Many B2B companies use prototypes to understand customer needs. But more advanced companies use customer-needs modeling. That is, they learn enough in front-end-innovation customer interviews to predict customer needs with great accuracy.
This yields 3 advantages: 1) Its cheaper and faster to perform “what if” mental experiments in the front-end of innovation than to create physical prototypes later. 2) This modeling lets you understand customers’ next best alternatives… to better price and promote your new product. 3) Your B2B customers will be more engaged when you seek their early advice vs. lobbing your prototypes at them. You can see how this works in this 2-minute video: Benchmark competing alternatives.
More in article, Predict the customer’s experience with modeling.
Champions in any sport know which muscle groups to build… with balance. A rock climber with great finger strength also needs superb core strength. You have two primary innovation muscle groups… one to understand customer needs and one to meet those needs with your new products. Your B2B business might be spending tens of millions of R&D on the latter muscle group. Keep these “meeting” muscles in shape… but start building your “understanding” muscles. That’s how you get to the top ahead of competitors.
More in article, New Product Training: Time to Build Growth Muscles.
This is how one client described his experience with one of his company’s initiatives. Take understanding customer needs, for example. Many companies discuss and debate this year after year, but the wheels just keep spinning without traction. Nothing worthwhile happens until a) people are trained, b) metrics are established and c) new behaviors are rewarded. As Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
More in article, New Product Training: Time to Build Growth Muscles
I’m still looking for the business that failed—or even suffered—from understanding customers too well. Maybe I should stop looking for this rare “black swan” event? It’s certainly no challenge finding companies that don’t understand customer needs well. Sadly, many also don’t understand how badly their lack of customer insight is stunting their growth. Get this right and you may not be a black swan… but you’ll certainly stand out from the rest of the flock.
See video on B2B voice-of-customer at www.vocforb2b.com.
Our research into the views of B2B professionals regarding organic growth revealed: The #1 driver of profitable, sustainable growth is strong value propositions. The #1 differentiator between strong and weak value providers is front-end work. The #1 most desired area to improve is market insight. See a pattern? Today’s key to growth isn’t an improved stage-and-gate process or hiring more R&D staff. It’s understanding customer needs better than competitors.
More in article, Market Satisfaction Gaps… your key to B2B organic growth
This is also known as “attrition warfare,” and is characterized by competitors applying the same tactics. It’s also characterized by everyone losing, even the winners. Keep your productivity and quality initiatives… but understand that by themselves, these initiatives put you in a race to the bottom. Better to focus on what your competitors are not doing well. For B2B companies today, this is understanding customer needs before developing new products for them.
More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs
Many companies develop and lob new products at their B2B customers without first exploring their needs. There may be less efficient ways to understand customer needs than waiting to see if they buy your product… but I truly don’t know what they would be. Years from now, companies will be amazed that our innovation methods were so supplier-centric and inefficient.
More in white paper, Timing is Everything (page 5).
This mantra guides the decisions of the business masses. But is it right? Peter Drucker didn’t think so. He said the primary purpose of a business is to acquire and keep customers. I believe increased shareholder value is a good result, but a lousy goal. You’ll have better results if your goal becomes: “Understand and meet the needs of our customers.”
More in article, Why Maximizing Shareholder Value is a Flawed Goal