By Kristyn Corrigan
In today’s competitive landscape, customer insights alone are not enough for a business to thrive. A corporate culture of innovation is essential for survival. However, in many typical “commoditized” B2B categories like engineered components, chemicals and coatings and building materials, the pace of change can be slow. It’s not uncommon for product lines to experience minimal change over the course of many years. While these industries aren’t generally seen as innovative in the traditional sense; they often have the most to gain from innovation.
Over the past several years, commodity product categories have seen a shift from product-focused innovation to experience-focused innovation. B2B companies have the power to innovate and compete on more than just purchase price.
Here are four key trends to keep an eye on in industrial innovation:
- Digitalization: Many aspects of the customer relationship are transitioning to digital platforms. While the pandemic created the need for increased virtual communication, much of it has lingered as COVID subsides. Customer service assessments are being done using web-meetings and mobile devices. Sales conversations happen over web meetings. Many companies have moved their ordering systems online.
- Telematics: Organizations are increasingly looking to technology to assist with effective maintenance and to ensure uptime in their operations. Incorporating AI and smart technology into equipment and its components is changing the way products are developed and reinventing the customer experience.
- Labor Shortage: All industries are facing a labor shortage, but B2B companies that rely on specialized trades are even more heavily impacted. An aging workforce contributes to challenges to staying fully staffed.
- Supply Chain Difficulties: Similar to labor shortages, many industries are facing supply chain issues in the wake of COVID-19. B2B organizations often struggle to procure the materials necessary to create their products/components, creating longer lead-times for end-users and impacting project schedules.
It’s easy to make the assertion that B2B industries are evolving, and innovation is more important than ever. But where do these organizations start? How can companies in B2B industries become serial innovators? At AMS we’d argue that there are four central topics every innovator must master, including:
- Effectively formulating the strategic opportunity for innovation
This includes analyzing stakeholders’ objectives to determine which innovation projects will get funded, determining where innovation fits within the company’s portfolio, aligning innovation projects with your technology roadmap and building the compelling business case needed at the early stages of an innovation project.
- Making sure you’re solving the right customer problems with your offering
This means ensuring that product development aligns with customer needs, determining when in the innovation process to collect insights, and learning how to hear and act on what customers are saying.
- Getting the right people on your innovation team to make it happen
This includes developing an effective innovation team and keeping that team on task in the early stages of innovation.
- Selling the idea through the organization to ensure it gets prioritized
This means gaining early buy-in from stakeholders, creating a persuasive pitch for leadership, and learning how to overcome initial obstacles.
The mastery of these four areas is essential for tackling the pervasive innovation challenges within commoditized markets. To begin your journey to serial innovation, attend AMS’s Product Innovation Master Class. In this workshop you will learn from leaders in the field of innovation: Abbie Griffin, John Mitchell and Kristyn Corrigan. Those who work in B2B industries will find this workshop especially helpful. Come with your toughest innovation challenges and leave with a plan to answer them.