Is it “overkill” to apply advanced B2B customer insight? Was Japanese auto quality overkill?

I worked in manufacturing in the 1970s, when it seemed like “overkill” to train operators in statistics for quality control. But this is expected today. I met Dr. Deming in the 1980’s and heard him say, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is optional.”  Compared to statistics, the science of B2B customer insight is quite simple. Will you be GM or Toyota in the innovation wave?

More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 12).

Make your decision when you’ve gathered the most facts and spent the least money.

I call this the golden rule of investment. In the case of innovation, it explains why the front-end-of-innovation is the critical battleground. The winning company is the one that most efficiently learns whatever intelligence is needed to drive this important decision: “Should we advance this project into the costly development stage?”

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

Should you take a Do-It-Yourself approach to customer insight?

B2B producers often take a DIY approach, while B2C marketers hire research firms. Why? For one thing, consumer products often have bigger annual revenues: Think of all the small B2B parts in a big-ticket item like a smart phone. For B2C it’s all about that launch. But B2B companies often “turn the crank” on many smaller new products… so its economical to develop in-house expertise.

More in article, You Already Answered 4 Questions, but… Correctly? (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

I’m still looking for a B2B industry that does not suffer from supplier-centric innovation.

It would seem obvious that new product development should be focused on those who will pay for these products: customers. It would seem. Yet B2B suppliers routinely pursue their own ideas, concepts and hypotheses, paying too little attention too late to market needs. True customer-centric innovation is a completely different mindset.

More in article, Is Your Innovation Supplier-Centric… or Customer-Centric? (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

Don’t rely on “hired guns” to understand B2B customer needs.

Professional interviewers can be helpful at times… but ultimately, customer insight skills are a competitive edge your company should own. Your B2B customers want to talk to the people who will innovate on their behalf… not some note-taking middle-men. And there’s nothing quite like hearing new customer insights first-hand, is there?

More in e-book, Reinventing VOC for B2B (page 23).

When it comes to B2B customer needs, uncertainty exists in suppliers’ minds, not customers’.

Many ventures try to create new products or services under conditions of market uncertainty. This is a huge challenge for B2C. But uncertainty does not exist in the minds of most B2B customers… who have great knowledge, interest, objectivity and foresight. If you know how to access this, your supplier uncertainty will plummet.

More in white paper, Lean Startup for B2B (page 12).

You can’t live in customer outcome space… but you should be a frequent flyer there.

Understand customer outcomes thoroughly before entering solution space. The drill bit is the supplier solution; the hole is the customer outcome. For every job, there are scores of outcomes your product could deliver… how fast the hole is drilled, how accurately, how easily centered, how much mess is created, etc. Outcome insight leads to solution brilliance.

More in article, Is Your Innovation Supplier-Centric… or Customer-Centric? (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth newsletter).

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?