Switching from B2C to B2B Product Management

July 16, 2021

l

Asaf Frenkel

2

After working as a B2C Product Manager for several years, my career changed paths when I joined a B2B SaaS startup in the cybersecurity and network SaaS domain. It was a challenging transition and I had to focus on filling knowledge gaps, spending time attending webinars and reading articles to learn more. Yet, as I moved from B2C to B2B, adjusting to the new and different mindset also proved difficult.



This post is for Product Managers considering the switch from B2C to B2B.

The following are my main insights from my first 90 days as a B2C-to-B2B Product Manager:

 

From numbers to customers

B2C companies often rely on statistics more than on user interaction. Analyzing the activity of my customers, I discovered trends and made hypotheses constantly. Getting signals from customers meant relying primarily on data. The volume of traffic made A/B tests the optimal method for validating assumptions and reducing risks. Even if you run several tests concurrently, you could reach significant results in just a few days.

In B2B, however, I have learned that tests are less effective because of the low volume of activity and the wide variety of end-user use cases.



So, what should a PM do?

Direct feedback, mock-ups of proposed features, and asking the right questions around pain points are the best ways to find out more about your customers’ needs.
Support tickets and help desk analytics software are also useful resources for gathering customer feedback. By understanding customer complaints, the product team can better understand the challenges customers face when using the product and identify areas for improvement.





The voice of the (right) customer

With such a large business-to-business customer base (we have more than 1600 customers), scheduling calls is easy. Yet it is difficult to find a client who is willing to provide useful feedback.

For example, I worked on a data and analytics feature with multiple use cases, and I had to find relevant customers to interview. When I worked in B2C, I used demographic segmentation (gender, age, location, etc.) to find the right customers to talk to. In the B2B domain, however, segmenting across customer account age, customer account size, user role, and company size is more important than demographics. Another element of finding the right customer to interview is company strategy. Do you want to know more about customers who focus on a particular market or company size? If so, then you should prioritize interviews with those customers.



So, what should a PM do?

Over time, I developed a list of champions (the most engaged and relevant customers) who provided feedback during beta phases, validating the roadmap and other topics.





New stakeholders

Since joining a B2B startup, I have met stakeholders that you don’t typically find in B2C companies — Sales teams, for example. Their day-to-day engagement with existing and potential customers makes Sales a valuable source of information for the product team. Often, both groups collaborate while running proof-of-concept experiments with prospects. Customer journeys are great for identifying onboarding issues and uncovering missing or unused features. In addition, Sales team members can provide competitive analysis, including features that our competitors have that might be deal-breakers, or validating that we meet customer needs better than competing products.

Each team represents the internal voice of the customer, bringing a unique perspective to the user journey. But don’t forget to verify internal stakeholders’ feedback with customer feedback.



So, what should a PM do?

By attending Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) and sales demos (once a week works for me), I’m able to stay informed about customer and market trends and, most importantly, strengthen my relationships with coworkers and build trust.





The roadmap

The company roadmap contributes to the company’s success; once it is shared with customers, it becomes an unofficial commitment that the company works hard to fulfill. Any roadmap change, however, could lead to sales funnel delays or increased churn. Strategic customers’ feature requests are typically prioritized over internal initiatives, which affects the product team’s flexibility to make changes or additions to the product, such as UX improvements. B2C is different; there are fewer dependencies and more flexibility, and one customer request is unlikely to affect the roadmap.



So, what should a PM do?

Engage your customers and use the roadmap announcement as an opportunity not only to strengthen your relationship, but also to center it on accountability.

You want to make sure your roadmap consists only of the things that matter.

And you should stick with them — you can’t hide from your customers if you don’t live up to expectations.



User experience

In the B2B world, the end customer is not necessarily the one who purchased the service. As a result, UX is not as high of a priority when compared to the user’s ability to get the job done at the right price.

In B2C, users will leave your product if actions are complicated. In B2B, however, more features give the product an advantage when closing deals, and your Sales team will pressure you into releasing as many “wow factors” as possible.



So, what should a PM do?

Although the pressure to deliver is high, beware of shortcuts. Don’t skip interviewing customers, identifying pain points, considering alternatives and trade-offs, and running user tests.

When designing business solutions, it’s essential to keep feature adoption in mind. For example, some users will prefer to use an API rather than the product’s UI. Take advantage of long development cycles to ensure that the feature will meet the customer’s needs without compromising on a delightful user experience.





Summing up

Switching from B2C to B2B is an exciting and challenging journey. So far, the part of B2B that makes the journey most interesting is the customers. The ability to get direct feedback (good or bad) makes all the difference. So I invested time learning how to interview customers correctly and experimented with indexing their feedback using a structured framework that I and my fellow PMs on the team could easily access.



What next?

In the future, I plan to explore using the B2C data-oriented method for a B2B day-to-day routine. The challenge is to streamline all of the data points into a set of metrics that will enable the product team to be both data-driven and user-centric in their approach.

Comments

2 Comments

  1. Lance Douglas

    This is a great post, thanks so much for sharing your insights on the transition.

    Reply
    • Asaf Frenkel

      Thank you Lance!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *