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4 ways co-creation helps B2B businesses gain competitive edge

Co-creation Marketing B2B marketing services

A recent Fujitsu survey of over 1,600 business leaders worldwide highlighted that 63% of businesses are embarking on, or are already running, co-creation projects with partners.

Here, we explore how co-creation (sometimes called collaboration or co-production) could help your company grow.

First though, let’s pause to consider what is B2B co-creation? There are varying definitions, most of which are around creating value together. The Board of Innovation hits the nail on the head. It says:

B2B co-creation is a powerful way to co-create new business value with your most important customers by closely iterating back and forth throughout the innovation process… whilst engaging with the key values of user, business and technical partner-buyer perspectives.

Board of Innovation

So let’s get straight on to how co-creation could help you.

1. Generate better ideas

You already know that involving B2B suppliers, distributors and customers in generating concepts, ideas and innovations is a no-brainer. Creating value together simultaneously builds stronger relationships, reduces risk and increases speed-to-market.

Some examples include:

  • Launching an open appeal for ideas – for example, through a platform on your company’s website.
  • Recruiting a pop up community of end users and designers and holding an event to gather ideas to solve a business problem.
  • Using social media and web listening techniques to tap into online conversations and find out what customers are interested in.

However, true co-creation is not simply a marketing tool to generate ideas. To gain competitive, co-created ideas are then used in the design and development of products and services.

2. Develop better products and services

After ideation comes the testing and refining one or more features of a new or existing product or service. This could be to help improve performance and result in a better customer experience.

Some examples include:

  • Asking early adopters to get involved in designing, developing and trialling new product/service features.
  • Unveiling a new idea or product/service feature that your company has been working on with customers – ask other customers to suggest refinements and improvements to make it even better.
  • Using simulation technologies to allow customers to experience a potential innovation in a virtual environment – and suggest how it could be improved.

Successful companies harness the creativity and energy of stakeholders by establishing projects and systems to match their collaborators’ interests with corporate knowledge and resources. So how could you involve customers and key stakeholders?

3. Co-create content

B2B businesses worldwide are increasingly co-creating content with customers and, in particular, influencers. Trust in brands, products and services has been diminishing and the endorsement of other customers, family and friends remains ever-important. With the abundance of social media and customer review sites, there are more potential platforms than ever before to help co-create content.

Some examples include:

  • Forming a content partnership – join forces with industry experts to create content for your website (such as an e-book or webinar).
  • Gathering pieces of content put out by influencers and using these as the basis for an advertising campaign.
  • Working with customers and/or suppliers to co-produce case studies.

Co-creating content is more likely to result in quality content that your target audience is more likely to share. Consider how you could nurture relationships to co-create content on a regular basis?

4. Collaborate with another brand

Working with a real B2B partner customer in a formal collaboration or partnership can be mutually beneficial. Traditionally, this tended to work best when companies have similar values and target audiences, but are not in direct competition with one another. But now, even direct competitors can co-create.

Some examples include:

  • Creating a new product/service joint venture which adds value to both brands.
  • Developing a network to drive positive change and champion a cause.
  • Launching partner promotions.

Benefits which will help secure competitive edge include sharing customer bases, cross selling and positive association – such as generating interest from the other brand’s customers or followers. What potential collaborations can you think of that would benefit your company and its chosen partner?

Finally, it’s worth noting that successful cocreation is all about how you engage with, work together and empower people. The process of co-creation is truly important and it’s worth researching this further. The Marketing Journal has published an article called Collaboration and Co-Creation: The Road to Creating Value which is a useful starting point if you want to read more.

We’d love to hear about your experiences of co-creation marketing. Get involved on LinkedIn.

Emmeline Woodward

Emmeline Woodward

Strategic B2B Marketing Consultant and Director of Co-creation Marketing
Emmeline has over 15 years’ experience working across leading business and consumer brands, along with extensive marketing management skills. After leading one the UK's largest integrated agencies, where she was Business Director for Digital and B2B Marketing, she created a new agency model that focused on putting the customer first. She is an expert in B2B Marketing, specialising in marketing strategy and value propositions development.

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