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).

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).

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).

It’s hard to create differentiated products if you don’t behave differently.

Companies that want differentiated products often behave the same as competitors. They can’t say, “Our R&D staff is 20% smarter than competitors’, so our products usually win.” But they could win by understanding customer needs better than competitors… letting them “aim” their R&D brainpower much better. Be different to differentiate.

More in article, Do You Really Interview Customers?

There always has been and always will be one way to command a higher price.

You have to deliver important value that customers cannot get anywhere else to command a higher price. If customers can get this same value from just one other supplier, they’ll use it as leverage for lower pricing. So the difference between delivering new value and matching existing value is the difference between raising and lowering market pricing.

Download our Free white paper to discover how the Innovation Wave will differ from earlier Quality and Productivity Waves.  Catch the Innovation Wave (page 8).

Forget a price premium… unless you deliver value beyond customers’ next best alternative.

If you don’t ask customers the right questions, you can’t quantitatively assess their next best alternative. So you’ll have to guess at pricing. Guess too high and customers won’t buy. Guess too low and… well, customers will let it go this time. And you leave money on the table, perhaps for a decade or more.

Read more in this free white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 12), which details how your company can improve customer value and experience a significant increase in sustainable organic growth.

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?

Quickly identify any over-served markets. Then sprint in the opposite direction.

If all customer outcomes in a market are either unimportant or already satisfied, you’ll see low Market Satisfaction Gaps. This is an over-served market, and there’s only one thing that makes these customers happy: Dropping your price. Race to more attractive markets and hope your competitors waste resources here. Have you identified your over-served markets yet?

More in article, Customer Interviews—By the Numbers (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth Newsletter).

It is highly unlikely you see competitive products the way your customers do.

Companies think they know how good competitors’ products are. But when they conduct customer-centric side-by-side testing, they’re often shocked by this unfiltered view of where they really stand. Like a beautiful theory being attacked by a brutal gang of facts. Not pretty, but better than launching a dud. Doing this properly isn’t that hard… but is very uncommon.

More in article, 5 Growth Risks You Can Stop Taking (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth Newsletter).