Blog Category: Product Development

Always separate customer “needs” into two buckets.

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As explained by Tony Ulwick in What Customers Want, the term customer “needs” can be confusing. It’s best to separate what customers want into outcomes (their desired end-result, or the “what”) and solutions (your answer to their need, or the “how”). Keep your interview focused on their outcomes, not solutions. If they offer a solution, simply ask, “What would that do for you?” Poof: You’re back into outcome space where you want to be.

More in article, Discovery Interview Blunders that Frustrate Your Customers.

In B2B customer interviews, silence really is golden.

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In the best B2B interviews, you ask “What other problems do you see?” or “What would your ideal world look like?” The customer leads the interview—not you—because you never know what they’ll say next. But allow some silence: Don’t fill the void by saying, “for example, would it help if…?” Your patience may be rewarded with a customer need you would never have heard otherwise… one that could lead you to develop a blockbuster product. Silence—and the thinking it allows—can indeed be golden.

More in article, Discovery Interview Blunders that Frustrate Your Customers.

Here’s when you don’t want to look too smart.

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When we train B2B professionals to interview their customers, we tell them to be the student and let the customer be the teacher. After all, customers know their world best and love to demonstrate their expertise… so practice humility. Afraid customers will think less of you if you don’t show how smart you are? Sorry, but I’ve got news: They aren’t thinking of you. They’re thinking of themselves and their ideas. So be a brilliant conversationalist. That’s someone who thinks what the other person says is fascinating.

More in article, Discovery Interview Blunders that Frustrate Your Customers.

We still haven’t seen this black swan.

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I’m still looking for the business that failed—or even suffered—from understanding customers too well. Maybe I should stop looking for this rare “black swan” event? It’s certainly no challenge finding companies that don’t understand customer needs well. Sadly, many also don’t understand how badly their lack of customer insight is stunting their growth. Get this right and you may not be a black swan… but you’ll certainly stand out from the rest of the flock.

See video on B2B voice-of-customer at www.vocforb2b.com.

Which is better… in-person VOC or virtual VOC?

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If you compare a 2-hour in-person voice-of-customer interview to a 2-hour web-conference interview, the former wins. You can interpret body language better, build stronger relationships, and perhaps get a customer tour. But what if it took you and your interview team 10 hours of (mostly non-productive) travel time for the interview? A better question might be, “When is each type of interview most appropriate?” (See interview examples in the video at www.VOCforB2B.com.)

For 7 factors to consider, download our white paper, Virtual VOC (page 8).

Are you buying innovation insurance?

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Did you buy home-owner insurance… even though it’s unlikely your house will burn down this year? How confident are you that you truly understand customer needs when you develop new products? Our research shows most companies do not. So why not have your teams trained in the latest B2B voice-of-customer insight methods? Think of it as insurance. Or better yet… as a strong preventative, like fire-proofing your house.

See video on B2B voice-of-customer at www.vocforb2b.com.

Take these 5 steps to de-risk your big, scary project.

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It’s easy to take the anxiety out of high-stakes projects: 1. Brainstorm all assumptions that must be true for your project to succeed. 2. Have each team member vote on “certainty” & “impact” for each assumption. 3. Debate & consolidate votes as a team. 4. Develop a plan to investigate high-impact, low-certainty assumptions. 5. Drive each assumption from uncertainty to certainty. If an assumption is not true, it’s a project-killing “landmine.” Find it early, celebrate… and start your next project.

To see how this is done, view the video at Project De-risking with Minesweeper