Innovation begins with listening to and understanding your customer pain points. Rather than focusing on trying to create first and then convince people they need what you are offering. If we create what they need, then it will be more easily adopted by the market.
I tend to take note and listen to ideas that seem to spring up and come to me from various sources. A recent aha for me that real innovation comes from understanding customer problems and market issues. Something that, as being trained to be solution oriented, I’ve intrinsically known, but recently have formulated into better words. It is the beginning step in the Pragmatic Marketing framework http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/about-us/framework . I read about this in a recent Virgin entrepreneur blog post http://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/blog/richard-branson–5-brainstorming-tips . And have seen similar ideas in other sources lately.
So why is this so important and why is it so hard to sometimes do.
I think part of it is that it requires a suspension of our egos. It requires us to truly look outside of ourselves. To be service orientated.
Gaining an expertise in any industry does require hard work, education and smarts. In the technology sector, we often are creating things people never envisioned, and once they are made, people can’t live without. Along with gaining our expertise, we can also acquire a certain amount of confidence or arrogance that we know what is the best solution. Or feel as experts, we have a responsibility to present a solution and look knowledgeable rather than take the time to be vulnerable and ask questions. Or are just enjoying having fun creating things, whether they are useful or not.
I’ve seen situations where the way customer requirements are too often gathered is after the product is delivered and the customer voices discontent. With developers saying, the customer didn’t fully know what they wanted until they saw the first iteration, and could then better describe what they need.
So in a B2B market, how do we get our customers talking and let us know what their issues are before the issue is a problem with our product? Basically by asking them and listening. Where our product is helping them do their job, it may mean identify roles of people who would use the product and interviewing them on the pain points of their job. There may be a need to do research in a market space. Follow thought leaders in your customer’s industry. Use Social networking. Join groups or associations that your customers would join. It may mean holding a focus group of a selection of prospective and existing customers.
The point is to first try to get a robust look at what your customer’s problems are, and then as a second step work on creating a solution to help them overcome these issues. Yes, we might know best how the solution should manifest itself, but the customer or users of our products know best why they need it. If we create what they need, then it will be more easily adopted by the market.