B2B product management is a different animal! Consumer products can be fascinating, especially the high-profile products that meet such an obvious need no one ever thought of until the product was born. Many B2B organizations strive to create that next killer product everyone has to have. B2B organizations should use consumer products as inspiration to find unmet needs, but the manner in which B2B and B2C companies uncover and meet those needs couldn’t be more different.

In a consumer-product company, the consumer and the user are usually one and the same, so the process for uncovering needs starts and ends with the consumer. Innovation and new products are synonymous.

In a B2B organization, users of a product or service are part of a functional department. Those departments are part of an organization, and those organizations are part of an industry. Therefore, the process for uncovering needs starts with the industry dynamics and ends with the frontline processes and activities and the people who perform them.

The bottom line: In B2B, uncovering needs doesn’t begin with users it ends with them. Innovation isn’t synonymous with new products. Innovation is synonymous with uncovering needs that have the biggest impact on the goals of the target-customer organizations. New products may or may not be required to deliver the solution. Often times, the innovative new solution is nothing more than a series of coordinated improvements across existing products/services that together, deliver powerful new capabilities in a unique way – a new solution.

B2B organizations constantly striving to create that next killer product may be setting themselves up for one disappointment after another. They’re better served to invest cycles uncovering the next killer problem or obstacle preventing target-customer organizations from reaching their goals and then determining the best mix of products and services necessary to create the most compelling and innovative solution.

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