Design thinking is a powerful methodology for solving “wicked problems.” Unlike the well-stated problems we were given to solve in engineering school, these require figuring out what to work on, not just how to solve the problem. This perfectly describes real-world new product innovation, where we need to first understand customer needs.
As this diagram shows, the first two steps are “empathize” and “define.” Here’s the good news for B2B producers: You can do this much more effectively that B2C counterparts by using Discovery interviews (for “empathize”) and Preference interviews (for “define”). Check out this white paper to see why… and how: Design Thinking for B2B
In general, we do consider in-person interviews to be the gold standard. But there are 10 advantages of virtual VOC you shouldn’t overlook: 1) lower cost, 2) reaching dispersed customers, 3) viewable probing tips, 4) training for colleagues, 5) probing suggestions, 6) assistance for note-taker, 7) rapid de-briefing, 8) easier scheduling, 9) low-impact cancellations, and 10) greater project speed. To maximize effectiveness and efficiency, you’ll be wise to blend and balance both types of VOC. (See 2-minute video, Conduct virtual customer interviews.)
More in white paper, Virtual VOC
Design thinking isn’t new: The concept was first introduced by Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon in his 1969 book, The Sciences of the Artificial. It’s been “catching on” more and more in new product development circles, which is a very good thing. My favorite part is that it doesn’t start with well-defined problems, like the ones we were handed in engineering school. Rather, it’s a user-center process that encourages us to enter the customers’ world and understand it better. Especially their desired outcomes. This graphic shows the differences.
More in white paper, Design Thinking Optimized for B2B
Yes, it’s called the Commercial Confidence Index (CCI), and it’s easy to calculate: Step 1: Record your annual R&D spending for each significant product development project. Step 2: For each project, ask if you have quantified evidence of customer needs, e.g. Market Satisfaction Gaps. If “yes,” the project goes in the “Known Need” bucket. All others go in the “Assumed Need” bucket. Step 3: The CCI is your annual R&D spending on Known-Need projects divided by annual spending on all product development projects.
More in 2-minute video, Employ new growth metrics
Here’s the test: When you look at projects in your new product pipeline, do some have sizeable commercial risk, not just technical risk? If so, you need to start conducting quantitative customer voice-of-customer interviews. These help you nearly eliminate commercial risk, based on Market Satisfaction Gaps. Here’s the point: If you’re a B2B supplier, there’s simply no reason to put up with much commercial risk once you move into the development stage. Check out over a dozen real-life examples of their use at www.aimcasestories.com.
More in white paper, Market Satisfaction Gaps
Web-conference based B2B customer interviews will likely continue to be popular… given the costs of in-person interviews in terms of a) travel expenses, and b) non-productive travel time. Our top recommendation is this: Make these visually interesting for your customers. For tips on how to do this with both qualitative and quantitative interviews, download our white paper at www.virtualvoc.com.
More in 2-minute video, Conduct virtual customer interviews
A model is a simplified reflection of reality… a stand-in for what will happen. Maps, recipes and budgets are all models. What if you could model customer needs, creating a map to guide your new-product design targets? You can if you start with proper B2B quantitative interviews, as described in this 2-minute video: Benchmark Competing Alternatives. Someday innovators will wonder why we guessed at B2B customer needs when we could have created these detailed maps to guide us… and eliminate most new product development commercial risk.
More in article, Predict the customer’s experience with modeling
For B2B companies I believe this practice is requiring quantitative, unbiased, unfiltered evidence of customer needs before starting to develop a new product. Today, wishful thinking and confirmation bias greatly distort suppliers’ views of what customers want in a new product. One way to change this? Require Market Satisfaction Gaps for all significant product development. These reveal which outcomes the market is most eager to see improved. Check out over a dozen real-life cases of their use at www.aimcasestories.com.
More in white paper, Market Satisfaction Gaps
We’ve teamed up with Stage-Gate® International to bring you a new e-book, 9 Actions to super-charge your Stage-Gate growth machine. In this article, we’ll explain some actions you can take right now to turn your gated process into the growth machine it was meant to be. First, some credit where credit is due: Dr. Robert ... Read More
The Customer Insight Gap is the difference between what suppliers typically understand about customer needs… and what they could potentially understand. This Gap is usually small for consumer-goods suppliers (B2C): Typical insight is high since their employees are consumers themselves and understand customer needs. At the same time, potential insight is low, because end-consumers often struggle to articulate their true needs.
The Gap is huge for most B2B suppliers: They know less about their customers’ world, but these customers could tell them much, given their Knowledge, Interest, Objectivity & Foresight (KIOF in chart). For more, watch this 2-minute video, Understand your B2B advantages. If you learn how to close the large B2B Insight Gap, you’ll get an amazing competitive advantage.
See white paper, B2B vs. B2C.
We studied this question in our research on B2B VOC skills, which included a survey of 300+ B2B professionals. We grouped respondents into 4 groups depending on their type of training (New Product Blueprinting or Other) and level of training (Extensive or Some).
Respondents also reported their typical new product success rates: Only 20% of those with “Some” training in “Other” methods had new product success rates over 50% (green in chart). But 80% of those with “Extensive” New Product Blueprinting training were “in the green.” Just think: Instead of one-in-five employees having successful new product track records, you could move to four-in-five with such training.
More in research report, B2B VOC Skills: Research linking 12 VOC skills to new product success
Many B2B companies use prototypes to understand customer needs. But more advanced companies use customer-needs modeling. That is, they learn enough in front-end-innovation customer interviews to predict customer needs with great accuracy.
This yields 3 advantages: 1) Its cheaper and faster to perform “what if” mental experiments in the front-end of innovation than to create physical prototypes later. 2) This modeling lets you understand customers’ next best alternatives… to better price and promote your new product. 3) Your B2B customers will be more engaged when you seek their early advice vs. lobbing your prototypes at them. You can see how this works in this 2-minute video: Benchmark competing alternatives.
More in article, Predict the customer’s experience with modeling.
Should you do in-person customer interviews… or use a web-conference? Consider these factors: 1) team interviewing experience, 2) level of existing customer relationship, 3) need for a tour, 4) qualitative vs. quantitative interview type, 5) scheduling difficulties, 6) travel costs, and 7) interviewing progress to-date.
For a full explanation, download our white paper at www.virtualvoc.com. Most likely, you’ll see that virtual voice-of-customer interviews can play a larger role in your customer insight work.
See 2-minute video, Conduct virtual customer interviews.
It’s always a good idea to reinforce the basics. The best of the best, in every craft, maintain a focus on fundamentals. Consider that the great Tiger Woods continues to perfect his golf swing, even as he approaches the end of his career. For innovation, few concepts are as fundamental as market segmentation. In this ... Read More