Research on Finnish business-to-business companies showed that 40% of their new products were based on future needs. They shared their sources, and now they're yours too.
Understanding and anticipating future customer needs is essential for staying ahead in today's dynamic business landscape. In this post, we will explore nine critical sources to help you effectively assess future customer needs.
1. Cooperation with Advanced Lead Customers or Users
Collaborating with visionary customers or early adopters can provide valuable feedback on emerging trends and unmet needs. Engage in active dialogue, conduct interviews, and involve them in product development to gain a competitive advantage by aligning your offerings with future market demands.
2. Free Form Customer Contact
Encourage open communication channels with customers, such as unguided feedback forms, customer surveys with open questions, and customer service interactions. Analyzing these unstructured conversations can reveal hidden pain points, evolving preferences, and areas requiring improvement, enabling you to adapt and tailor your offerings accordingly.
3. Prediction of Changes in Laws and Regulations
Changes in laws and regulations often influence future customer needs. Monitor legislative developments and anticipate their impact on your customer base. Adapt your products or services to align with compliance requirements and seize new opportunities arising from regulatory shifts.
4. Analysis of Customers and Stakeholders of Customers
Understanding your direct customers and the stakeholders influencing their decisions is crucial. Conduct thorough market research to identify key influencers, decision-makers, and their interests, which can help you anticipate evolving customer needs and preferences.
Standardization plays a vital role in determining future customer needs. Monitor emerging industry standards, technological advancements, and best practices. By offering products or services that align with or surpass foreseeable standards, you can cater to customers seeking innovation and efficiency.
6. Systematic Search of Needs Underpinning Customer Requirements
Dig deeper into customer requirements by identifying the underlying needs driving their preferences. Employ techniques like jobs-to-be-done analysis and value proposition mapping to uncover critical customer motivations, leading to effective, innovative solutions that address emerging needs.
7. Working in Customer Processes
Immerse yourself in your customers' journey to gain first-hand insights into their needs and challenges. Observe and analyze their interactions with your products or services. Compare your findings with new technologies and other inventions to find new solutions.
8. Profiling Done by Consultants
Engage experienced consultants who specialize in customer research and profiling. They can objectively view your customer base, identify emerging trends, and offer strategic recommendations based on their expertise, ensuring well-informed decision-making.
9. Organizing Customer Needs into a Hierarchical Form
Create a structured framework to organize and prioritize customer needs hierarchically. This systematic approach lets you focus on addressing high-priority needs first, ensuring resource optimization and maximum impact on customer satisfaction.
Leveraging these nine strategic sources is a good start to grasp your customer's future needs. But this work is never done. Time progresses, so it requires continuous monitoring, active customer engagement, and a forward-thinking approach.
Please note that the future needs of your customers aren't the same as your future customers. Future customer profiling is another way of securing long-term growth. But that's for another post (click here to subscribe).
If you'd like to read the paper, here is the reference:
Kärkkäinen, H., Piippo, P., Puumalainen, K. and Tuominen, M., 2001. Assessment of hidden and future customer needs in Finnish business‐to‐business companies. R&d Management, 31(4), pp.391-407.
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