If you check behind every successful business to business (B2B) product, you will notice that there is a product that the companies fuel using proven methods for finding potential customers. Below are some key considerations to looking for B2B customers, including: your chosen market, high-quality customers, end users, and the competition.
Understanding the method that businesses follow to create a product is highly beneficial. We will take into consideration the metaphors used to describe the most common approaches: the pinata approach and the detective approach.
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The Pinata and Detective Approaches
It’s almost impossible to create a successful product when you have an incomplete understanding of what consumers are looking for, what else is already on the market and what’s next in innovation. It is like trying to hit a pinata while blindfolded. If you are lucky you might hit something but, in most cases, you are going to swing wildly and completely miss the target.
If you’re not using carefully gathered information about what users want, you might end up trying to solve a problem or issue that actually does not exist. Obviously, no business wants to sink precious resources into launching a product that no one wants to buy.
If you research the market, customers, and competitors like a detective, you will have a significant chance of bringing something to the market for which there is real demand.
When you compare with B2C research traditionally conducted by product developers, B2B research can be very tricky. Getting feedback from your target audience is nowhere near as easy. Many businesses are leery of other companies asking about operations, needs and potentially confidential information.
Your team will not be able to reach customers directly, but they may have to first connect to one of the stakeholders in the organization before you find an opening. It requires you to do a lot of research before you contact the users.
Know the Problem You Aim to Solve
As we’ve established, you want to precisely define the problem before charging ahead with product development. You also want this precise understanding before even talking to potential customers. Why? It’s essential for you to know for whom you are trying to solve the problem and if there is a product idea in mind. Don’t be vague; come up with as many details as you can think of and nail down the details as much as you can. Some considerations:
Who: Target customer that you have in mind
Why: Statement of a need or an opportunity
What: Name of the product
Type: Category of the product
Pitch: Main reason to buy or the key benefit
Unlike: Alternative for the primary competitive
Our Product: A statement that you release for primary differentiation
There are three aspects of customer research that you need to know and get acquainted with before you take things forward. The three levels are micro, meso and micro. Let’s have a quick peek in each of these categories.
In this level, you look for market and industry conditions: what’s available, trends and possibilities.
Industry Reports: Unless you’re looking into something totally obscure (in which case, do you really want to make a product for that industry?) there are readily available industry reports. These provide information about how large the market is, potential trends and other information. Look these over carefully and consult industry blogs and journals for analysis of the reports.
Market Size: Next thing that you will notice is that you will find a large number that indicates the size of the market x. However, you are not just looking for what the entire market is worth but what your particular product can realistically command. There are two kinds of approaches: top-down method and the bottom-up method. The bottom-up method will help you estimate more accurately the number of customers you might be able to gain shortly after your product hits the market.
Market Segmentation and Trends: Market segmentation offers an alternative method to determine the size of the market. In this process, you break the target market into small groups based on how much each group of spenders are willing to pay to solve a specific problem.
Apart from figuring out the size of the market, you also need to decide on which groups within the market you want to target. Get a sense of what is popular with each group by consulting big blogs, journals, etc. Online forums are also a great place to assess the market.
Once you understand which part of the market you want to zero in on and you have a sense of what’s popular there, you can start the process of actual B2B customer research. Here, you are trying to understand consumer personas and what they mean for your business approach.
Will the buyer also use the product? It is important for you to understand that for B2B products, users and buyers will not necessarily be the same. You need to know who exactly is going to purchase the product and who is going to use it.
Online User Communities: It might be good if you use online communities such as Linkedin, Slack or Reddit to gain additional insights into your potential customers and understand their needs.
Take a look at the competition: Next, you may need to find more details about your competitors. You can easily look at any and all marketing available to the public including their website. On the competitor’s website, you’re likely to find product descriptions, case studies, reviews and informational material. Check other locations they might have posted information including videos and press releases. Don’t forget to follow them on websites like crunchbase.com and also set up Google alerts so that you get a notification when there is a mention of the competitor’s name.
In this level, you do stuff that helps you get more details of the end-users or the customers. You may plan on doing customers interviews. Ask the people you interview several questions as you want to gather as much helpful information as you can. The questions you ask should identify the problem that they are facing and the tools that they are using now and the amount they are paying. Through the interviews, you are seeking to validate your assumptions.
You should plan on using surveys to understand the needs and pain points of the customer. Choose a professional network such as Linkedin to connect with the right participants. You should, however, note that a survey is useful only when you have a large group of participants.
Also, take time to attend industry-related conferences and have brainstorming sessions with people you meet there. You can learn about these conference through blogs and newsletters that are industry related.
This extensive customer research will assist you in your overall product strategy. It will also help you in your design decisions and your technical choices. Without these insights, you are in danger of falling into the pinata approach, swinging wildly in the hopes of hitting something.
You should also remember that this should be an ongoing process and customer research is not something that you do only in the initial stage. Customer needs change continually, and your competitors might be offering new features. Knowing this information will potentially give you an advantage over your competitors.