This is Part I of a series on B2B Marketing and Innovation. Throughout this series we will discuss practical tools and methods to help organizations more effectively bring the customer voice into innovation and internal investment processes. Along the way, we’ll also share a few anecdotes from our customers to highlight how leading companies are using these techniques to drive growth in their own organizations.
Growth, Innovation, Measuring ROI – themes that are quickly moving to the top of the marketing agenda. These areas are exactly where B2B marketers should be delivering impact, since marketing typically defines a B2B company’s value proposition. That value proposition should not be a static object reflecting only what a company does at any point in time. Instead, it must be dynamic, constantly evolving to change with the market and stay ahead of competition.
So marketing must play a leading role in growth and innovation, and it must begin with data. There is no shortage of data today…marketing has more data, tools and insights at their fingertips than ever before. The problem most B2B marketers are facing, however, is in finding the right data to help them effectively deliver the necessary insights to drive growth. There is no clear "big data" source for innovation.
So where are the deep insights that tell you what the market needs in the future and where you should be investing? Where can you get this data? The simple answer is: from your customers.
In B2B, customers know their own challenges best, and, therefore, are the best source for understanding what they need, why they need it, and what they will likely buy from you in the future. Of course, customers aren't the only source of insights to inform future innovation. However, if you don’t have customer data feeding into your innovation process, then you are at a competitive disadvantage by missing a critical data source to inform internal investments and improve your probability of success.
Unfortunately, neither customer-facing technology tools (like CRM), nor transactional data have the type of customer data needed for innovation and growth. In B2B you need to go to your customers and obtain it from them. The challenge – and this is especially true for B2B Marketing – is how to gather truly actionable insights at scale and with limited resources and budget.
Traditional innovation research or marketing studies can be costly. Just as critical, research is typically a one-off event or study that does not create a systemic source of customer insights in which there is a recurring mechanism or ongoing feedback loop with customers. When you add it all up, even the most forward-thinking marketing teams face the same challenges – how do we gather the proper customer data to drive innovation within our budget and resource constraints?
Over the course of this series, we will highlight key steps that leading B2B Marketing organizations are taking to gather the right customer data and take rapid action to innovate more intelligently. We are working with a number of marketing teams who are driving customer-informed innovation. One theme we consistently hear from these companies is, “You help us get to the right answers faster!”
Consider what getting the right answers faster means for innovation – an activity where you are constantly making informed “bets” on the future with little or no certainty of outcome. There is no crystal ball for which innovation investments will be successful. But if you can bring more confidence, more certainty, more likelihood that your customers will actually buy what you are investing in, imagine the value to marketing and the organization.
With today’s rapidly changing marketplace, innovation is mission critical to ensure you have a truly differentiated value proposition and are optimizing investments to stay ahead. Do you have a plan? Does your organization have a mechanism to effectively bring customer voice for innovation?
In our next post, we'll discuss the first part of the statement above and focus on what exactly customers mean by the Right Answers.