Many companies think they have learned about customer needs when they visit customers to validate their hypothesis or potential solution. They have not. They have learned about market reaction. To a single idea. Their idea. On top of this, it’s likely this customer reaction was distorted by confirmation bias.
More in white paper, Timing is Everything (page 15).
Initially, you are aware of the first three, but completely unaware of the fourth—surprises. When you begin your project, list the first three, and try to convert A’s and Q’s into F’s. Then uncover the surprises through customer interviews, tours and observation. Seek to understand the first three, and discover the last one.
More in white paper, Innovating in Unfamiliar Markets (pages 12-13).
You shift resources “up” by investing manpower earlier in understanding market needs. This lets you be more successful later in developing solutions. You shift resources “out” when employees spend less time talking to each other… and more time directly engaging customers, through interviews and tours. Develop new skills for this, and create a new company culture.
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 6).
Your sales force should play a key role in innovation-focused interviews. But not by themselves. Unaccompanied sales reps seldom attract all the right customer contacts, and they’re not rewarded for the long time horizons required. Besides, market-facing innovation requires central coordination, since a single sales territory won’t contain all the needed prospects.
More in article, Why Your Sales Force Can’t Hear the Customer’s Voice (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth Newsletter).
Want to add employees who know your technologies and markets, can start work tomorrow, and cost nothing more? It’s easy: Just kill the dead-end projects that tie up half your resources. Free your people to work on projects your customers actually care about. It’s not hard to learn which projects to kill. In fact, strong project teams will halt weak projects on their own.
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 6).
If your new product development process starts with your ideas—instead of B2B customers’ desired outcomes—your new product may be an answer to the wrong question(s). You’ll likely a) miss important customer outcomes, or b) misinterpret the importance of the customer outcomes you have identified.
More in white paper, Timing is Everything.
Where else do you invest tens of millions of dollars in personnel, so that many can work diligently on answers to the wrong questions? If your firm is like most, one-half of your product development resources are working on projects that will be cancelled or fail to yield an adequate return. You can stop this innovation malpractice with the science of B2B customer insight.
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 5).
In concentrated B2B markets, the top ten buying accounts may represent 50-100% of the buying potential. Unlike B2C—with deep pools of potential prototype testers—B2B suppliers can wear out their welcome by lobbing sloppy “minimum viable products.” If you use Lean Startup, be sure to begin with proper B2B customer interviews.
More in white paper, Lean Startup for B2B (page 7).
A fine innovation metric is the vitality index… % of total sales from new products (usually launched in the last 3 or 5 years). But it doesn’t tell you why your % is going up or down, does it? Sure, you can see which new products contributed… but you need to uncover the underlying reasons driving results. Otherwise you’re just watching from the bleachers.
More in article, 3 Problems with Innovation Metrics (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth Newsletter).
If your new product development process begins with “idea generation,” is it your idea… or your customers’? If you start with your idea, you probably won’t understand customer needs until the end… by seeing if they buy your new product. Why not flip your approach and start with customer needs? Unless you’d rather your R&D kept guessing at customer needs.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 4).
Problem 1—What’s the right question?—focuses on market needs. Problem 2—What’s the right answer?—is all about your solutions. Most companies put 90+% of project spending into Problem2, yet Problem 1 causes most new product failures. Hmmm… are you sensing a possible competitive advantage here? Will you explore it further? Will you seize it?
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 4).
The data are in, the studies are done, and—put simply—customer-engaging VOC improves your bottom line. One study on innovation by Booz & Co. found this: Suppliers who directly engage customers enjoy three times the profit growth vs. those that do not. Want huge profit growth? Engage your customers. It’s not hard, but it is a different approach… even innovative.
More in article, Why Advanced VOC Matters (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth Newsletter)
When developing a product, you know what you know (facts)… what you think (hypotheses)… and what you don’t know (gaps). But breakthroughs usually come from what you didn’t know you didn’t know. Only your customers know this, so you must let them guide you. This provides the spark of innovation, which seldom occurs with old-fashioned supplier-led interviews.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 3)
The average company only has a 25% success rate after it finishes its front-end work. With Six Sigma success, you’ve got three defects per million attempts… while your new product development is stuck at three defects per four attempts. Can you think of any other area in your company with this level of waste? Don’t let your competitors tame this frontier first.
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 3)