Let’s face it: Especially in the current economic climate, encouraging organic growth —the development of new products and services to win over new customers and retain old ones—makes a whole lot of sense for B2B companies. Unfortunately, an alarmingly large number of businesses seem to go out of their way to screw up the process.
Dan Adams, author of “New Product Blueprinting: The Handbook for B2B Organic Growth,” has identified seven common mistakes B2B companies commit. Luckily he also provides some straightforward fixes:
1. Ask your customers what their needs are—just don’t invent ones that fit with your solution. After all, customers can sense when you’re not truly interested in them, which obviously won’t do wonders for your long-term relationship.
2. Owing to multiple factors (an inability to reach true decision-makers, for instance), sales reps can’t be relied on exclusively to uncover market needs. But when paired with marketing and technical colleagues…that’s another matter altogether.
3. By the same token, voice-of-the-customer (VOC) consultants shouldn’t be allowed to exclude sales reps from interviews due to the belief they can “sell but not listen.” By doing so, your company wastes a valuable asset.
3. Rather than just relying on a few internal VOC experts to interview customers, train a large group of employees who routinely interact with customers how to obtain information about their needs.
4. Instead of relying on traditional VOC methods like questionnaires, tape recorders, and post-interview analyses better suited for consumer goods, try engaging your B2B customers in a peer-to-peer dialogue. Give them the leeway to lead you to their areas of interest.
5. When measuring customer satisfaction, opt for quantitative over qualitative data. It’s far too easy for an interviewer to selectively offer up customer quotes supporting his bias and assumptions.
6. Since a B2B company’s product can end up as part of an immediate customer’s product (or part of their customer’s products), focusing exclusively on the immediate customer is a mistake.
7. Don’t neglect competitors during the product development process. If a competitive offering provides the same value as yours, you’re doomed from the get-go.