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).
If you focus on unimportant outcomes, customers will greet your new product with a collective yawn. If you satisfy outcomes competitors already meet, customers will greet you with a phone call requesting lower prices. How long will this take them? Depends if they have you on speed dial.
More in article, Your Best Path to Profitable, Sustainable Organic Growth
You want to get the right B2B interviewees in the room, but setting up great interviews can be tough. Interviewees may think… “I’m too busy… I don’t want to discuss confidential information… I can’t be bothered by a boring survey… I’ll bet they just want to sell me something.” Knowing how to overcome objections is as important a competitive edge as the interviewing skills themselves.
More in article, 9 Best Practices for Recruiting Customers
When you launch a product, do customers instantly begin buying? Or do they need months of deliberation? Start them deliberating well before your launch with engaging interviews and follow-up. Customers will help you make course corrections for a better new product… and when you’re ready to sell, they’ll be ready to buy much faster.
More in article, The Missing Objective in B2B VOC
Imagine a fellow on a date that talks about himself for an hour. His only questions are, “What’s your income? What’s your educational level?” Then he closes with, “Will you marry me?” Does this sound like an old-fashioned “qualify-and-then-close” sales call? As in a good date, you should be genuinely interested by your customer and their needs.
Learn more about B2B innovation at theaiminstitute.com
These may be the same… or not. If you make welding machines, your customers’ alternatives may be mechanical fasteners or epoxy adhesive. When you have a choice between supplier-centric or customer-centric thinking, always choose the latter. Exploring customers’ alternatives passes this customer-centricity test.
More in article, Benchmarking for B2B Product Innovation
B2C employees (e.g. Apple engineers) are consumers themselves, so they have high typical customer insight… but low potential insight, since consumers can’t easily predict what will entertain them. The gap between typical and potential insight when serving knowledgeable B2B customers is much larger. This is your competitive edge if you close the gap before competitors.
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 13).
We asked this question of new-product teams that had conducted a total of 875 B2B-optimized customer interviews. 96% said these interviews would have a moderate, significant or great impact on their company’s organic growth rate. Only 4% said the impact would be “slight.” About the same amount also felt such interviews would positively impact their company’s culture.
More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs (page 10).
You’re developing your customer’s new product. It’s like this: “Mr. Customer, we’ve assembled a team aimed at developing something you’ll love. As you can see, we even brought a lead R&D person with us to listen to you. So can you tell us everything you think we should know before we going into our labs? We want to get this right so the innovation makes you a hero at work.”
More in article, Reduce Bias in Voice of the Customer
Send commercial-technical teams on interviews… but don’t let them sell or solve. If you sell during voice-of-customer sessions, customers know you’re not really interested in them. If you solve, you’re jeopardizing your intellectual property. In either case, you’re wasting precious time better used to understand customer needs.
More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 24).
After qualitative interviews, seek customer ratings on key outcomes: “How important is abrasion resistance on a 1-10 scale? And how satisfied are you today with abrasion resistance on a 1-10 scale?” This lets you converge with confidence on only those outcomes customers care about… those with Market Satisfaction Gaps over 30% (important and unsatisfied).
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 11).
Sure, the most important practice is understanding customer needs. But most overlooked? Few suppliers ask customers 1) for the most important, unsatisfied outcomes, 2) what test methods measure these outcomes, and 3) how satisfied customers are by various test results. Without these questions, you cannot properly assess competing alternatives.
More in article, Four Steps Needed for New Product Differentiation (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).
If any process in your company should be customer-driven, it should be the one developing products for customers, right? So try this at your next review: Ask team members how many hours they spent talking to customers… and how many hours working internally. You may be surprised at how little time was spent understanding customer needs.
More in article, Should Your Stage-Gate® Get a No-Go?