What’s the impact of B2B-optimized customer interviews on product design?

We asked how much B2B-optimized interviews impacted teams’ designs for the products they were developing. Five out of six teams said the impact was “great” or “significant.” Hmmm… makes you wonder what those products would have looked like without these interviews. Do you think your new products could be improved this way?

More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs (page 2).

Launching products at customers is an incredibly inefficient approach to B2B customer insight.

Many companies develop and lob new products at their B2B customers without first exploring their needs. There may be less efficient ways to understand customer needs than waiting to see if they buy your product… but I truly don’t know what they would be. Years from now, companies will be amazed that our innovation methods were so supplier-centric and inefficient.

More in white paper, Timing is Everything (page 5).

Market-facing innovation routinely suffers from wrong facts and missing facts.

The #1 culprit for wrong facts is the untested assumption. Someone thinks the customer would like this or that, and the assumption morphs into a “fact” over time. A missing fact occurs when an important question is not answered. The overwhelming reason is… it’s never asked. With proper B2B customer interviews, you can avoid most wrong and missing facts.

More in article, Should Your Stage-Gate® Get a No-Go?

So many ways to fail. Do you have a favorite?

In the front end of innovation, though, there are just two ways to fail. An error omission is failing to uncover an unarticulated customer need. An error of commission is choosing the wrong customer need to work on. Funny thing about errors of omission: No one knows you erred… until a competitor launches a blockbuster product.

More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs (page 5).

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).

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).