88 Learning before Hypothesizing

Lean Startup is fine for B2B… but don’t skip this extra “Learn” step.

The “Build-Measure-Learn” cycle in Lean Startup begins with a hypothesis, and is great for B2C. End-consumers can seldom tell you what will amuse them or increase their sense of self-worth. But knowledgeable B2B customer can predict their desired outcomes. So start with a “Learn” pre-step. Customers will tell you all you need if you know how to ask.

More in white paper, Lean Startup for B2B (page 3).

87 Time Machine

When it comes to commercial risk, you should build a Certainty Time Machine.

Consider three product development stages: front-end, development and launch. Most projects reach commercial certainty in the launch phase, as sales are monitored. But you can move this certainty to the front-end. Nearly all commercial uncertainty can be eliminated before development using the science of B2B customer insight.

More in white paper, Timing is Everything (page 6).

86 Commoditization

The forces moving a supplier from commodity to specialty come from within…or they don’t come at all.

There are many forces dragging your products toward commoditization: competitors trying to imitate your products… purchasing agents trying to standardize your products… new technologies trying to obsolete your products. In your quest toward specialty products, you’ll get no outside help. You own this one, baby.

More in article, The Commodity Death Spiral (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

85 Traditional Voice of Customer

If you like sub-optimizing, you’ll love using traditional voice-of-customer methods.

B2B companies have huge advantages over B2C, but they may not be obvious. After all, didn’t the same fellow who bought a rail car of soda ash also buy a can of soda pop? Nope. He changed… a lot. B2B customers are more technically savvy, objective, supplier-dependent, and can predict their needs. Careful reflection of these differences leads to different approaches.

More in article, B2B Customer Interviews: Are They Different?

84 Exhilarating Run

The best customer interviews are exhilarating… like running without boundaries.

Isn’t a fill-in-the-blank customer questionnaire a bit… boring? If instead you keep asking, “Any other problems?”… you’ll have absolutely no idea what the customer will say next. Exhilarating? You bet. Uncomfortable? Perhaps… but only at first. With practice you’ll love it, and you’ll never go back.

More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 12).

83 Products that Escape

Some companies don’t launch products. They let them escape.

This is how one B2B marketer described their launch process to me. It’s much better to use a rigorous process, documented in five brief reports: Launch Plan Summary (with strategy, team, activities & results), Prospect Profile, Message Brief, Media Guide, and Launch Results. The middle three address who to tell, what to tell and how to tell.

More in article, How to Plan an Amazing B2B Product Launch (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

82 Solutions

Be clear on what you own and what your customers own.

Customers own “outcome” space. You own “solution” space. Don’t let them into your space… unless you want to become a contract manufacturer. Instead, enter their space to understand desired outcomes better than competitors. This lets you deliver unique value in your solutions, which is handsomely rewarded though premium pricing.

More in article, Should You Develop New Products like Steve Jobs? (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

81 Shareholder Value

Maximizing shareholder value is a lovely result… but a lousy goal.

Tell me to increase shareholder value and I struggle to identify something I can do as an employee to raise earnings per share. Tell me to understand and increase customer value, and I can think of a dozen things to do, most of them actionable, measurable, and beneficial to our bottom line. Many of these I will find inspiring… as will others.

More in article, Why Maximizing Shareholder Value is a Flawed Goal (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

80 Slow Business Growth

You’ll either get familiar with customer outcomes… or with mediocre growth.

All growth-oriented innovation starts with customer outcomes. This is what customers want to have happen, with no understanding yet of how it will happen. Nothing a company does can achieve profitable, sustainable growth unless customer value is created… which comes only by improving these outcomes.

More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 8).

79 Business Footrace

Product development is a footrace… either a customer-reactive or a market-proactive footrace.

Picture this: A customer tells your sales rep what they want, who hands it off to your R&D. This clever customer tells your competitors the same thing. Terrific. If more than one supplier crosses the finish line, you can forget any price premium. Try this: You choose the race conditions by targeting an attractive market, and exploring its needs better than competitors.

More in article, Are You Squandering R&D Resources?