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B2B Innovation

Advice from the trenches.

Bruno Pešec
Bruno Pešec
30 min read
B2B Innovation

How can we build products business want?

What makes B2B innovation different from B2C innovation?

What are some of the biggest mistakes innovators and entrepreneurs make when trying to come up with products and services specifically targeted at businesses?

Étienne Garbugli, the author of Lean B2B, and myself addressed the above questions—and more—in the B2B Innovation webinar.

You can find the recording, transcript, and licence information below.

Webinar recording

Webinar transcript

BRUNO: Hello, welcome to the B2B Innovation Webinar. My name is Bruno Pesec and I help business leaders innovate profitably. I have over a decade of experience succeeding and failing with innovation in different industries, including defense, manufacturing, entertainment, financial services, maritime and many, many more.

Tonight, the special topic is going to be: How can businesses innovate and create products that other businesses want to buy?
Now before we dive into the topic itself, I want to remind you that we're doing this on Zoom. So, on the bottom of your screen, you should see a toolbar with the chat icon, a Q&A box or something similar. So, please feel free to write in comments, questions, reflections, whatever you'd like and I promise, Étienne and I are going to address them during the webinar.
And yes, you heard it correctly, tonight or today, I'm not alone. I'm joined by a good friend and a very talented individual. Étienne Garbugli. Étienne wrote some really, really great books.

But before he wrote those books, he developed a specific skill and he has a lot to share. That's why I invited him tonight. Because as I said, we're going to be focusing on B2B innovation and I want to have a conversation with no one else but Étienne tonight. Étienne, please come join us on the stage, if you're still here. Here you are!

ÉTIENNE: I am still here! I didn't realize I could actually leave.

BRUNO: Greetings, Étienne! Well, you know, today in the digital world it's never easier to leave. You just click a red button and you're out of here.

ÉTIENNE: Don't give me the idea.

BRUNO: So Étienne, you know, I can't do it justice. So please, if you can just shortly introduce yourself to the people listening. Like, I'm very familiar with your work, great work, but if you can bring it to others as well. And then we'll take it to the topic I said that I want us to discuss.

ÉTIENNE: Yes, yes. So I've been working in different capacities in innovation for the last twenty years, almost. I worked as a designer initially, then I worked in different functions with companies. I started my own startups, ten, twelve years ago maybe. This has led me to work in different companies and in different innovation capacities. Also, my challenge is working with startups and trying to apply The Lean Startup methodology. It led me to write the first book in 2014 called Lean B2B. Ever since, I've been refining and improving different methodologies that help entrepreneurs and companies out around the world innovate a little more effectively. I'm in the process right now of publishing the second edition of the book Lean B2B. I've also published other books. So my goal at this point is trying to help diminish the number of failures in B2B specifically for startups and enterprises as well.

BRUNO: And I do remember back in the day, when Lean Startup was starting to gain popularity, like in early 2008, I mean the movement started before that but that is when actually the book came out.


BRUNO: I remember how I always perceived your work was a response to something that was lacking. Like there was running Lean which was a response to a lack in methodology, or there was no hard methodology back then it was a bunch of individuals practicing the method across the world. You also identified a gap, specifically, when trying to use the Lean Startup method to actually come up with products, right? If you can go a little bit more in the gap you actually perceived.


BRUNO: I would say that at the core, this gap is the difference between B2C and B2B innovation.

ETTIENE: One hundred percent. So I think the first time I heard about the Lean Startup, I was working for a company called Thoughtworks in Asia. They are a company that are doing a lot of innovation works and working with a lot of agile delivery of different types of projects.

We were actually big users of the business model canvas, a lot of the different mindsets design thinking at that point. And I heard about the Lean Startup coming out. So, I think this was in 2011, the book was coming out like six months after that. I was actually really getting excited about the release of the book. I really wanted to start doing some more Lean stuff and I also wanted to start a company.

So when I moved back to Canada, I started working with partners on a startup called Our Voice, and we started working on different ideas.

Within the first few weeks, we started cold calling companies. We had landing pages. We were starting to try to convince these large companies with twenty-five thousand employees to click links on landing pages to convert, or trying to understand which versions were working best with products. Which were the best value propositions? How were we going to bring the products to market the best ways? And we were struggling a little bit trying to understand the dynamics inside organizations.

So maybe the first real realization that I had at that point was, okay, so these techniques that we talked about in the Lead Startup, for example, landing page test, smoke test, these different approaches are way more effective when there are a lot of people to click on things and when you can actually get statistical significance.

So, when you're working B2B, when there are a lot of companies in your market, for example, its way touchier to work with these strategies to try to get some clear signals of whether or not that business will actually buy your product. So moving forward as well, it was very difficult to get the right signals because I was speaking with people that could be the users of technology, but they were not always the buyers. The buyers were not always in power, empowered to actually make decisions. So I was running into situations where I was demoing ideas and we were talking about different things but whenever I met other types of stakeholders, I would get different perspectives. And oftentimes those would invalidate the other learnings that I thought we had, and manage to pull up with the discussion. So it was getting a little tricky to kind of get some clarity in terms of moving forward and understanding how to build the right solution.

We also started getting a lot of positive feedback, so we were working on something that was on a very hot topic at the time, it was employer brand monitoring. Basically, how do you understand how candidates view your company as an employer? We were working with HR departments, recruiters, and we were trying to create a solution that would allow them to monitor their visibility, monitor their reputation on the market. The issue there was that this was super hot topic at the moment. So people were actually more interested in learning about the topic than actually buying our solution. So it was more about their ideal selves, the way they saw themselves, what they would like to be working on and not necessarily on what they were actually working on.

So we got a lot of false signals there. The cycles as well were very long, so we were realizing as well, just getting the right product in place or the right requirements in place was taking a long time, which didn't really work when you have a long sales cycle coming up afterwards. We were always reverting at that little bit of distance with companies, that was always a little bit problematic.

The core idea kind of came out from that. And when I interviewed entrepreneurs afterwards to try to understand how things work, specifically in a B2B Enterprise, what we realized a lot of time is that there are big differences between, for example, business to consumer versus business to business. Customer development, specifically.

One, businesses tend to want to buy into ROI. So they want to buy return on investments. They’re trying to make investments in technology to get certain benefits.

The second thing is that there's a lot more proximity required to work with companies. So you need to work closely with organizations so you can understand all the internal dynamics and understand the real needs, to be able to see that, but since you can't get the same kind of statistical significance, you can't have thousands of companies right away, usually.  You need to work more closely with organizations. So you can really get that close feedback that you can iterate things on. When you're coming out to organizations, you need to factor that in so you can have the right approach to learning and then creating a solution.

And the last big takeaway to come out from there is just the decision making process, which is so much more complicated as you've definitely seen in your  practice as well. Corporate companies just don't buy the same way that consumers do. For example, like if I'm to buy a big purchase as an individual, maybe I'll ask my girlfriend, I'll ask my friends about their opinion, but it will not get much more complicated than that. But if I am an organization, it's quite possible that different departments need to get involved. I need to work with procurement so they can actually give me the money so I can actually make the purchase. I need to get other departments involved just so that everybody's synced in that we're making the right decision and that we are getting the expected return on our investment.

BRUNO: It's a lot of very important lessons in a short period of time. Working backwards, one thing that, in my experience, both entrepreneurs and other corporations forget is, when you are going to B2B space, time to payment is also very different than in the B2C space. So, we were talking about companies wanting to buy ROI. Well, innovators want to innovate because they want to earn some money eventually.

And again, this is a thing that's much easier in B2C. If it's consumer buying they're going to either pay with cash credit card, debit card. Yes, if it's a credit card, you're still going to get cash sooner. You might pay more provision on it, whatever. But it is on the customer side that they will have delayed payment between them and the financial institution. Not you as the business. When you go into the B2B space, even if you have all the handshakes, at the end of the day you might be looking at between thirty to ninety days before anything is in your account just because someone somewhere in procurement says, “This is how we're doing it.”

And I do remember going back, even older than Lean Startup. Steve Blank talked about The Four Steps to Epiphany. If you remember, a lot of his examples were exactly like going to companies and figure out their whole decision-making cycle. Who is the buyer, who can be the blocker, who is the technological buyer, who is the economic buyer, who is the user, who is the benefactor? It's like, who knows how many roles? And that is often underappreciated.

I come into it from the perspective of, yes, B2B innovation, but from another business. So another large business, I cannot tell you how many times they trip over themselves because they just assume. “Well, we're a business. The doors are just going to open.” No, they are not.

Why would they? We are saying business-to-business, but ultimately, it's individuals to individuals. Bruno is going to contact Étienne. Bruno may be working at the big bank, Étienne might be working at the big plane manufacturer. That doesn't make a difference. Maybe a nice signature. But other than that, no. No unfair advantage there.

ÉTIENNE: Yeah. But I think it also touches something that I think is the beauty of B2B at the same time. There is a lot more predictability once you understand the underlying principles behind how companies make decisions. Because it's a lot more predictable to understand that companies are seeking certain types of advantages and they're trying to get better. So as an organization, you're always trying to outdo your competitors and get better positioning on the market. You're trying out-do internal competitors as well if you're a manager in a larger organization. There's always that drive to get better, which is not always the case with consumer products, for example, where I may be satisfied with my phone, I don't necessarily need the next generation. I could get it, but that predictability is not as clear as if you were to create a solution that really, really gave me a step advantage to go towards the objectives that I'm trying to achieve.

It's understanding that kind of fundamental logic that motivates decisions in organizations that has been fascinating me for the last ten years, just trying to get that all out there. I definitely think that, as an entrepreneur, B2B is a better path than B2C because there's a lot of benefits including, one, it's a little more predictable in terms of how you generate value. And how you can evaluate that value, once you know how.

It's also the fact that most markets can actually support multiple winners. So I personally know four or five different people that have email marketing businesses and they're all profitable. So as in B2C, oftentimes, you will have one big solution to address a certain need, and it will be harder for other solutions to get the same kind of play, the same kind of attention. Just because of the dynamics of the market, where people share it with their friends, or speak to other people. It tends to be a little bit more “winner takes all,” which makes it a little harder to get a foothold in the market.

BRUNO: And here you are really onto something very, very important. And if I can restate it in other words, it's basically that, in a B2B space the upside is much much higher than in B2C. So there is a potential for actually increasing the value and fees and prices much, much higher way out of the consumer market.

Just some things I've been working for the last few weeks. We've been running a lot of experiments exactly in the B2B space. And we were testing value propositions. It's the same product, just different value propositions. All the value propositions that were about improving revenue - they were winning. All that were focused on saving cost, saving time, saving money - they were losing. Even though they're the same product. The product is going to do all these things, it's going to bring in revenue, it’s going to save you time. But in a B2B space, people are reacting and they're willing to pay for them to make more money.
Which is good, of course. That's what the businesses are around for.

ÉTIENNE: Because the internal dynamics of the companies are there to reinforce that way of thinking, right? If I want to be a hero in my company, like I want to get promoted, I want that really nice bonus at the end of the year, I want to get a lot of recognition from my peers, from my boss and all that stuff. If I'm bringing one million more in revenue this year because of a decision I made, I’m definitely going to look good and they're definitely going to feel very comfortable about giving me a little bit of that extra revenue.

So even there, there's different motivation for companies to engage with startups, or to acquire a new innovation. But those reasons are not at the same level. You mentioned adding revenue? That tends to be the easiest to sell because it's the art of benefit, where you can actually see it on the bottom line. It’s like, “We have this thing that we didn't have before, that amount of money. So this is just a win for us, like we made this more efficient. We got new sales, we got new customers. So that's just a clear win.” But there's other reasons why companies buy technology, buy solutions, or hire service providers. They might not be the same, as important, but it also matters to understand the mindsets inside organizations.

Because if you're selling something that has a hard benefit and will make more money for companies, if you're selling it to someone that doesn't care about that, or is not thinking in terms of making more money. For example, if you were talking about making more money to the archiving department in a company, you wouldn't get much play because that's not how they think about it. That is, they're not mobilized or motivated to think in terms of a purchase, in terms of money, as well in terms of increasing the revenue that is coming in. That's not their job.

So it's also very important to understand the mindsets inside a company. So you can actually sell to the right people the right kind of benefits that actually work within their perspective of what is important for the company.

BRUNO: I completely agree. It's not always about money. This is where my bias shows because what I'm always looking for is, if I'm in B2B space, I want to be part of the business that has P&L responsibility. That's always kind of my knee-jerk reaction. But you're completely right. What if your product or service is about something that has nothing to do with P&L? Is it about helping an archivist archive, or is it about HR software or something like that? And what I usually go in that route is, my recommendation is to ask, “How do they measure success for them?” Because, “What does your bonus depend on?” It’s a little bit too aggressive of a question.

ÉTIENNE: Yeah, one hundred percent. I've been in discussion with an innovation expert in the Netherlands and she was working with government bodies. She was trying to adapt the mindset. But within the governmental space, making more money is not a priority at all. Saving money is not always a priority. It should be, but it's not always. So it was more about internal and user satisfaction which is something completely different where it probably disqualified certain types of products, but also makes other types of solutions super compelling.

So just finding the right types of actors, the right types of customers, can make some benefits way more important than other ones. You mentioned your value proposition before. Like, if you speak to a different stakeholder and they do care about making more money or they care about saving money, suddenly you might have a completely different approach, because the thing that you're producing, the outcome that you're producing, is way more valued by these people because it aligns to their bonus, to their company, to what their manager is looking at.

BRUNO: And you did mention twenty minutes ago, something I also recognized and would be curious to hear about how you deal when you help other teams. In B2B, cycles are definitely different. Experimentation cycles, sales cycles, development cycles. What's your advice? Is there any meaningful way to actually shorten that?


BRUNO: To make that more tolerable? Because you shouldn't lock yourself away for nine months to make a first iteration and then plan to sell it.

ÉTIENNE: Well, I've made that mistake myself. But yeah. So one of the big reasons why I rewrote Lean B2B and I created a second edition, is because I wanted to incorporate an idea that came from Andrew Chen, who was an investor. The idea of time to product market fit, and looking at that as a variable. So basically, when you're working on an innovation, time is an unknown variable. You have no idea how much time it's going to take for you to discover something. Because you can't necessarily plan for a discovery or an invention to come out at a certain moment. But as well, the time to discover the sale cycle, and the different stakeholders to speak to in order to get the sales going.

These are all variables that are kind of stacked together and they're all somewhat unknown, initially. So you can't really predict this. The more you would want to do as an entrepreneur and innovator, it going to give you more kicks at the can, as much kicks at the can as you can throughout the process. But you also want to be refining that understanding of what your timeline is. Because one thing I've realized in the last few years, in working with companies, is that a lot of what tends to kill innovation products, what tends to kill startups is just bad planning towards their goals of reaching product market fit.

I personally think that reaching product market fit for a product is almost inevitable if you give yourself enough funds. But the problem is that the time is limited by the amount of money that you have. That you either raise or you have in your bank account or that you're able to get access to. Your ability to innovate and speak to other people. Your sales cycle. So those are all things that compound to complexify your customer development. Your ability to find an opportunity. And by bringing that at the forefront, you kind of get a sense that you're able to factor that in all your decisions. As you should, because if you know that you're going to need to raise money next year, you kind of want to be thinking, “What are the milestones? What milestones will lead me to be able to raise money next year? Or how will I be able to sustain myself? Should I be going for a massive platform that we carry, that takes two years to put together but we're going to run out of money halfway through the process? Or should we be doing something that's a little bit leaner, with smaller releases, so we can actually get feedback, and maybe get customers before?”

Because you want to be able to give yourself the best fighting odds, to be able to succeed with innovation.

BRUNO: It's interesting, something you mentioned, my experience is a little bit different so if you give it enough time you're going to reach product market fit.

And this is experience from a large corporation. So of course if you're a small business, you have only one product. You must reach it eventually. I remember a very large institution, no names, we were looking at mapping all the business models in the organization to understand what's the core business and what’s adjacent, so that we can set up transformational innovation projects, adjacent innovation projects, etc.

And we found part of the business that was going for almost twelve years but the product wasn't selling very well. It was not losing enough money to become red and get eliminated in one of the reworks, but it was never selling well. It wasn't considered by anyone in the organization to be part of their regular product portfolio. And to me this is exactly the situation where, just because you've been doing it for over a decade, doesn't mean that you necessarily have a product market fit or that it is even your core business.

And that is an impossible situation for SME. That only happens in giants that are a century old, and somehow they get all these small appendices that are still existing.

ÉTIENNE: Yeah but I would argue there's also startups that are scaling products that don't usually have a full, already good market fit.

BRUNO: That’s horrible!

ÉTIENNE: Yeah, but it still happens. It's the same kind of issue, where you've made your life a lot more difficult because you're trying to scale something that is not that compelling. Like you’re getting bad NPS ratings, people are just turning all the time, but you keep pumping money into the company hoping that it will suddenly get magically better in the future, but it doesn't.

Sometimes there are companies that are just not…
It's ultimately a decision of how you evaluate success for yourself. Like, if you're happy with this type of company that has likehigh churn but it's profitable. Customers are not really happy, like that can be a choice. But yeah, it's not the ideal thing. It’s the same thing you were mentioning before. You were talking about having a value proposition that is harder, that is more about money, will make things easier for sure.

So things like that, I mean a really strong product market fit will make everything easier. It will reduce your cost of acquisition, the referrals, it will make organic growth more likely. So you're just trying to give yourself better odds of building something that is scalable, that can become a big business and be very sustainable long term.

BRUNO: Étienne, one of the things that I'm personally focused very much on are mistakes people make. And I'm going to explain why. Have you heard about survivor bias?

ÉTIENNE: Yeah. The whole thing with the plane with the bullets?

BRUNO: That's one of the examples. So, to those listening that are not familiar, survivor bias is basically focusing on all those that have succeeded and survived, and trying to copy what they did. And what Étienne is mentioning is one of the examples during a World War when they were studying the airplanes that returned, they wanted to reinforce them. And they had an assumption that wherever the holes were was where they should reinforce the plane. But then one engineer said, “No, we should reinforce all the parts where there are no holes, because these planes did not return.”

And that is, you said it correctly about innovation. We don't know the timing. There's never any guarantee. You cannot force an idea to work at a specific time in a specific order. So that is why I like focusing much more on, “Hey, what are things that will definitely sink you? And let's avoid that.” That's why I also wrote, Nine Big Don'ts to Corporate Innovation because it's so much easier to avoid these shitty practices than, say, copy Amazon, copy Google, copy whomever. It doesn't work. So that's been a very long introduction to my question to you and that is, top three. Top three really big mistakes that you see in B2B innovators, entrepreneurs and startups. I mean, you’ve consulted hundreds, if not thousands of them. So I'm sure you've seen some things that are repeating again and again that will sink them.

ÉTIENNE: Well I would kind of go in that direction then. So the first thing probably is assuming that the world today is the same as the world yesterday.

Like if you're talking about Amazon, you could never do the same thing that Amazon did to get big, right? That would never fly today. So you got to have strategies or playbooks or insights that are way more aligned to what the world is today, rather than based on old assumptions. There's a lot of old thinking that is not necessarily as valid anymore and I see that often working with companies where you hear about things and you're like, "Yeah that's not the world we're in." Just in my other book, one of the things that has been, we look specifically at Marketing Solutions. There are fifty times more marketing solutions now than ten years ago.

So like the strategies that worked to get started ten years ago, marketing solutions that that launched ten years ago, probably won't work today because you need something that is radically more precise, narrow and efficient than before. Just to get the same play that you used to be able to get. So that is a big one.

I'd say the initial phase is, I think part of the issue that you're seeing with a lot of Lean Startup stuff, is that it replaces planning. And I've made that mistake with Our Voice, where we kind of went into cold calling the second week, but there are things that are more fundamental to the business that need to be structured and solidified before you start doing all these things. I've worked on refining that with the new edition of Lean B2B because if your team isn't solid then it doesn't really matter. Because in six months you’re going to be, you might be turning super fast for six months, but then you're going to run out of juice and you're not going to get to the next stage. So just making sure you have a solid base that allows you to go long enough. Because in B2B it takes twenty-four months on average to get to product market fit. If you're going to drop in twelve months, you might as well not start. What's the point?

The big thing I'd say is the importance of adoption, it's really the key thing. Because if you can't get something adopted by companies, you're never going to learn fast enough to be able to get to the next stage. So that's the key thing that you should be focusing on, not who your investors are, who you know, what you’re going through this. I find a lot of entrepreneurs don't give themselves enough chances to succeed. And that's also part of the setup is understanding that I have special advantages. I know things that other people don't know because I've worked at the Bank of Norway, I've worked at Esso, and using your advantages is a way to speed up your ability to capitalize on that. Unfortunately, few people actually have visibility on. So that's definitely a good way to maximize your likelihood as an entrepreneur to succeed.

BRUNO: The first one I agree. It’s a very big assumption to say that the world of today is exactly the same as the world of tomorrow. And in the last two years we've been slapped really hard on that. Twice now. All of us really got to experience firsthand what it means that something changes overnight. And even though a lot of horrible stuff has happened, I do hope that everybody remembers these feelings because that's exactly what you need to do, not become oblivious despite changes.

Small things are changing all the time. That's why, for example, I really love focusing a lot on customer outcomes, jobs to be done, functional stuff, because at the end of the day, for example, our need to be safe, fed and warm are not going to change that fast. But how exactly we satisfy those needs, that may be changing - who knows - even daily.
So that is kind of a really fine balancing act. And as you say, you cannot figure that out by starting cold calling next week. Building on what you said, use your personal experience, know-how and everything you learned so far. It's very rare that we are starting from total zero. And it doesn't make sense to pretend that we are.

First, we need to take stock of what we already know. The data we already have. The insights you already have and then figure out the knowledge gaps, the value gaps, execution gaps, etc., and start filling them in using different methods: customer development, Lean B2B, agile design, whatever. It doesn't matter. Pick your favorite.

ÉTIENNE: Yes, but you see that often, I see that as a bit of a fallacy when people start up. They go, “Okay, well I used to work in finance for twenty years. Now, I want to escape that domain. I'm going to work on something that has nothing to do with this.” And then you’ve suddenly surrendered all your experience, everything that you knew that was so valuable to work on that other thing that will be much harder to learn for much longer as well to figure out and to get a foothold in.

It's not impossible. There's a bunch of examples. Like, we're talking about survivorship bias. There's a bunch of examples that prove that it's possible. Is it optimal, as an individual, as a person who's trying to succeed at a business? I wouldn't recommend that. But it's ultimately a time to product market fit, which is what I was mentioning before, decision. If you really know the technology in the field, you really know how people value the outcomes, the solutions, and what they prioritize in terms of benefits and the types of customers you're going to be able to capitalize on the opportunities way faster than other people might be.

In one of my books, I covered Veeva Systems, which is, I think right now, probably one of the biggest technology vendors in pharmaceuticals now. Basically one of the founders was working at Salesforce, like the director technology solution as a CRM to start with. He was working at Salesforce as the VP of technology. The other co-founder who had all the contacts on the market. He was selling to the customers right away in that industry. He knew all the pain points beforehand, and they just came together and boom, they created a multi-billion dollar company in a few years. That's the type of benefit that you get from having the right synergy.

So what are the strengths of your team? What do you know that other people don't know? Is there opportunity in that? I think that should be the first zone of focus that you try to explore initially. It might not be what you end up with, it probably won't be, but you will at least have given yourself the best odds of succeeding as an entrepreneur.

BRUNO: And the example you just shared completely aligns with what I like to say. The best ideas show up at the intersection with deep personal experience and noticing something no one has noticed so far. These two guys had a lot of experience, they came together and they noticed, “Hey, look, there's a gap there. Bam." It doesn't happen in vacuum. It doesn't happen in isolation.

ÉTIENNE: Yeah, and to your point before, like it is when you understand the outcomes, you understand how people evaluate the value. But you also understand the type of the level, the threshold at which the value is at now. If you don't understand the value of experience in the market or in organizations, it's very hard to know what's the next thing that will convince companies to adopt a new thing.

Like one case study from the new book is Avo, which is a copy that they do governments for analytics. So the person that started the company Stefania, she was working at the forefront of analytics and she saw that, “While we were not able to get that level of results in my company and I tried for years, I had to build my own tool, I had to do these things.” So she knew what the gap was between the leading expert in the world, not being able to get the benefit that she wanted or her team wanted. And she was forced to innovate to get that solution, which kind of hinted at the fact that other organizations would have the same issues later on, which happened. And she was able to land clients in large organizations that all had these issues later on. It's understanding what the gap is based on. Where the value is at today. What can you get as value on the market?

BRUNO: Absolutely. We mentioned your book so many times. Is the second edition now available to everybody? Or is it coming out next month?

ÉTIENNE: It is out on Kindle. I am trying to finish the paperback which, as you know probably, can be a little bit frustrating in the final days, but it should be next week.

BRUNO: Okay. For the listeners and watchers, can you kind of outline some of the, let’s say, key ideas, the key takeaways from the 'Lean B2B' book, specifically? And the second edition, specifically?

ÉTIENNE: Yeah. So it's been interesting because the first edition was adopted by people in companies that I had not planned on at all. I was planning for like a few people, weirdos like me who would like the first edition, but it ended up being picked up by really large companies which I had not planned for at all. Innovation consultants. It was picked up by consulting companies. So seeing how the value is spread in different companies, what kind of challenges these people were facing, has made me evolve a little bit, the mindset and the methodology, plus looking at the last eight, ten years. What picked up really like, there's a lot of discussion around product growth. The number of companies in the market has exploded. The types of opportunities have changed. There's more and more people innovating in B2B specifically. So the distinction between B2B and B2C is way clearer than it used to be.

All these things led to a need to increase the specificity of advice on a lot of different topics. And one thing that I've also realized is I've seen people that are kind of, like a lot of the entrepreneurs that I speak to, that are not able to get progress. They tend to be floating between steps. So they are able to speak to companies but they're not able to kind of grasp what the actual problem or opportunity they're targeting is.

So just trying to make all these different parts work a little bit better together. Also I'm trying to add a new concept I was mentioning, the time to product market fit, bring that in there. The importance of figuring out what opportunities should be considered initially. Also, clarifying how companies make decisions. So making that really clear so people can understand what drives the decision to adopt a new solution and what types of opportunities are more likely to succeed in B2B specifically.

So that was a big thing as well. Like, today what are the opportunities that entrepreneurs are able to capitalize on and when they are targeting B2B?

BRUNO: And for those listening, I want to add what I loved and appreciated about both the first edition and the second edition. It's very practical stuff so I don't perceive it as fluffy stuff. Your style is, I would say a bit verbose, but with a reason. It’s a lot of stories but it's all usable, it's not verbose for the sake of being verbose. It's kind of more like sitting down with a person and hearing out. Okay, here are the stories. This is how you can use the tool. This is what the tool is for. Then a lot of resources. So that I appreciated, that's always a sign to me that, “Okay this is a useful book.” You can see a bunch of books behind me. They're not all well-written but they're all useful, or for a majority of them. Yours is both well-written and useful.

ÉTIENNE:  Thank you. Like you were mentioning before, The Four Steps to the Epiphany, we talked about Lean Startup. There's a gap between the ideas and the actual implementation and I find that, just bridging that gap has brought a lot of value just in terms of the success potential, the different impact. I'm super excited because the person that wrote the foreword for my new book for the new edition is probably the person that found the most success with from my first edition. Like they are working on a unicorn at this point and it all started with my book. It's pretty amazing to see that evolution but it's based on giving the right tools to the right people at the right time and trying to keep them in the game as long as possible.

BRUNO: And what I also appreciate in the new edition, like, in the appendices or in the final chapters, it's for corporate innovation. Then you have a few more using in different contexts, etc. I can’t remember now, in the final edition appendices or final chapters?

ÉTIENNE: The bonus chapters. So this is the new approach that I'm taking. Like most of my books now have extra chapters that are not in the book.

BRUNO: Okay.

ÉTIENNE: It's a lot of work, but it works.

BRUNO: Well, when you have too much to share you need to figure out how to share it.

ÉTIENNE: It’s because I have access to two great experts that help me be better reading.

BRUNO: So I'm just looking at the time, you know I don't like to drone on for too long. We got some questions that got sent in advance. I'll share these with you. And if any other questions pop out in the chat, I'll share them as well.

So we have one very simple question. Are your books going to be translated in Portuguese?

ÉTIENNE: If someone is willing to fund or help me find a Portuguese speaker that is able to translate. I'm currently translating to French the second edition of Lean B2B because that's easier for me, but yeah it would be interesting.

BRUNO: Okay, so if anyone wants to offer whatever language, reach out to ÉTIENNE. That's kind of the message here.

ÉTIENNE: Pretty much, because it's very difficult to find someone who actually speaks the language but also understands innovation and can translate it properly, yeah.
BRUNO: Because otherwise you lose the context, right?

ÉTIENNE: Yeah. Which is not good.

BRUNO: Okay. The other question we received, I was looking at the question and thinking, "Should I include it or not? Is this a serious question or not?" We got the question for both of us. How weird are you on a scale from one to ten?

ÉTIENNE: In personal life, or like in business?

BRUNO: There were no other qualifiers except for that. So I guess it's not how weird the book is but personally, individually.

ÉTIENNE: I would say probably pretty weird. It takes special types of people to do what we do, I guess.

BRUNO: When I shared the question with my girlfriend, she said, “Yeah I mean, you're pretty weird.” I was like, “What, what do you mean? I would say like, one to three.” She’s like, “That doesn’t fly.”

ÉTIENNE: So what’s the final score?

BRUNO: I don't know. We say, seven? That sounds good?
ÉTIENNE:  Seven is more weird than five?

BRUNO: I would say yes. Ten is probably the weirdest and one is the least weird.

ÉTIENNE: Yeah, I'm still functional. So yeah, let's go with seven.

BRUNO: And there were some questions I never mentioned, like your full name and the name of the book. We did mention it in the conversation, so we're actually talking about the series of books. So the one we've been discussing today is basically Lean B2B: Build Products Businesses Won't. But there are two more.

ÉTIENNE:  Second edition.

BRUNO: Two more books if we can share their full name because they have long subtitles.

ÉTIENNE: Yes. So basically, the way I see it, like Lean B2B is when you're starting a business and B2B from scratch. Solving Product is about how you drive new growth for a business. So it covers all the different stages of business and how you are able to figure out what the next thing you should be doing.

And Finding Your Market is kind of the reverse of what we recommend to some extent. So a lot of companies actually started with the solution. They started with R&D research, they started with patents or different things like that. How do you find the right market for your solution? So that was a bit of a luxury that I gave myself in creating a complementary approach, that kind of helps free to finish the series together.

BRUNO: Amazing. And I guess in ten years those other two books are going to get second editions.

ÉTIENNE: Probably faster than that. I think the issue with the last one is that it was very hard to update, but that should be fixed.

BRUNO: It's good when we learn from our things and are able to reuse that knowledge, it becomes much easier.

ÉTIENNE: Constant iteration. I think that's the way to go.

BRUNO: And to those that are here with us live, I’ll share the link to the giveaway. Actually, of all the books that Étienne mentioned, one of the attendees is going to win. The winner is going to be selected randomly tomorrow. So roughly tomorrow, noon European time. And we are going to inform the winner and everybody else via email. In that email, you will also get the recording of the webinar and whatever else we have mentioned

ÉTIENNE: And are we giving away your book as well?

BRUNO: My book as well? I’m gonna throw it in.

ÉTIENNE: Good, perfect.

BRUNO: It's not difficult to convince me.

ÉTIENNE: I saw that.

BRUNO: Étienne, thank you very much for joining me today. Thank you for sharing, you know, a lot of cool stuff. I mean, to the listeners, if you just take one thing and try to implement it, you're going to be better off. If it sounds overwhelming, you don't need to try everything we have discussed today. Just one thing and I promise you, you're going to be better off. As simple and as difficult as that. Again, Étienne, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.

ÉTIENNE: Thank you.

BRUNO:  Thank you everybody for joining. See you around and good luck with your innovation. Take care.


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Bruno Pešec

I help business leaders innovate profitably at scale.


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