 10).

Do you understand market needs… or market reaction?

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Many B2B producers are stuck at the 2nd of the 4 innovation maturity levels: Solution Validation. When they ask customers to validate their cool new idea, they think they are understanding market needs. They are not. They are simply understanding market reaction… to one idea… their idea. You’ll get far better results by reaching the 3rd maturity level: Market Insight.

More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs (page 7).

It’s better if the project team—not management—stops a project.

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No team wants to waste time on a loser: Life is too short. So if management has to stop a project, the team was inexperienced, communicated poorly, or had different expectations than management. All these ailments are addressed by requiring every team to use a common business case template, not their own, start-from-scratch PowerPoint® presentations.

More in article, How Leaders Can Accelerate New-Product Development

Future B2B companies will have a good laugh at our expense.

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We now chuckle at how sales people used to rely on ABC (Always Be Closing) and manufacturers relied on end-of-line inspectors (vs. statistical quality control). But those will pale compared to the way today’s B2B companies test markets: by launching fully-developed products at their customers. When they could have learned customer needs first with some simple interviews. Funny stuff.

More in article, Why will future companies laugh at us?

Most suppliers expect to grow faster than their served markets. This is usually fanciful thinking.

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On average, you and your competitors will grow at the same rate as the markets you serve. Don’t feel entitled to this. If a competitor develops a blockbuster, you’ll be happy to minimize your sales decline. Thinking otherwise is like 1970’s Detroit auto-makers assuming Japanese competitors would keep producing junk.

More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 15).

Delay the urge to converge in product development.

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The human brain likes to diverge first (look at all these deserts), and then converge (the chocolate lava cake, please). We shortcut this highly-effective approach when we begin by asking customers if they like our idea, hypothesis, or prototype. First, diverge with an open-minded exploration of all customer needs in B2B-optimized, voice-of-customer interviews. When you converge in a later round of interviews, do so quantitatively, so your confirmation bias doesn’t kick in.

More in e-book, Leader’s Guide to B2B Organic Growth (Lesson 16).

Shareholder value: Great result. Lousy goal.

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Increasing shareholder value is simply the result… the “effect.” What’s the “cause”? It’s profitable, sustainable, organic growth. Demonstrate this and stock prices will follow like goslings after their mother. Quit performing for Wall Street analysts, who have never created real value and couldn’t do so if their bonuses depended on it. Instead, work for customers who will appreciate and reward the value you create for them.

More in article, How to become a great business leader