Scientific Customer Gardening uses the analogy of Scientific Gardening, a technique to create the optimal of growth conditions for plants. Scientific Gardening involves computer monitoring and adjustment, uses sensor technologies, and can optimize growth conditions broken down to the single plant. Scientific Customer Gardening uses the same approach to business growth, broken down to the individual customer. In both cases, not only the growth of plants but also a rising level of performance of algorithms of an underlying learning logic.
Scientific Gardening uses four elements that are responsible for growth: soil, sun, nutrients and water. The target is optimized growth. ‘Optimized’ has a number of elements, speed of growth, volume, taste, standardization, and more. Once you have a vision of where you want to be, you adjust the mix. It will initially happen by trial and error, but after some cases there is enough stuff to apply artificial intelligence for learning.
For us, working at the customer front since many years, across many industries and countries, it is rather obvious which the respective elements are that are responsible business growth.
Why would you compare ‘technology efficiency’ and ‘technology enabling qualities’ in B2B to ‘soil’ in gardening?
For the answer, it is useful to keep in mind that it is the customer’s view that counts, and that we talk about a B2B business relation. In private life, it may be chique to own an iPhone. In business life, nobody adores you because of your new base station. It is not the technology that customers buy. It is some kind of it’s efficiency that it comes with. And here, having innovative technologies in mind, it makes sense to look at it’s value of ‘business model enabler’. This term stands for the qualities to enable new kinds of business for the same customers, or the possibility to attract new kinds of customers.
Any capability of a technology based solution is a potential that can be transferred into value (for the customer), but does not need to. An important element that turns capabilities into value, is….
Focus on customer challenges
This expression stands for ‘sun’ in gardening. Why? Because ‘value’ only exists in the eye of the customer. For customers, value is created as an answer to a challenge. In our former example of the cooking robot, group 4 of customers, are interested in the robot because they want to save money, This is clearly one of the capability of such a robot. However, if the value proposition of the supplier would be: ‘you can cook recipes of the most famous cooks in the world’ (which is also a capability of the robot), the reaction of those customers would probably be like this: ‘Gosh, how fantastic!’. And then, thinking for themselves, they would consider: ‘But probably that requires special and expensive ingredients.’) . The supplier unfortunately only hears the first three words, and is convinced to have well developed the value of the robot to the customer. From the customer point of view, this kind of value has limits, and actually these limits can destroy the value that had been created before.
Value creation, after all, is one of the central topics of Scientific Customer Gardening. It contains a huge amount of optimization potential. Sometimes it only requires a few words to completely change the view that customers have on the same product or service.
In B2B, interaction between suppliers and their customers tends to be more complex than in B2C. For infrastructure supplier, like a data center, interaction is the lubricant that makes business flow. Let it be configuration support, product service, user training, interaction during the usage phase – customer service can be tuned to emphasize the value, or to avoid existing value being destroyed. It can be dosed as a onetime, single support, or as a combination of activities to precisely address the necessities of each single customer.
Any kind of value creation requires the view from the customer position. This is a task that overstrains most suppliers. Most companies are technology specialists, focused on their superior knowledge of their product, service or application. This is why most suppliers only have a limited insight into the true value that they create.
To engage customers to help, is the appropriate means to change this. Customers – to the contrary of many legends – like to be involved. They participate in surveys, they write comments about products and their usage, they can go a long way, once they are convinced it is good for them and worth while.
The problem in B2B is that there are so few customers. It is difficult to get the sheer amount of feedback to have enough details to form a full picture. The Customer Gardening solution to this problem is the ‘sandbox’ approach, where the engaged customer collaborates to achieve a win-win constellation that adds value as well for the supplier as for the customer itself.
Customer engagement is the key to many data shortcomings, to adaptation problems, to product repositionings, to innovation and business model testing. Customer Engagement, however, only works if there is something to compensate the customer for time and effort. But that should not be a problem for a real value thinker.
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