Design Thinking for B2B - Spring2 Innovation

Design Thinking for B2B

February 26, 2020

More and more B2B organizations are recognizing the value of design thinking and often ask us how to implement design thinking in their environment. We regularly work with small to medium-sized B2B focused organizations and can attest to the tangible business results that design thinking delivers.

B2B stands for “business to business” and refers to companies that sell products or services to other businesses, as opposed to consumers. Services can include things like digital goods, invoicing software, office furniture, or security services.

For B2B, it is valuable to understand not just your client’s needs but also the needs of their customers. Imagine the level of value you can provide if you can make your clients’ lives easier, as well as their customers. This added value translates into better relationships and the ability to maintain and increase sales.

There are many different ways to understand your client’s customers. Developing personas is a strong first step to understanding end-clients. To create rich personas, we encourage face-to-face discussions with end-clients in addition to surveys. Many clients already have surveys in place but are unable to, or are uncomfortable with, holding face-to-face sessions with their customers, and this is a missed opportunity to collect the information required to truly know your and their end-user. As a first step towards understanding your clients’ customers, consider talking to and surveying their customers. You should consider talking to your clients about implementing the design thinking methodology with their customers and place a few questions in their survey around your products and services so that you can understand their end clients better.

When there are multiple business lines, each needs to create an understanding of their business line’s needs. At times there may be opportunities to use the same personas in a number of the business lines. For example, construction companies that have different lines of business might be doing HVAC, as well as electrical work for the same clients. This can quickly become complicated, so we recommend starting with one business line at a time. And when the next project is ready to use design thinking, there may be opportunities to use personas already developed by other groups.

We typically recommend 3 to 8 personas, depending on the business. However, when you have B2B companies that have 3 to 8 client categories, and their customers have 3 to 8 client categories, this adds up quickly, and you could end up identifying up to 9 personas, if not more. The level of detail can vary greatly. We recommend that you start by identifying who your client’s customers are in a broader sense and working from there.

The training and consulting we do helps our clients get ideas on different areas they can explore to improve business operations. We receive tons of comments asking how B2B organizations can use design thinking in their work, what the process is, or steps they need to follow to apply design thinking in their environments. This is a start to thinking at a high level on how B2B organizations can think about implementing design thinking in their environments. If you would like to learn more or find out how we can help your business, contact us at