There are four major ways in which leading firms innovate openly with their B2B customers: trend enabler, lead user, concept validator and complementary expertise provider. Each of these types of customers fit at different points along the innovation funnel, based upon the roles they play.
The article goes into extensive detail on how to find the right partners, based upon these four customer types. For example, trend insight enablers may be found by searching social media channels for specific industry trends and technologies, which will often reveal suppliers playing in those spaces. Conferences and trade shows are proven ways to identify lead users and complementary service providers. Concept validators can sometimes be found by identifying the customers of the customer, who are more likely to see the potential of a technology than the direct customer is.
Integrating B2B customers into the innovation process helps your firm to kill two birds with one stone: It improves effectiveness of the innovation process and it improves customer closeness. Recommended strategies for customer integration include forming a cross-industry/cross-value-chain panel of trend enablers and concept validators to help your firm sharpen its innovation strategy and to think about how an ecosystem of complementary expertise providers may increase the innovation firing power of your firm and enable a platform leadership strategy.
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