It may be OK for consumer goods producers to guess their customers’ needs. After all, their product developers are end-consumers themselves. So if you’re an Apple engineer, you already know what consumers like you want in a mobile phone.
But your B2B customers know much more than you about their needs. If you make pigment, your customers know a lot more than you about the paper production it’s used in. Isn’t it silly to guess their needs when they’d love to tell you… if you asked the right way? That’s why you need to let the customer lead the interview, not you. Yep, you can put your questionnaire or interview guide away now.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B
With apologies to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina… all great voice-of-customer (VOC) interviews are alike in the same way: The customer is talking during most of the interview. And they are talking about those outcomes (desired end results) they want to talk about. Anything else is clutter, much of which leads to unhappiness.
For B2B voice-of-customer interviews, plan on two rounds of interview… first qualitative interviews (called Discovery), followed by quantitative interviews (called Preference). In both cases, the customers will be doing most of the talking… and about matters that interest them. They’ll be happy. You’ll be happy.
More in video, Reinventing VOC for B2B
Do your sales and tech support reps make hundreds of customer calls annually? Why not train them to probe deeply and capture customer needs uniformly in your CRM? You’ll gain unprecedented market insight when you turn your sales force into a learning force—to help you develop better future products. And with Everyday VOC probing, they’ll ... Read More
We see three common shortcomings with B2B product launches: 1) Low-quality front-end work: Suppliers develop the wrong product, so even the best launch is just putting lipstick on a pig. 2) Poor linkage between stages: The launch is not driven by what was learned in the front end. 2) Out-dated promotional tools: This includes poor selection of the many traditional and digital tools available today. It helps to follow these 4 steps: The Right Product delivered to the Right Market using the Right Message through the Right Media.
More in 2-minute video, Launch new products with power
If you want to develop a great new product, your first step should be to target a single market segment and job-to-be-done (JTBD) within that segment. A market segment is a “cluster of customers with similar needs.” If you develop one product for multiple market segments, your new product won’t satisfy any customers to the fullest extent. By definition, different market segments have different needs, right?
If your company makes colorants, your target market segment might by paint producers. But your project scope is still too broad: You need to target a specific job to be done by those paint producers. Their job might be, “production and sale of semi-gloss paint.” This is explained further in the article, Quantitative questions for interviews
More in 2-minute video, Begin with customers’ job to be done
What’s the key to accelerating your B2B business’s organic growth? The research is clear: Superior customer insight drives stronger new product value propositions… which in turn boosts organic growth. Now you can use this new Innovation Maturity Level chart to assess your current level… and plan your ascent all the way to Level 6. The ... Read More
I think the biggest mistake is failing to use quantitative customer interviews. Why use quantitative questions for interviews, not just qualitative? Two reasons. First, qualitative interviews give you reams of customer quotes with no good way to prioritize customer needs. Sure, you could count the number of times customers cite a need, but frequency of remarks is a poor substitute for customer eagerness to improve.
More important, with only qualitative interviews you’ll succumb to confirmation bias… the tendency to hear and interpret information according to your preconceived notions. With quantitative questions for interviews, you’ll have hard data on customer needs that your team hasn’t filtered or skewed. You get 100% unadulterated insight straight from the customer.
More in 2-minute video, Quantitative interviews are a must
Your pricing could be supplier-focused, competitor-focused, or customer-focused. 1) Supplier-focused pricing is cost-plus pricing. It’s inside-out, leaves money on the table and only indicates your pricing floor. 2) Competitor-focused emphasizes unit pricing, and is only useful for me-too products and gauging initial price reaction. 3) Customer-focused pricing reflects the economic impact on customers. It’s outside-in and does require more work for you. But if you want to maximize value capture, it’s the only way.
More in 2-minute video, Use value calculators to establish pricing
If you sell into a concentrated B2B market (one with just a few customers), your voice-of-customer interviews should have two goals: “insight” plus “engagement.” The latter is important: You want these big customers to be impressed and eager to work with you, not your competitors.
These 10 approaches help you engage your customers when interviewing them to understand their needs: 1) Kill the questionnaire. 2) Let customers lead the interview. 3) Discuss their job-to-be-done. 4) Project your notes so they can see them. 5) Focus on customer outcomes. 6) Learn how to probe deeply. 7) Don’t sell or solve. 8) Get quantitative in your VOC. 9) Use triggers to generate fresh ideas. 10) Use B2B-optimized interview tools. (See the 2-minute video, Engage your B2B customers.)
These are explained in the article, The Missing Objective in Voice of Customer Interviews
Portfolio management links strategy with execution for new product development. A Voice of the Customer program maximizes ROI for all new product initiatives, whether incremental or breakthrough. ... Read More
If you haven’t explored Design Thinking for your product development yet, I highly recommend you do. It brings seven important benefits: 1) stronger value propositions, 2) rapid customer insight, 3) improved customer engagement, 4) potential for transformational innovation, 5) less squandered R&D, 6) reduced commercial risk, and 7) the erosion of functional silos.
But if you’re a B2B company, don’t simply use Design Thinking as it’s taught in design schools. You can optimize it for B2B, especially the first two steps, “empathize” and “design”… using B2B-optimized Discovery and Preference interviews.
More in white paper, Design Thinking Optimized for B2B
Are there times when you should use an outside firm—”a hired gun”—to conduct your interviews? Consider 4 factors: 1) Hired guns work well if you have a big budget and success is all about this very large product launch. 2) If you have millions of prospects, outside expertise can manage the sophisticated surveys and statistics needed. 3) If you don’t need to gain deep, first-hand insights, a marketing firm’s report is fine. 4) If you’re not already spending much direct face-time with customers, let a marketing firm conduct this market research.
In general, though, when you’re serious about bringing real innovation to a targeted market segment, your people should do the heavy lifting. Understanding market needs is a competitive advantage you shouldn’t try to outsource.
For more, see 2-minute video, When to use “hired guns” for VOC
Henry Ford is often cited for a reason to not interview customers: “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.” But this is flawed thinking for B2B markets. There are indeed B2C cases where customers can’t tell you much about their needs. Ask me what I want in a video game, men’s suit, or snack food, and I’ll probably need to see a prototype. Then I can play with it, try it on, or taste it (hopefully in that order).
Besides, B2C company employees are end-consumers themselves… so they’ve already got a good idea what consumers want. Bottom line: Your B2B customer can absolutely tell you the outcomes they want (desired end results). Once you know the “what,” it’s up to you to figure out the “how” (your new product solution).
For more, see 2-minute video, Avoid the faster horse fallacy
A missile strike? Well, that sounds a bit aggressive, doesn’t it? But consider the two targeting steps you’d take in the military, before firing those missiles: 1) survey all possible enemy positions, and then 2) isolate the high-value targets. You should do the same in the front-end of innovation, before the development stage: “Step 1” ... Read More