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?

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).