In B2B we can do even better than “understanding” customer needs. We can “model” them. Use customer interviews to understand customers’ key outcomes. But don’t stop there. Ask how they measure these outcomes… and how good is “good enough.” Then create a model so you can test how they’ll react to any product design you imagine.
More in article, How to model customer needs
Developing B2B customer insight skills for this growth requires a commitment your competitors may be unwilling to make. Good. You need them to remain shortsighted. As you gain insights, you may enjoy a bonus: Customers are impressed with suppliers that listen to them… and often offer near-term adjacent opportunities.
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 15).
Should your employees learn customer insight skills from an external firm… or should you develop home-grown training? If the external firm has worked with many companies across many global industries, it will probably advance these methods faster and further than you can. Think of them as the golf club maker. The glory belongs to the golf pro… so focus on your practice time, coaching and desire as the pro… not in making clubs.
More in article, You Already Answered 4 Questions, but… Correctly?
“Market Growth” is the tide that lifts all boats… your reward for being just average. “Inherited Growth” comes from great products developed long ago. These are the gifts that keep giving… until they don’t (when you’ve been commoditized). The only one you control is “Earned Growth,” when you understand and meet customer needs better than anyone else.
More in article, Better get used to mediocre growth
We now chuckle at how sales people used to rely on ABC (Always Be Closing) and manufacturers relied on end-of-line inspectors (vs. statistical quality control). But those will pale compared to the way today’s B2B companies test markets: by launching fully-developed products at their customers. When they could have learned customer needs first with some simple interviews. Funny stuff.
More in article, Why will future companies laugh at us?
The human brain likes to diverge first (look at all these deserts), and then converge (the chocolate lava cake, please). We shortcut this highly-effective approach when we begin by asking customers if they like our idea, hypothesis, or prototype. First, diverge with an open-minded exploration of all customer needs in B2B-optimized, voice-of-customer interviews. When you converge in a later round of interviews, do so quantitatively, so your confirmation bias doesn’t kick in.
More in e-book, Leader’s Guide to B2B Organic Growth (Lesson 16).
In Asia, for instance, people are especially mindful of the feelings of peers and bosses. And if customers are accustomed to a trading culture—not “consultative selling”—they’ll expect visiting suppliers to “sell us something.” Patience is needed, but thankfully the desire to be understood is universal.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 27).
Should your product launch include email… trade shows… pay-per-click? Every market segment tends to favor different venues to learn about new ideas. Rather than guessing—and squandering your budget—you should study customers’ behavior. Don’t think, “How do we communicate?” Instead think, “How do they learn?”
More in article, Stop Squandering Your Product Launch Budget
More specifically, it’s learning what you didn’t know about the customer’s world in your target market. If you think it’s about “ideating” to come up with cool supplier ideas—which you’ll “validate” with customers—you’ve got it all wrong. Start with customers and their needs… not with you and your notions. Focus on your solutions after you understand what those who might buy them want.
Learn more about B2B innovation at theaiminstitute.com
You can improve a process anywhere down the value chain, or you can improve the ultimate product. (Mid-stream products don’t count.) Equipment and service providers often have their biggest impact on processes. Component or material makers often have a larger impact on products. In either case, you need to pursue these improvements with passion.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 26).