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.
Lagging indicators can be useful, so long as too much time doesn’t pass between your correcting action and the result you want to measure. In this regard, the Vitality index–% of revenue from new products—fails miserably. Improvements you make in the front end of innovation could take years to register a significant impact on revenue.
Don’t discard your Vitality Index, but do supplement it with new metrics, such as the Growth Driver Index (GDI) and Commercial Confidence Index (CDI). Otherwise your new product “furnace” will stay cold far too long. This 2-minute video explains further: Employ new growth metrics.
More in white paper, New Innovation Metrics
This was a question we studied in our research on B2B VOC skills, which included a survey of 300+ B2B professionals. Some respondents reported a “poor” understanding of market needs while other reported a “good” understanding.
We were surprised at the difference in the two groups’ typical new product success rates: Only 5% of the former group (with poor market understanding) reported their new products were successful over half the time. But 70% of the “good market understanders” reported better than average new product success rates. So instead of hiring more R&D, your shortest path to successful new products might be to understand market needs better.
More in research report, B2B VOC Skills: Research linking 12 VOC skills to new product success
If your R&D looks like a black box to management, you’ve probably noticed that their patience can run out rather quickly. But when you de-risk projects transparently with management, they are much more tolerant of unavoidable delays and setbacks.
You do this in three steps: 1) Generate assumptions… possible landmines that could “blow up” your project. 2) Rate assumptions… for likely impact and certainty. 3) Investigate assumptions… especially high-impact, low-certainty assumptions. This 2-minute video explains the process: How to pursue transformational projects.
More in article, How to de-risk projects and overcome management doubt.
The Vitality Index—% of revenue from new products—is a fine metric. But it is 1) not predictive… it’s a lagging indicator only revealing what’s already happened, 2) not prescriptive… it doesn’t say how to improve, and 3) not precise… often ill-defined and easily manipulated. Keep it, but supplement it with two new metrics, the Growth Driver Index and Commercial Confidence Index. These measure your progress on building growth capabilities and customer insight, respectively. Check out this 2-minute video to see how easy these metrics are to implement, Employ new growth metrics.)
More in white paper, New Innovation Metrics.
We researched this question with a survey of 300+ B2B professionals, examining these VOC skills: 1) Secure interviews, 2) Proper interviews, 3) Impress customers, 4) Uncover all needs, 5) Probe for meaning, 6) Probe for value, 7) Quantitative VOC, 8) Virtual VOC, 9) VOC debriefing, 10) Prioritize needs, 11) Segment market, and 12) Business case.
Can you guess which skill most differentiated the winners and losers in terms of new product development success? It was #10, Prioritize customer needs. The #2 skill wasn’t even close. So if you’re not conducting quantitative interviews to prioritize customer needs with confidence, you’ve got some serious “upside” to pursue. See 2-minute video, Quantitative interviews are a must.
More in white paper, Market Satisfaction Gaps.