The best research says we’ve struggled for about five decades now. In 1971, the leading cause of new-product failure was “inadequate market analysis” (45%, with the next cause at 29%). In 2019, the leading cause was “No market need” (42%, with the next cause at 29%). After five decades, maybe it’s time to get serious about understanding customer needs before developing new products? Not that we need to rush into this, of course.
More in article, Target Customer Needs and Win
Reliable growth boils down to three linked principles. 1) Your company’s only path to profitable, sustainable organic growth is to create customer value. 2) You only create customer value when you satisfy customer needs that were important and unmet. 3) You must first understand customer needs. You cannot efficiently, effectively improve that which you do not fully comprehend. So it’s time to stop thinking about voice-of-customer as just “one more initiative.” It’s much more. It’s the first link in the growth you want.
More in article, Predict the customer’s experience with modeling.
Qualitative customer interviews let you move from ‘guessing’ to ‘understanding’ customer needs. But proper quantitative interviews provide the insight you need to ‘model’ customer needs. This means you can design your new product with confidence… know how to make intelligent tradeoffs… and even understand how customers will react to your product without seeing a prototype. This works only for B2B and will someday be a common practice. But it’s uncommon today… and a profound competitive advantage.
See how in the article, B2B Customer Needs: Predict the customer’s experience with modeling.
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.
Keep working harder and smarter, but recognize you’ll move the needle less and less in a system of diminishing returns… like wringing out the last bit of productivity or quality. But when you focus on understanding customer needs better than competitors, your insights and new product innovations—and resulting revenue—will keep coming. Increasing returns. A wonderful system to work hard and smart at.
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave.
If your NPD teams are confident of customer needs, your projects will go faster for 3 reasons: 1) Bad ideas are killed quickly, freeing up resources. 2) Dead-end detours and diversions are avoided. 3) Hesitation—with second-guessing, delays and debates—is squelched. As Netscape founder, Jim Barksdale, said “If we have data, let’s use it. If we have opinions, let’s use mine.” B2B innovators can find the data they need in Market Satisfaction Gaps.
More in white paper, Market Satisfaction Gaps
Over the years, we’ve seen business leaders question the employee time and airfare bills needed to interview customers in the front-end of innovation. But how much R&D and marketing was squandered developing a product that made customers yawn? That’s a question that should probably be asked more often.
More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs
Jeff Bezos believes this is a more important question than “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” In the world of new product development, we find that customer outcomes—desired end results—tend to be more stable over time than supplier solutions. So instead of validating your solutions during customer interviews, seek to uncover and understand the most important, unmet customer outcomes. Then pursue these stable targets with your solutions.
More in video, New Product Blueprinting—the Future of B2B Innovation
We see three areas where leaders can have a greater negative impact on innovation than positive: 1) organizational friction (travel bans, spending freezes, hiring delays, excessive re-orgs, etc.) that slow innovation to a crawl, 2) spreading too few resources over too many projects so that nothing moves briskly, and 3) short-changing the front-end of innovation, so that a clear picture of customer needs is lacking. Companies pay a heavy price for keeping such leaders in place.
More in article, Accelerate New Product Innovation
“Proven right” breeds confirmation bias; “be right” inspires a search for truth. In new product development, “proven right” seeks to validate the supplier’s ideas; “be right” explores customers’ worlds seeking what others have missed. “Proven right” results in squandered R&D spending and missed opportunities; “be right” in delighted customers, premium pricing, and pleasant financial review meetings.
More in e-book, Leader’s Guide to B2B Organic Growth