New Product Blueprinting
Front-end innovation for B2B organic growth

9 Best Practices for Recruiting Customers

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Man on phone recruiting customers

When getting started with New Product Blueprinting, a common question is, “How long does a Blueprinting project take?” The answer is a very unsatisfying “It depends.” The biggest schedule item that “it depends” upon is the time to recruit customers. Truthfully, the rest of the Blueprinting process – from executing interviews to analyzing data – is not overly time-consuming. Therefore, if we become proficient in recruiting, we can execute projects quickly. And if we can execute quickly, we can accelerate our organic growth and innovation.

Though we speak of recruiting a “customer,” we sometimes instead use the market research term “respondent” since the word “customer” may actually be confusing. This, of course, is because we may interview a broader audience than just our own customers. Also, use of the word “respondent” reminds us that we are executing market research. Either term is fine and can be used interchangeably.

As we begin our recruiting process, we have a fundamental question to answer, “Who should we interview?” To answer this question, we must ask ourselves an even more fundamental question, “Who are we innovating for?” This question can be phrased from various perspectives. Here are some examples:

  • Whose life do we want to make better as a result of this project?
  • Who has the problems that we wish to solve?
  • Who executes the job or task that we wish to improve?
  • Who uses the product in our area of interest?
  • Who experiences problems with our product?
  • Who influences the purchase of the product?

Once you’ve selected your recruiting targets, it is time to execute! Here are nine best practices for success:

1.  Value representativeness over sample size

For B2B, we can often get all the needs we need for Discovery Interviews with 8-12 respondents. However, this assumes that they have been chosen correctly! In 1936, The Literary Digest incorrectly predicted that Alfred Landon would defeat Franklin D. Roosevelt as president of the US. It made this error even though they had a sample size of 2.4 million! Therefore, a large sample size does not overcome a poorly chosen sample.

2. Include respondents along the value chain

Illustration of project team working process from manager to customer

Especially during Discovery Interviews, consider adding a customer’s customer or a channel partner to the list of respondents. This will help to insure that a customer need is not missed that our immediate customer may not have thought about.

3. Resolve to recruit at least some respondents with internal resources

With market research in B2B, we aren’t just executing research, but we establishing (or perhaps re-establishing) ties with customers. Therefore, when we recruit respondents ourselves, we are doing more than just learning their issues, we are continuing to build customer relationships.

4. Use outside recruiting resources if you get stuck

There are companies who can assist with recruiting. They will work with you to create a screener and will line up interviews for you. This option makes more sense in less concentrated markets. One example is Field Work (www.fieldwork.com). Also, when exploring unfamiliar markets, consider a service such as Supporting Innovation (www.supportinginnovation.com) that can conduct background research to speed up your progress.

5. Get the sales team on board

The sales team is often the link between the project team and the customers. When on board, they can accelerate the recruiting process for the team. Additionally, when sales people are involved with Blueprinting, customers will perceive them in a more positive light – as part of a company that is truly concerned about their needs. To get the sales team on board, walk them through the site blueprintingforsales.com. This will answer common questions and provide a process overview.

6. Use a script for recruiting calls

script-recruit-calls-take-aim-sep15

A script is not necessarily something that one needs to read verbatim. Rather, it is an outline of major points to cover in a recruiting call. Additionally, a script can help the recruiter overcome the fear of “what should I say?” Use the “Script Points for Interview Setup” job aid to reference the key points. This can be obtained from the “Job Aids” link within your Blueprinter 4.0 software or from the AIM e-learning center.

7. Email an agenda to the respondent

When you send an agenda, the respondent will know that this is a professional, organized effort. Additionally, this will help them to anticipate what the interview itself will be like. Reference the “Discovery Interview Agenda Template” job aid. This can be obtained from the “Job Aids” link within your Blueprinter 4.0 software or from the AIM e-learning center.

8. Send the respondent to Haveyoubeendiscovered.com

This site answers the most common questions that respondents will have. It is also a good reference for the recruiter since these questions may come up during the call.

9. Start with a big list and make the calls!

Successful group of business people - isolated over white

Think about it as a numbers game. The more calls you make, the more appointments you will get. Don’t get too worried about who says “yes” and who says “no.” Set aside some time and make many, many calls. The results will follow.

A final note about your recruiting mindset. When executing a Blueprinting project, you are doing your best to help those in your target market. There’s no reason to feel like you’re begging them. Customers will soon realize that you are genuinely trying to help them – and will appreciate it. It will change the way they view you personally – and how they perceive your company. People really do love to talk about their problems – and the New Product Blueprinting process can be a catalyst to more than just successful new products, but to deeper customer relationships.

Article excerpted from Take AIM Newsletter July-August 2015