Digital Strategy

Product Management: B2B SaaS products, when the user is not the buyer

 

The aim of the article is to underline the difference between developing a product for a user (B2C) and a product for an enterprise (B2B). In both cases, there is an end-user but the buyer is not (always) the user.

 

1/ What are the characteristics of the B2B product management?

 

Here the list of few characteristics related to a B2B product:

  • The buyer is not (always) the end-user.
  • Priority to new features and not the improvement of existing ones.
  • Multiple personas to satisfy across the organisation.
  • Customers don’t want frequent changes.
  • Main clients’ requests affect the features priorities.

 

Those five characteristics are well known for the B2B product manager, but they are not exclusive to B2B products.

 

The main distinction of a B2B SaaS product compare to the one you daily use with your personal phone or computer is the sales channel. There are a large number of stakeholders and departments who are involved in the sales process. The company will need a sales representative or even a technical pre-sales in order to understand better the client’s needs the obstacles we can meet during the implementation. The pre-sales have often a technical background, they work closely with the product team and the R&D department.

 

Your relationship with the sales and the pre-sales have to be excellent. Be sure to maintain an efficient communication channel with them. Be proactive and explore even all the silly propositions, they are all coming from a client’s need which can be exploited and valuable for your product. This collaboration will avoid having salespeople coming with a list of contractual features.

 

2/ How do you prioritise your roadmap?

 

The B2B SaaS product manager mind is centred on the features. The main work of the product managers will be to prioritise these features. On the first part of the article, I mentioned that the main client’s requests affect the features priorities. It does not mean that your main clients have to decide about your roadmap.

 

A good product manager has to understand its client. You will have a strong relationship with your client. Most of the new features will derive from your client’s requests. However, a product manager is the decision maker and the one who validates the roadmap.

 

It is highly challenging for a B2B SaaS product manager to reject a client’s request, especially when your client represents more than 30% of the sales. You need to evaluate your feature’s cost of development and implementation and be led by a positive ROI.

 

The other challenge for the product leader is to find the right balance between new features and better UX. It is crucial to have in mind the differences between the buyer and the user needs. The client will pay for new features but you need to be careful because bad user experiences can lead to poor adoptions of your product.

 

Your prioritisation for the next release is impacted by your clients’ needs and your users’ experiences. You have to find an equilibrium for both of them.

 

3/ How do you measure the experience quality of your features?

 

According to Intercom’s data and analytics specialists – a customer messaging platform used by major B2B SaaS products leaders such as Atlassian (Trello, Jira, Confluence, …) or even Shopify – the product metrics are often focused on the conversion rate. In their article “Finding the metrics that matter for your product”, written by Kevin Mcnally and Nick Odlum, it is well explained why focussing on the conversion rate – such as the conversion rate of our customers from trial-to-paid and Monthly Recurring Revenue – is the wrong way to measure your product.

 

“While these metrics are essential to understanding the overall health of a business and its strategy, they fall short for product teams” – Kevin Mcnally and Nick Odlum

 

To measure properly your product, you need to ask the right questions. A B2B SaaS product manager has to think about features and usability. You need to track your user events and use tools analytic tools as Amplitude to understand better your customer journey. Kevin Mcnally and Nick Odlum describe three key points to analyse the use of your product’s features:

  • The intent to use
  • The activation
  • The engagement of the user (recurrence, frequency and time spent by the user)

 

The product manager has to think about the event trackings while he/she is writing the feature specification. The buyer’s needs are very present in the product manager mind, doing this will help him/her to be more focus on the end-user journey while he/she is writing the specification.

 

4/ Will the B2B and B2C product management become the same?

 

I described the characteristics of B2B product management. The main difference between B2B and B2C is obviously the sales channel. As we said before, a large number of departments and stakeholders will be involved from the buyers’ needs understanding to the product implementation and customer support.

In his article, Ben Miller a marketing specialist at ProductPlan, underline that this distinction may disappear. Enterprise buyers will expect to be able to buy and deploy the product on their own. They expect to avoid a long sales process. I invite you to read his article B2B vs. B2C Product Management: Are They Really So Different?.

I believe the distinction between B2B and B2C product management will not disappear. If your product is technical, you will need sales, pre-sales, customer implementation and a strong support team. It relies a lot on your client’s infrastructures and the ability of your end-users to adopt the product.

 

To conclude, the distinction between B2B and B2C product management is present. A good B2B product manager has to be able to prioritise his/her features by finding the right balance between satisfying the buyer’s needs and providing a great UX to his end-users.

 

 

Sources:

  • B2B vs. B2C Product Management: Are They Really So Different?.- Ben Miller. http://bit.ly/2Hl7Xio
  • Vision vs Strategy – Marty Cagnan (Jul 15, 2016) http://bit.ly/2Hoi9qp
  • Why Product Management for B2B Needs to be Different From B2C – Rajat Harlalka (Jun 28, 2018) http://bit.ly/2HmCuvX
  • Does your Enterprise Have a Clear B2B Product Analytics Strategy? – Sandhya Hedge (Nov 23, 2019) http://bit.ly/2Hou2fJ
  • Finding the metrics that matter for your product – Kevin Mcnally and Nick Odlum http://bit.ly/2HiURlw

 

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Baptiste Horn