Steve Bernstein

Failure isn’t pretty. From Motorola’s Iridium to Google Wave, business history is full of stories of huge, successful companies making some pretty bad decisions. Decisions that lead to big, fiery, costly, and public failures. Fingers are pointed, shareholders grumble, and some companies even go out of business. Sure, you’ve got to fail fast to innovate. But unless the target market is at the center of the design, then the failure rate will only continue to rise.
Failure in the B2B world is no different — but, because it’s a lot less public — you just never hear about it. Which doesn’t make it suck (or cost) any less.
Case in point: the Cisco Cius.
In an attempt to gain market share for enterprise mobile technology, the Cius, one of the first tablets created for businesses, was clearly an executive idea — not a customer-driven one. Beta testers questioned the need for the Cius, yet the product was released anyway (with an enterprise price tag to boot). After spending less than a year on the market before being discontinued, it suffices to say that this B2B tablet was a failure.
In the wake of this kind of disaster, it’s easy to look back and ask: “What’s the point of collecting feedback from your users if you won’t use it?” Well, often times in companies this large, so much time and money has already been spent developing even a minimum viable product for beta testing that there’s a bias (if not palpable fear) against backing out completely.
So how do you balance these forces? How can large companies innovate and keep customers at the center of their decisions?
These are the questions that the Waypoint Group were thinking of when they wrote their first B2B Customer Success Guide, Failure Sucks! (More for Your Customers, Than for You.). Their vision was to help businesses actively build a program that increases revenue through customer success (and failing less). Think of it as a guide to being a nimble giant.
The core of the advice: start small, and build out. Failure Sucks is a guide to building a strong foundation with a solid customer success team using four main steps to be able to achieve this growth and HEAR your customers.

  • Harness a coalition, recruit your teammates to build evidence that voice of customer feedback will fuel many different parts of the business.
  • Engage with customers. Don’t try to go too big at once, but select a small group of strategic accounts to engage with first.
  • Act on feedback. Put solutions or workarounds in places where you’re able.
  • Reveal the insights. Communicate back to those customers and internally with colleagues to showcase how active listening can accelerate success.

To help get you started down this path, we’ve included the first two chapters of Failure Sucks! below. It includes the foundational concepts laid out in the book, as well as steps to tell a financially compelling story to pique the interest of your colleagues and start winning with success. The book’s website also includes all of the templates and example images used in the book so that readers can actively use the information at work.
Download the first two chapters using the form on the top righthand corner of this post!

Photo credit: Axel Bührmann