Traditional VOC relies on questionnaires, tape recorders and post-interview analyses. That’s fine for B2C, but your B2B customers are insightful, rational, interested and fewer in number. They’re smart and will make you smarter if you engage them in a peer-to-peer fashion, take notes with a digital projector, skillfully probe, and let them lead you.
More in 2-minute video at 14. Understand your B2B advantages
After presenting conclusions from months of VOC research, a marketer’s boss said, “No… I think customers want this instead.” A terrible reaction, but why did it happen? The marketer had no hard data—just quotes, impressions and anecdotes. You’ll be more believable, confident and correct—with unfiltered, quantitative customer data.
More in 2-minute video at 27. Quantitative interviews are a must
Problem 1—What’s the right question?—focuses on market needs. Problem 2—What’s the right answer?—is all about your solutions. Most companies put 90+% of project spending into Problem2, yet Problem 1 causes most new product failures. Hmmm… are you sensing a possible competitive advantage here? Will you explore it further? Will you seize it?
More in white paper, www.catchtheinnovationwave.com (page 4)
Your B2B customers have a long list of problems to be solved. But it’s not their job to carefully explain each one and deliver it gift-wrapped to your solution providers. It’s your job. When your sales professionals probe deeply and capture customer needs uniformly in your CRM, you’ll gain unprecedented market insight. And by probing well, your sales team will sell more. We call this Everyday VOC.
More in Everyday VOC white paper, www.EVOCpaper.com
Cross “interview guide” off your packing list and add “digital projector.” The former indicates you—not the customer—will be guiding the interview. Not good. Project your notes and let the customer tell you their next problem or ideal state: You’ll learn what you didn’t know you didn’t know, they’ll correct your notes, and they’ll be much more engaged.
More in 2-minute video at 29. Engage your B2B customers
Companies like to talk about the voice-of-the-customer, but most just listen to themselves as they create “conference room” products. The team gathers internally to decide for the customer what they’ll want in a new product. This team will always lose to the team that immerses itself in the customer experience, and designs a product to improve that experience.
More in 2-minute video at 22. Immerse your team in customer outcomes
Do you like to answer surveys at home? How about at work? How do you think customers feel about filling in your questionnaire? Forget your list of brilliant questions. Instead, learn to brilliantly probe whatever customers want to tell you. You’ll be rewarded by customers who actually want to talk to you.
More in e-book, www.reinventingvocforb2b.com (page 2)
How about knowing their response before they see it? B2B customers are so knowledgeable that you can model their behavior based on what you learn in customer interviews. Prototypes are still worthwhile—for refinement and engagement. But they’re far too expensive and time-consuming if you do them before conducting insightful B2B customer interviews.
More in article, How to model customer needs
Neither will customers pay you for a product they don’t need. I call this new-product failure mode, “Nice shot, wrong target.” It is far too common. Most customers really do have something “broken” that needs fixed. Figure out what this is before you design your next new product, and they’ll pay you handsomely.
More in New Product Blueprinting article, Are You Maximizing Your Profits?
Some products deliver enormous profits for decades, carrying whole businesses and careers on their sturdy shoulders. And then there are the tired, the poor, the huddled masses of wretched new products you wish were on your competitors’ teeming shores. You’ll find the blockbusters always satisfy six conditions. (See link below for details.)
More in article, Are You Maximizing Your Profits?
One is throwing more money at R&D in a Soviet-style arms race. Another is exhorting the troops to do better. An all-time favorite is asking tough project-review questions… but not training teams in the skills needed to find the answers. What if all your teams had the highest possible skills in understanding customer needs? Might this work better?
More in article, Do You Really Interview Customers?
Ever watch stage-gate reviews or entire workshops wrestling with The Value Proposition? It’s not pretty. In my experience, good B2B customer interviews yield potential value propositions like so many ripe apples falling from a tree. You just need to pick which to pursue. If you have to dream them up, you’re climbing the wrong tree.
More in article, Three Steps to Unbeatable Value Propositions (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).