Never sell or solve on customer interviews.

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).

Skip quantitative interviews if you’ve got extra R&D resources to squander.

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).

Got a new product hypothesis? Give it the “silent treatment” during customer interviews.

I love it when our clients have cool technology and clever ideas. But don’t mention these to customers during VOC interviews. From the customer’s perspective, the interview should look exactly the same whether or not you’ve got a great hypothesis. Give your hypothesis the silent treatment for now. Simply listen to the customer.

More in article, Give your Hypothesis the “Silent Treatment” (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth).

Strong innovation metrics should be insightful, predictive and actionable. Not missing.

Strong intermediate (vs. ultimate) innovation metrics share these qualities: 1. Insightful: They help firms understand relationships between cause and effect. 2. Predictive: They measure behavior that will foretell ultimate success. 3. Actionable: Their short “feedback loop” allows rapid adjustments to be made. Are you using such metrics?

Read more in the article, 3 Problems with Innovation Metrics (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

The most overlooked innovation practice? Understanding customers’ alternatives.

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).

Consider an important—if awkward—question to ask new-product project teams.

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?

You can stop “lobbing and hoping” with prototypes and samples.

If you ask B2B customers the right questions, you can replicate their experience within your operation. Learn which outcomes they care about, which test methods simulate those outcomes, and how much satisfaction would be delivered by any test result. Do this properly and you’ll know how they’ll react before they react.

More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 11).

You probably have great “improvement potential” in 3 of 4 value propositions steps.

Consider four steps: 1. Understand value, learning which important outcomes customer lack. 2. Quantify value, estimating the potential value beyond customers’ next best alternative. 3. Build value, by developing a new offering. 4. Communicate value, with a dynamic launch. Most companies can get much better at steps 1, 2, and 4.

More in article, Three Steps to Unbeatable Value Propositions (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

Stop hitting the reset button. Start building capabilities for the long-term.

Business leaders focused on the short term are just showing up. They compete for market share this year, hit the reset button, and repeat the process next year. No serious, long-term capability-building. Count yourself fortunate if you compete against such companies. They’re easy to beat with the right time horizon.

More in article, Build Growth Muscles at Your Company (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth Newsletter).

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?