B2B customers can tell you exactly what they want… but you must know how to ask.

Imagine you’re planning to build a new home: Your architect sees you for half an hour, spends the first 15 minutes talking about sports, and then shows you pictures of other houses he designed. Later, when the house fails to please you, he dismisses it saying, “Well that buyer just didn’t know what he wanted.” Ever treat customers this way?

More in article, What is New Product Blueprinting?

Too many suppliers conduct customer tours like tourists.

Most of their thinking goes into adjusting their hardhats. Too bad: Tour insights provide great context for interviews… and your “fresh eyes” may yield ideas for improvement. You might see what everyone else has seen, but think what no one else has thought. You just need to learn the proper skills to do this.

More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 17).

Suppliers want differentiated products, but most fail to understand what this requires.

You want differentiated new products that will induce enthusiastic customers to open their wallets wider. Differentiated products must be… different. But different from what, in what ways, and to what extent? 100% of this information can be learned from B2B customers… but only if you engage them in specific discussions. Very few suppliers do this correctly.

More in article, Four Steps Needed for New Product Differentiation (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

Your goal should be to waste fewer innovation resources than competitors.

Well, isn’t that inspirational? Perhaps not… but remember you’re in a constant battle with competitors to innovate for customers. One of the best ways to tip the “efficiency” balance in your favor is to consistently learn when projects are unattractive… before competitors. Then decisively kill them so resources can be used for winning projects.

More in article, Are You Maximizing Your Profits?

Pursuing the right customer needs requires divergent and convergent thinking… in that order.

For every job a customer does, there are dozens of potential outcomes… so diverge with customers to uncover far more than competitors. Then ask for 1-10 importance and satisfaction ratings so your R&D can converge on the important, unsatisfied outcomes… while competitors guess. I’d like to make this sound more complicated, but it’s not.

More in white paper, Timing is Everything (page 8).

If you’re eradicating surprises in quality & productivity, it’s hard to embrace them in innovation.

Innovation is fueled by the unexpected. But many suppliers are surprise-averse. They start with their own ideas, filter them through internal processes, and avoid customer-led interviews. In an odd twist, surprise-averse suppliers are the most likely to be surprised… by mistaken market assumptions and blockbusters introduced by surprise-seeking competitors.

More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 10).

Innovators should worry about errors of omission as much as errors of commission.

When you validate your new product concept with customers, they may tell you if it’s a dud. Great… you’ve avoided the error of commission. But what about the error of omission? If you first enter the customer’s world with B2B divergent interviews, you might learn of unexpected needs that lead to a blockbuster.

More in white paper, Lean Startup for B2B (page 9).

Don’t overlook the staggering impact of directly engaging customers in your innovation.

Innovating companies that directly engage their customers have operating income growth rates three times higher than those that do not.  When you see a gulf of 3X, it should scream “opportunity!” Gaining customer insight in an engaging manner may be commonplace in the future, but today it’s a competitive advantage. Will you seize it?

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

Look for Landmines and Launchpads… especially in unfamiliar markets.

A Landmine can kill your project… but who steps on a Landmine they can see? When you convert assumptions and questions into facts, you make landmines visible and therefore harmless. A Launchpad is an unexpected, high-value customer outcome. Discover these before competitors to develop solutions in a “competition-free zone.”

More in white paper, Innovating in Unfamiliar Markets (page 13).

Your unwillingness to walk away from a losing project degrades your overall ability to win.

Consider two new-product success modes. In Success Mode A you launch a well-protected, premium-priced product. In Success Mode B, you thoroughly search the market segment, but find no unmet needs you can address. So you walk. May not sound heroic, but it’s the only way to ensure enough resources for more Success Mode A.

More in article, Are You Maximizing Your Profits?