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?

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).

“Here today, gone tomorrow.” This is the innovation failure mode that is seldom recognized.

Picture this: You develop a great new product, price it well, and profits begin flowing. This does not go unobserved by competitors who introduce a knock-off, causing prices to drop. Everyone noticed the initial success, but few noticed the failure: Aggressive patent homework might have kept those profits flowing for years. Depressing… if you noticed.

More in New Product Blueprinting article, Are You Maximizing Your Profits?

You say your B2B customers can’t tell you their needs? That would be a first.

It’s much more likely you don’t know how to ask them. B2C customers can seldom describe what will entertain them or boost their self-esteem. But B2B customers are knowledgeable, interested, and objective. They may not know the solutions, but they do know their desired end-results. You’ll learn this when you learn how to ask.

More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 15).

The best way to hear (the customer) is often to see.

One of our best innovations started as an experiment. In 2004 I projected my notes during a customer interview. The customer loved it, the meeting went far longer than expected, and we haven’t looked back since. Sure, customers can correct your notes this way, but our biggest discovery was that customers own what they create and can see.

Read more in the article, The Best Customer Interviews Use a Digital Projector (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

Expect more out of your interview with a hydraulic hose buyer than with a garden hose buyer.

You can have an intelligent, peer-to-peer conversation about pressure ratings, fluid specifications, etc. You can expect greater B2B interest vs. B2C, since your innovations can help the hydraulics engineer become a hero with his next new product. Without innovative suppliers like you, his path to recognition is a difficult one.

Read this article, B2B Customer Interviews: Are They Different?  to learn why you are severely under-optimizing if you are a B2B supplier using one-size-fits all VOC… that others use for consumer goods.

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).

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).

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?

Don’t confuse yourself with Steve Jobs or Henry Ford.

Steve Jobs quoted Henry Ford, who said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’” But these men were end-consumers themselves, so they understood their markets. Most B2B suppliers, typically have much to learn about customer desired outcomes… and B2B customers are willing and able to tell them.

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