Guessing at Customer Needs

Five out of six B2B product development teams are betting on the wrong product designs–essentially guessing at B2B customer needs–as shown by this research from The AIM Institute. This white paper explains how major B2B company teams used advanced B2B customer interview methods to understand what customers want. Also described are the Red Queen effect, Certainty Time Machine, three innovation maturity levels, B2B Index, three imbalances business leaders should correct, and the surest path to profitable, sustainable organic growth.

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Preview: Guessing at Customer Needs

What are the chances your product development teams understand B2B customer needs well enough to set the right new-product objectives? Picture a six-sided die with one “Yes” and five “No’s,” and you’ve got your answer. How do we know this? The AIM Institute studied 50 new product development teams from 20 B2B companies that had conducted B2B customer interviews. (About 80% were Fortune 500 companies.)

All these teams had been taught AIM’s advanced B2B customer interview methods. They conducted 875 interviews to understand B2B customer outcomes in their target market, and were asked how much these interviews impacted their product design. Only one in six said the impact was “slight” or “moderate.” Five in six said the impact was “great” or “significant.”

Consider two implications for your business. First, if you’re not practicing these advanced B2B customer interview methods (described later), your customer insight is probably no better than that of the 50 teams before their interviews. In other words, most of your teams would develop substantially different products if they truly understood their B2B customer needs.

Second, these teams showed there’s a better way for you to understand your B2B customers. As you’ll see, the teams gained customer insight that was unexpected and unfiltered to confidently set product objectives. Some early-adopter companies now use these B2B customer interview methods to deliver high-value innovation to their markets. (See their case stories.) Increasingly, laggards will lose market share, unaware they are being out-innovated due to competitors’ superior customer insight. The rest of this paper explored the following points:

  1. Customer interviews: key to growth: Profitable, sustainable growth is harder than most think. Your best path today is superior customer insight.
  2. Advanced B2B customer interviews: B2B-optimized methods let you learn much more about B2B customers’ needs, since they are knowledgeable, interested, and objective.
  3. Changing your organization: This is the hardest part. Successful leaders correct three imbalances that all too common today in B2B companies today.

For more, see the 2-min video, Insist on data-driven innovation, part of Dan Adams’ series of 50 (free) 2-min videos, B2B Organic Growth.

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