B2B Lean Startup: Expanding the Build-Measure-Learn Cycle

The Lean Startup movement can help large corporations become more nimble and fast-moving in their innovation. But if you are a B2B company and fail to make some critical adjustments, you’re in for serious problems. You’ll fail to take advantage of the knowledge, interest and foresight of your B2B customers, which may narrow your design options, increase risk, and actually slow your development process. And if you have a “shallow pool” of companies to test your minimum viable products, you can alienate prospects as well.

The good news is that you can have the best of both worlds: rapid Lean Startup and the science of B2B customer insight. It’s quite easy to do. To learn how, download this white paper on B2B Lean Startup.

Preview: Lean Startup for B2B

Lean Startup holds many attractions for product developers. Most B2B suppliers can do even more with a critical adjustment seldom needed for consumer products. So before you begin showing customers minimum viable products, be sure to consider these variations for B2B Lean Startup.

There is much to love about Lean Startup. A concept developed by Steve Blank and Eric Reis, it promotes a nimble approach to starting new businesses, based on the use of rapidly-created minimum viable products. Increasingly, it is being applied to product development within large corporations.

At the heart of Lean Startup we see this principle: Learn from your prospective customers… before you commit to what you’ll offer them. This keep-your-mind-open-and-wallet-shut approach boosts new product success and shortens timelines. Be sure to keep this sound thinking when you apply B2B Lean Startup.

Lean Startup naturally applies to most B2C products… but does it “start” in the right place for B2B? The very act of creating a hypothesis is a convergent mental activity, not a divergent one. If you create your hypothesis too soon, are you limiting your possibilities? This depends on your type of business. For many consumer products, Lean Startup is fine “as-is” and it’s good to rapidly offer minimum viable products. But for most B2B products, you need to engage your customers even earlier—before you develop a hypothesis. You need a variation we’ll call B2B Lean Startup.

Lean Startup is based on a Build-Measure-Learn process: Imagine you are developing a new consumer phone app: You would create a quick prototype, or “minimum viable product” (Build), test this with consumers (Measure), and use their feedback to make needed changes to your design (Learn). You would “rinse and repeat”… with learning cycles that rapidly move you closer to a winning design. Your approach for B2B Lean Startup should be a little different.

Instead of Build-Measure-Learn, most B2B teams should employ a Learn-Build-Measure-Learn cycle in B2B Lean Startup. Keep everything that is good about Lean Startup, but begin with an open-minded exploration of the B2B customer’s world, with interviews that take advantage of high B2B knowledge, interest, objectivity, and foresight.

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