The Ultimate Guide to B2B Innovation in 2024

November 28, 2023
B2B Innovation in 2024


Understanding the Ten Types of Innovation framework will be crucial in 2024 as B2B brands strive to stand out from their competition and increase sales.

In simple terms, innovation is the process of developing new ideas and implementing them to create value. In the ever-evolving landscape of B2B businesses, innovation is not just a buzzword; it’s a lifeline. In 2024, B2B companies must stay ahead of the curve by adopting novel approaches and embracing change. The Ten Types of Innovation framework, developed by the global innovation agency Doblin, provides a comprehensive guide for businesses to explore various innovation tactics and remain competitive. In this article, we will cover the ten distinct types of innovation to help you understand how implementing these can help businesses thrive in today’s dynamic environment.

Key Takeaways

  • Innovation is essential for businesses to remain competitive and foster growth in the ever-changing B2B landscape.
  • Making innovation a priority is necessary for companies to capitalize on opportunities and ensure successful growth.
  • Innovation is paramount for businesses to stay relevant, differentiate from competitors, and achieve sustainable growth in the evolving business environment.

Benefits of Innovation and the Ten Types of Innovation Framework

The value of innovation in the B2B landscape is significant. Some of the critical benefits of B2B innovation include:

  • Retaining existing customers
  • Attracting new customers
  • Increasing market share
  • Increasing profitability

The Ten Types of Innovation framework divides innovations into three categories – configuration, offerings, and experience – each further divided into ten distinct types, providing a comprehensive guide for businesses to explore various innovation tactics. The ten types of innovation are:

  1. Profit model
  2. Network
  3. Structure
  4. Process
  5. Product performance
  6. Product system
  7. Service
  8. Channel
  9. Brand
  10. Customer engagement

Research has shown that organizations with a greater variety of innovations had a more favorable financial outcome, as they were able to meet the needs of their existing customers better and attract new ones. History also suggests that companies who invest in innovation through a crisis outperform peers during recovery. 

Evolving Landscape of B2B Innovation in 2024

In 2024, the B2B innovation landscape will be defined by swift alterations, prompting businesses to adapt and innovate to maintain their competitive edge. Established by Jay Doblin and Larry Keeley, founders of the global innovation agency Doblin, the Ten Types of Innovation framework is designed to assist innovators in broadening their outlook on innovation beyond just new products or features, ensuring they cater to the needs of existing customers and attract new ones. Employing multiple types of innovation is important, as research has demonstrated that top innovators utilize twice as many types of innovation as the “average” innovator companies. Furthermore, these top innovators have outperformed the S&P 500, thereby highlighting the necessity of multiple innovation types to generate strong returns on investment.

Salesforce is a prominent B2B company that has adeptly utilized diverse forms of innovation. Initially a cloud-based CRM platform, Salesforce evolved by launching the AppExchange, a groundbreaking channel innovation connecting third-party developers with their ecosystem. They continually enhance internal processes through automation and AI, representing process innovation. Collaborating with leading data analytics firms, Salesforce introduced predictive analytics as part of their services, showcasing network innovation.

Another example is IBM, a leading B2B technology company, showcasing a diverse range of innovations in their business model, including:

  • Sustainable Sourcing - Implementing eco-friendly practices in the supply chain (configuration innovation).
  • Strategic Outsourcing - Optimizing efficiency through focused outsourcing (structure innovation).
  • Brand Alignment - Building a brand around innovation and environmental responsibility (brand innovation).
  • Community Engagement - Fostering customer engagement through platforms like IBM DeveloperWorks (experience innovation)

The Three Pillars of Innovation: Configuration, Offering, and Experience

The Ten Types of Innovation framework is built upon three pillars:

  1. Configuration - This pillar focuses on innovating internal operations to optimize efficiency and profitability.
  2. Offering - This pillar relates to what the company can provide its clients regarding products, services, experience, and value.
  3. Experience - This pillar emphasizes enhancing end-user interactions and overall customer experience, ensuring that the utility and value of a particular product or service are maximized.

Grasping and implementing these three pillars of innovation allows businesses to devise a holistic innovation strategy encompassing all operational aspects. This approach ensures that they are not only focusing on a single aspect of innovation, such as:

  • Product development
  • Internal processes
  • Customer experiences
  • Overall value proposition

By considering all these aspects, businesses can create a comprehensive and effective innovation strategy.

This approach prepares them to adeptly traverse the evolving B2B innovation landscape in 2024 and the years to come.

Configuration: Innovating Internal Operations

The Configuration pillar is all about optimizing the internal operations of a business to improve efficiency and profitability. This includes examining the company’s:

  • Profit model
  • Network
  • Structure
  • Processes

and finding innovative ways to make improvements.

A focus on configuration innovation can lay a robust foundation for businesses, bolstering overall growth and success.

Profit Model Innovation

Profit Model Innovation is about finding new ways to generate revenue and increase profitability for your business. This involves evaluating the various monetization methods available to your company, such as distinct pricing structures, fresh sales avenues, and subscription services. Some examples of profit models include auctions, risk-sharing, subscriptions, freemium, and licensing models.

Investigating strategies from innovative and successful companies across various industries can unveil potential new profit models for businesses. By learning from these examples and adapting them to their own unique circumstances, companies can develop innovative profit models that differentiate them from their competitors and provide a solid foundation for sustainable growth.

A B2B Example of Profit Model Innovation

SAP, a global B2B software company, has successfully implemented profit model innovation by introducing a subscription-based licensing model for their enterprise software solutions. This innovative approach not only provides a predictable revenue stream for SAP but also offers flexibility to clients, aligning costs with usage and fostering long-term partnerships. The subscription model has been instrumental in SAP's financial success, allowing them to adapt to evolving market demands while maintaining a strong financial position.

Network Innovation

Network Innovation is about leveraging external resources and partnerships to create value for your organization. This involves examining how your organization manages connections with stakeholders and strategizing the partnerships you engage in. Network Innovation and Open Innovation are interrelated concepts focusing on utilizing external resources and alliances to drive business growth.

When utilizing Network Innovation, businesses should consider:

  • How they can enhance the relationship with their partners
  • What they can provide their partners that cannot be obtained from other sources
  • Fostering mutually beneficial relationships and forming strategic partnerships
  • Tapping into new markets and accessing valuable resources
  • Ultimately driving innovation and growth

A B2B Example of Network Innovation

Take Boeing, a major player in the aerospace industry, as a prime example of successful network innovation. Boeing has forged strategic partnerships with renowned aerospace engineering firms such as Pratt & Whitney and General Electric. These collaborations have resulted in the development of cutting-edge aircraft engines, enhancing the performance and efficiency of Boeing's airplanes. By leveraging the expertise of these external partners, Boeing has not only strengthened its network but also delivered innovative solutions that set them apart in the competitive aerospace market. Through such collaborations, Boeing continues to drive advancements and maintain a prominent position in the B2B aerospace sector.

Structure Innovation

Structure Innovation involves reorganizing a company’s internal structure to improve efficiency and responsiveness. This may include enhancing internal communication to ensure that employees have the necessary resources to voice their ideas, refine them, and implement them. However, the complexity of innovating organizational structures lies in the fact that there is no universal solution; the ideal structures are contingent upon the industry and business model.

A flatter organizational structure, for instance, can facilitate quicker responses to external factors and enable employees to more easily engage in the innovation process. By reorganizing their internal structure, businesses can create an environment that fosters innovation and adaptability, ultimately leading to improved performance and growth.

A B2B Example of Structure Innovation

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a standout B2B innovator. AWS has transformed the landscape of cloud computing by deviating from traditional models. They have eliminated the need for extensive physical infrastructure by offering scalable cloud services, concentrated on vertical integration through a comprehensive suite of cloud solutions, and innovated on processes to provide cost-effective and flexible services to businesses. This strategic restructuring has allowed AWS to lead the B2B cloud services industry, offering clients efficient and scalable solutions in a highly competitive market.

Process Innovation

Process Innovation is all about improving existing processes to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Some examples of process innovation include:

  • Lean methodology
  • Predictive analytics
  • Process automation
  • Standardization
  • User involvement
  • Crowdsourcing

Taking advantage of these can have a host of positive benefits. By focusing on process innovation, businesses can continually optimize their operations, streamline their supply chains, and automate manual tasks, ultimately leading to enhanced efficiency and productivity.

In 2024, process innovation will play a crucial role in the development and improvement of products and services within B2B organizations. By leveraging new technologies and adopting innovative approaches, companies can enhance their processes and create better products and services for their customers.

A B2B Example of Process Innovation

A B2B company that has effectively implemented process innovation is Honeywell. Honeywell, a multinational conglomerate, leveraged process innovation in their supply chain management by adopting blockchain technology. Through blockchain, Honeywell streamlined their supplier relationships, enabling transparent and secure transactions, real-time tracking of goods, and efficient management of the supply chain. This innovation significantly reduced administrative burdens, minimized errors, and enhanced trust among their business partners, leading to improved operational efficiency and strengthened relationships within their B2B ecosystem.

Offering: Elevating Products and Services

The Offering pillar of innovation emphasizes:

  • Elevating products and services to create more value for customers
  • Enhancing the features and capabilities of a company’s products
  • Combining multiple products or services
  • Developing new offerings that cater to the evolving needs of customers.

An emphasis on offering innovation enables businesses to outpace competitors and consistently offer their customers unique and valuable solutions.

Product Performance Innovation

Product Performance Innovation focuses on enhancing the features and capabilities of a company’s products. This can include improving factors such as quality, price, safety, ease-of-use, or sustainability of the product or service, as well as introducing new features.

In the B2B innovation landscape in 2024, product performance innovation will play a crucial role in developing and improving products and services to enhance their performance and meet customers’ changing needs. By continually optimizing product features, functionality, quality, and efficiency, businesses can provide superior value to their customers and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

Product performance innovation helps companies differentiate themselves from their competitors and ensures that their offerings remain relevant and valuable in the ever-evolving business landscape.

A B2B Example of Product Performance Innovation

A B2B example of product performance innovation is seen in Caterpillar Inc., a global leader in construction and mining equipment. Caterpillar has introduced advanced telematics solutions for its heavy machinery, enabling real-time monitoring and data analytics. This innovation goes beyond traditional equipment functionality, providing B2B customers with valuable insights into machine health, performance, and usage patterns. By enhancing product features and incorporating digital technology, Caterpillar has not only improved the efficiency of its equipment but has also offered a data-driven approach that adds significant value to its B2B customers in the construction and mining industries.

Product System Innovation

Product System Innovation involves:

  • Combining multiple products or services to generate maximum value for customers
  • Introducing new features, technologies, or processes that enhance the overall product system
  • Delivering sustainable impact

In 2024, product system innovation will be focused on creating new products or enhancing existing ones to provide value to customers and differentiate from competitors.

By developing novel products and systems that address customers’ needs and preferences, businesses can create a competitive edge and foster sustainable growth. Product system innovation allows companies to leverage their existing offerings and expertise to deliver greater value to their customers, ultimately driving innovation and business success.

A B2B Example of Product System Innovation

Product bundling, introducing extensions to existing products, product and service combinations, and complementary offerings are all common examples of Product System Innovation. Technology companies like General Electric have extensively used this type of innovation. GE went from being a supplier of X-ray, CAT scan, MRI, and other imaging equipment to providing integrated radiological floors where they spec all of the equipment and services. GE manages them all and bills them in one bill. The hospital itself experiences benefits as well, like the fact that they only have to manage one supplier instead of dozens. 

Experience: Enhancing End User Interaction

The Experience pillar of innovation focuses on:

  • Enhancing end-user interactions
  • Improving overall customer experience
  • Employing technology to streamline processes
  • Understanding customer needs and preferences
  • Creating tailored experiences that promote customer satisfaction and loyalty

An emphasis on experience innovation allows businesses to meet customer needs and exceed their expectations, leaving lasting, positive impressions.

Service Innovation

Service Innovation is a key aspect of the Experience pillar, focusing on the customer-company relationship and methods to enhance it, as well as improving the product’s usability. In 2024, service innovation in B2B innovation will play a crucial role in enhancing customer experiences and fostering communication and growth.

By leveraging technology, such as artificial intelligence and chatbots, and optimizing processes, businesses can deliver timely, helpful customer service that addresses the needs of their customers and promotes positive experiences.

Service innovations enable businesses to:

  • Differentiate themselves from their competitors
  • Increase market share
  • Generate higher profits
  • Build a loyal customer base

A B2B Example of Service Innovation

A B2B example of service innovation is FedEx. FedEx introduced FedEx Freight Next Day Plus, a service innovation that assisted companies in reducing inventory cycle times.

Channel Innovation

Channel Innovation emphasizes optimizing customer touchpoints and distribution channels. In 2024, channel innovation will be focused on reevaluating and transforming the way businesses interact with their customers and users. This involves exploring novel and creative methods to reach and engage B2B customers through various channels, such as:

  • Digital platforms
  • Social media
  • Personalized marketing
  • Leveraging technologies like AI and automation

By enhancing customer touchpoints and distribution channels, businesses can create more efficient and effective customer experiences, fostering communication and promoting business growth. Channel innovation enables companies to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of B2B innovation and ensure that they are effectively connecting with their customers and users.

A B2B Example of Channel Innovation

Consider HubSpot, a leading provider of inbound marketing and sales software. HubSpot has effectively employed channel innovation by embracing digital platforms and personalized marketing to connect with B2B customers. Through its comprehensive suite of tools, including social media integration, marketing automation, and customer relationship management (CRM), HubSpot enables businesses to optimize their customer touchpoints and engage with clients through various channels. By leveraging technology and digital platforms, HubSpot exemplifies how channel innovation can enhance customer connections and contribute to business growth in the B2B sector.

Brand Innovation

Brand Innovation involves strengthening a company’s brand identity and reputation, making it easier for customers and users to identify, recall, and potentially prefer a specific brand in comparison to its competitors. Companies can bolster their brand identity and reputation by cultivating a distinct and recognizable brand image, formulating a robust brand message, and interacting with customers through a variety of channels, all while exploring brand innovations to stay ahead in the market.

By focusing on brand innovation, businesses can:

  • Create a strong and memorable brand that stands out from the competition
  • Encourage customers to choose their products or services
  • Increase brand awareness and loyalty
  • Contribute to the company’s overall success and growth

A B2B Example of Brand Innovation

An example of a B2B company that has effectively enhanced its brand image is Accenture. Through a focus on cutting-edge consulting services, digital transformation solutions, and a commitment to client success, Accenture has established a robust and recognizable brand identity in the business consulting and professional services industry. By investing in brand innovation, Accenture has differentiated itself, gained client trust, and achieved sustained growth and success in the competitive B2B market.

Customer Engagement Innovation

Customer Engagement Innovation emphasizes understanding and leveraging customer needs and preferences to create tailored experiences that will maintain customer engagement and loyalty. In 2024, customer engagement innovation in B2B innovation will be driven by digital marketing trends such as:

  • Augmented spending on digital advertising
  • The prevalence of digital self-service in the buyer journey
  • The incorporation of technology like AI and video content

By staying abreast of these trends and implementing innovative strategies, businesses can create personalized and engaging experiences for their customers. Customer engagement innovation can:

  • Help businesses better understand and meet the needs of their customers
  • Foster long-term relationships and loyalty
  • Ultimately contributes to the company’s overall success and growth

A B2B Example of Customer Engagement Innovation

Microsoft, a global technology company, is highly acclaimed for its exceptional customer engagement innovation. They have achieved this through:

  • Their focus on personalized customer service, with dedicated support for enterprise clients
  • Offering a comprehensive suite of business software and cloud services, including Microsoft 365 and Azure
  • Implementing a loyalty program that rewards enterprise customers for their continued use of Microsoft's business solutions

These strategies have allowed Microsoft to create a strong connection with its B2B clients and foster a sense of community. By leveraging customer engagement innovation, Microsoft has differentiated itself from its competitors and achieved continued success and growth in the competitive business technology market.

Final Thoughts

In the ever-changing world of B2B innovation, businesses must prioritize innovation to remain competitive, relevant, and achieve sustainable growth. By understanding and implementing the Ten Types of Innovation framework, companies can create a comprehensive innovation strategy that covers all aspects of their operations and ensures that they are not only meeting the needs of their customers but also exceeding their expectations.

With innovation as a driving force, businesses can embrace change, adapt to new challenges, and seize new opportunities, ultimately leading to a brighter and more successful future. At Steel Croissant, we help brands grow by helping them establish effective product marketing. Every project we work on is a collaborative opportunity to match our expertise with our partner's knowledge.

Make Innovation a Priority

Given today’s dynamic business environment, businesses need to prioritize innovation to maintain competitiveness and stimulate growth. By constantly seeking out new opportunities, developing innovative products and services, and optimizing internal processes, businesses can create a strong foundation for success and ensure that they stay ahead of the curve.

With innovation at the forefront of their strategy, businesses can effectively navigate the ever-changing landscape of B2B innovation and thrive in the face of uncertainty.

Innovation is Key to Staying Relevant and for Sustainable Growth

Innovation serves not just as a tool for maintaining relevance in the constantly evolving business landscape, but also as a catalyst for sustainable growth. By constantly seeking out new opportunities, developing innovative products and services, and optimizing internal processes, businesses can create a strong foundation for success and ensure that they stay ahead of the curve.

With innovation at the forefront of their strategy, businesses can effectively navigate the ever-changing landscape of B2B innovation and thrive in the face of uncertainty.

To Embracing Innovation

In conclusion, the Ten Types of Innovation framework provides a comprehensive guide for businesses to explore various innovation tactics and remain competitive in the rapidly changing B2B landscape. By understanding and implementing the three pillars of innovation - Configuration, Offering, and Experience - businesses can create a comprehensive innovation strategy that covers all aspects of their operations, ensuring that they’re meeting the needs of their customers and exceeding their expectations. So, let’s embrace innovation, adapt to change, and seize new opportunities, ultimately leading to a brighter and more successful future.


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