Awkward Reality #358

Should you conduct virtual or in-person interviews? 7 factors can help you decide.

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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.

Awkward Reality #357

What if your furnace came on… a week after your turned up the thermostat?

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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

Awkward Reality #356

What’s the fastest way to boost your new product success rate?

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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

Awkward Reality #355

Does your R&D project look like a black box into which money is poured?

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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.

Awkward Reality #354

Why your Vitality Index needs other metrics to keep it company.

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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.

Awkward Reality #353

What is THE most important VOC (voice of customer) skill to master?

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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.

Awkward Reality #352

Are you chasing the “fast follower” myth?

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The “fast follower” strategy seldom works, for a variety of reasons. One is that it’s often just an excuse for the lack of innovation, and isn’t supported by needed fast-follower capabilities. Next time a business leader touts this “strategy,” ask if they’ve invested heavily in a) early-warning competitive intelligence, b) robust patent minefield-avoidance competencies, and c) ultra-fast scale-up capabilities.

Unless they say “yes,” their fast-follower claim was just an excuse for avoiding Job #1: Understand and meet customer needs better than others. When you excel at Job #1, you’ll grow faster, more profitably, and more consistently than those shuffling along behind you trying to catch up.

More in article, Chasing the Fast Follower Myth

Awkward Reality #351

Your business growth works like an extruder.

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Extruder Die: This “output” represents your financial results. Fast-moving, high-quality output is like top-line growth and profitability. Feed Hopper: These are market-facing innovation projects supported by customer insight. Drive Screw: This is the work needed to transform the feed into high-value products, done by skilled, focused people.

The only way to get better extruder die output is to focus on the feed hopper input and drive screw horsepower. Watching the extruder die is just a spectator sport. Which is precisely what you’re engaged in during financial reviews. Wouldn’t you rather be in a participant sport? Then go to your feed hopper, and work on new products customers will love. See 2-minute video, Extend your time horizon.

More in article, B2B Organic Growth: 8 top lessons for leaders.