A colleague and I were having a conversation about some of the growth challenges B2B companies face, particularly when it comes to bringing new products/services to market, and why they struggle to overcome some of the challenges. Blind spots. Often the blind spot is a lack of customer-centricity. And that is the focus of this episode of What’s Your Edge?

customer centric, marketing, new product market, innovation, customer centricity, blindspot, growthRemember when you were learning to drive? If you took driver’s education and had a parent like mine, you might recall the conversation about checking your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes. If you didn’t know about blind spots, you would think you could just move into the lane. And bam. You were in a wreck. Potentially every time. You think it’s clear because you checked the mirrors. But other vehicles are lurking, hidden in the blind spot.

Companies conduct market research, analyze the competition, and talk to customers and prospects to capture market requirements to support developing a new offer to fuel growth. They craft positioning and messaging documents and create and implement a launch plan. They find themselves driving but the traction and product adoption rate needed to meet growth targets are below expectations. In some instances, the product fails, crashes. Why? The proverbial blind spot. They may have been product-centric or sales-centric, but when it came to customer-centric they missed the mark. They created a product without truly taking the customer into account. They may have researched market trends, and yes, talked to prospects. But they only saw what was in the mirrors.

Let’s use a real example to illustrate the point. Eighty-seven million people use health insurance apps. I know of a health insurance company that touts customer care and service as part of their mission. They developed an app thinking that this would reinforce their brand promise and commitment to customer service. Like many apps in this space, it is positioned to give customers more control and better service. But what is it really? This particular app provides the insurance company with its customers’ health information, information they might not normally have access to. This app is designed to reduce call center interactions and costs. In some ways, the inverse of their stated mission.

In fact, every time you contact the call center after the verification process the representative promotes using the app. The 20+ year old company launched its app in early 2019. After four years it has approximately 1,000 downloads and a user rating of slightly over 3. Compare this to over 100,000 downloads or over 500,000 downloads for Humana’s, both with higher ratings. I’d suggest the lack of product adoption and potentially lack of growth overall is a result of the customer-centric blind spot.

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What You See from the Driver’s Seat Impacts What Happens Next

customer centric, marketing, new product market, innovation, customer centricity, blindspot, growthYou’re in the driver’s seat. What you see and do affects everything that happens next. In business, being in the driver’s seat determines whether your company is product-, sales-, market-, or customer-centric.

Think about your company. Is your organization focused on developing innovative and advanced products irrespective of its demand in the market? That is product-centric. Or are you all hands-on deck driven to achieving a revenue number? A sign of the sales-centric organization. Maybe you’re very in tune with trends in the market and fast to adapt to, and successfully, take advantage of these. A market-centric characteristic. All of these can be successful, but if you’re not careful, all of these will result in a customer-centric blind spot.

In its most basic terms, customer-centric means you place your customers at the center of how you operate and the decisions you make. It includes capabilities such as being able to:

  • mobilize your team to support your customer better than alternative options. This might be especially important for customers that rely on professional services to compete or succeed.
  • supply materials faster or of higher quality, such as high-capacity lithium batteries for electronic vehicles.
  • integrate your processes with theirs, which is perhaps where the health insurance app failed. They might not have understood the processes the customer prefers to submit and monitor claims, identify, and manage health providers, check on benefits, and so on.

Addressing the customer-centric blind spot is essential to achieve growth and keep from crashing in today’s customer empowered market. A study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that 72% of top performing companies embrace customer-centricity.

What Can You Do to Overcome the Customer-Centricity Blind Spot?

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In driving we are taught to turn our heads to check for a rear quarter blind spot. Installing mirrors with larger fields-of-view also help. New vehicles have sensors to alert drivers if there is a vehicle in the blind spot.

In business, addressing the customer-centric blind spot requires both turning our heads and widening our view. Begin to widen your field of vision with these 10 questions:

  1. Can you articulate in 1-2 sentences your customers’ primary needs, pains, passions?
  2. Do you know the 3-5 critical decisions your customers’ need to make to declare success in their business/lives?
  3. How important is it to them to address these needs, pains, and passions?
  4. What will happen if they can’t make the decisions, make the wrong decision, or do nothing?
  5. How does your company and your offers help them address the needs and decisions?
  6. How do you do it better than what they do today?
  7. How do you do it better than alternatives they might consider?
  8. What messages resonate best with your customers regarding the pains, decisions, and solutions?
  9. How well do your processes map to processes they use/need?
  10. How aligned are your business outcomes with your customers’ desired outcomes?

Take a moment to cruise through your strategy and quarterly business review documents. Are they mostly about what markets YOUR company is going to pursue? What products YOUR company is going to invest in? How YOUR company plans to sell more “widgets”? Or are they about YOUR CUSTOMERS’ problems, the magnitude of their problems, the hurdles they need to overcome, and how what you offer solves these? If it’s more the former than the latter, your product- and sales- centricity is showing. Take our customer-centricity assessment to gain some insight into your capabilities.

We often find that once B2B companies begin to ask and answer these questions, it’s not long before they surface more questions that when addressed help with overcoming their customer-centricity blind spot and enable them to put growth into overdrive.

We hope you found this episode of What’s Your Edge? worthwhile. What’s Your Edge? is the creation of VisionEdge Marketing. VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult problems when it comes to using data, analytics, process and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you.

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