In many B2B markets what was once a unique product or service is soon copied, often by low cost producers, making it a commodity and driving down price. The challenge then is generating creative new product ideas on an ongoing basis.
However, there is a problem concisely put by Claire Mason in a recent ManBitesDog post ‘despite the critical importance of ideas-led selling, B2B marketers face an uphill struggle to generate the big ideas their organisations need. Four in five marketing leaders believe that B2B marketing is facing a crisis of creativity according to our latest research’.
So what is the solution? The obvious may be to poll the views of the sales department or ask your customers but as outlined in our post ‘Customer input to the new product development process’ both routes have their problems. What is required is a person (or better still a group) with both an in depth understanding of the market and its needs and the creativity to deliver a product or service that offers a unique solution.
The problem is such people are in extremely short supply. Worse still when they do exist in organisations higher management often lack the vision and market understanding to back them and put the resources in place to develop their concepts further. The statistics on new product failure are well known and risk adverse organisations are often unwilling to take a punt on a new product concept.
Where new product ideas do often flourish is where the person with the idea is also the business owner. He or she does not need to convince anyone it will work or plead to management for resources (they are the management) but if the product is a success this route tends to bring problems further down the line.
The problem is many start up business owners are superb product people with a detailed understanding of the marketplace but are poor managing directors. They understood the product and market but sometimes also lack the capability to communicate their latest new product concept to company personnel leaving them as the only person to really take it forward.
The real creative product people often are sidetracked (or promoted) into a position where they can add less value. For a company to thrive this rare resource needs to remain on the front line, interfacing with customers, intermediaries and sales and marketing. The risks of new innovative new products are significant but perhaps the long term risks to the long term future of a business of not taking the risk are greater.
If that elusive person with the creative vision and the market knowledge can be found they should be backed, rewarded appropriately, and left in the position they can deliver the most value.