Product development can be an effective differentiator for your small business strategy.
Developing new products and services can enable your SME to offer:
- New products and services to new customers (e.g. in new industries, geographic markets or to customer segments that are underserved)
- New products and services to existing customers – thereby enhancing cross-sell and upsell opportunities. (This should definitely be leveraged where you have built strong relationships with customers and strategic partners)
Both of these approaches will enable you to drive the growth of your SME or start-up by increasing your revenues and expanding your market reach.
Product development can consist of any of the following:
- Launching new products
- Extending product lines
- Redesigning existing offerings
It is important to remember that “product development” can also apply to services. SMEs and start-ups looking to undertake service innovation within a B2B context should consider 3 approaches:
1. Digitize Your Offerings
Determine whether there are opportunities to convert manual processes, physical products or traditional services into mobile or web-based offerings.
For instance, enabling business customers to collect and interpret data through their mobile devices will give them fast and convenient access to knowledge and information.
2. Expand According to Strengths
Consider creating new services that either:
- Complement what your start-up or SME is already successfully doing
- Address additional needs that you have identified by listening to customers
Areas that can expand your services include training, consulting and analytics.
3. Meeting more of business customers’ needs
Business customers are always looking for product and service providers that are easy to do business with and can help them to achieve a broader set of their requirements.
By doing so, your SME or start-up will be perceived as a trusted advisor and partner by your customers resulting in them staying and doing business with you for a long time (and in some cases even exclusively).
They will also be much more likely to purchase new offerings your company develops as well as be a strong advocate which will assist you in acquiring more customers.
An effective way to meet a broader set of business customer needs is by creating a Business Customer Solution.
The Business Customer Solution
The business customer solution is commonly referred to as a “bundle” or “package” is comprised of products and services to meet a broader set of business customers’ preferences and requirements.
These solutions typically consist of your core product or service offering AND “value adds” – supplementary services, programs and systems. Examples of these include:
- Ordering and Delivery
- Executive Training
- Industry Engagement
- Problem Solving
- Service Levels
- Service Guarantees
SMEs and start-ups should give strong consideration as to how they may be able to utilise providing supplementary services.
According to a recent study by Salesforce, meeting increasing customer expectations is a key challenge for SMEs. Furthermore, supplementary services are highly valued by business customers and therefore can be a profitable way to differentiate your SME or start-up.
How to Structure Business Customer Solutions
Two ways of how to create business customer solutions (or “packages”) are as follows:
The “Naked Solution”
In this instance, your company provides business customers with the bare minimum of products and services that all customers value. Then provide a selection of add-on options that customers can choose to purchase for an additional cost.
For example, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) company may provide all of its customers with its core CRM solution and access to 24/7 customer support. However, customers are given the options to purchase add-ons such as quarterly reporting, training, consulting on CRM strategy
These are solutions (or packages) comprised of your core products and value adds that constructed and priced based on the amount of perceived value by your business customers. Such bundles are typically offered using a “Gold”, “Silver”, “Bronze” approach.
For instance, with the case of an IT company, a “Gold” Package may include 24/7 support, Service Level Guarantees, Monthly Analytics and Reporting and VIP Invitations to Breakfast Forums. In contrast, “Bronze” level customers, may receive customer support only Weekdays (8am-6pm) and Quarterly reporting
Business customer solutions have been found to be effective in a range of industries including IT, Professional and Medical/Biotech
How to “Listen” To Identify Customer Needs to Create Business Solutions
Four Ways to identify business customer needs that could form components of a business solution (or bundle) are:
- Conducting customer interviews
- Creating a Customer Advisory Board
- Conducting Strategic Customer Workshops
For further information on about approaches to understand business customers, please read Listening to Customers: The Foundation for Start-Up and SME Growth
Need assistance in developing the right strategy to grow your B2B SME?
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Determining how to retain your best customers and also grow your business are 2 key challenges faced by virtually every business owner. Customer Advisory Panels can provide valuable feedback & insights – here’s how:
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