Awkward Reality #311

What innovation muscles are you building?

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Champions in any sport know which muscle groups to build… with balance. A rock climber with great finger strength also needs superb core strength. You have two primary innovation muscle groups… one to understand customer needs and one to meet those needs with your new products. Your B2B business might be spending tens of millions of R&D on the latter muscle group. Keep these “meeting” muscles in shape… but start building your “understanding” muscles. That’s how you get to the top ahead of competitors.

More in article, New Product Training: Time to Build Growth Muscles.

Awkward Reality #310

“We talked about it so much, we thought we had done it.”

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This is how one client described his experience with one of his company’s initiatives. Take understanding customer needs, for example. Many companies discuss and debate this year after year, but the wheels just keep spinning without traction. Nothing worthwhile happens until a) people are trained, b) metrics are established and c) new behaviors are rewarded. As Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

More in article, New Product Training: Time to Build Growth Muscles

Awkward Reality #309

Don’t intermingle technology-development and product-development.

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Do you clearly distinguish between technology development and product development? Technology development is science-facing, while product development is market-facing. Technology development turns money into knowledge, and product development turns knowledge back into money. Keep technology and product development separate if you want to avoid confusion and inefficiency. Milestones on a Gantt chart are great for product development, but good luck scheduling technical breakthroughs in your lab.

More in article, Timing is Everything (p6).

Awkward Reality #308

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.

Awkward Reality #307

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.

Awkward Reality #306

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.

Awkward Reality #305

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.