A B2B product manager faces a lot of challenges that are specific only to the B2B space.

Today, I talk about such challenges and a few ways to tackle them.

Challenges of a B2B Product manager:

  1. Everything is about revenue.
  2. Finding the right problem is not easy.
  3. Things move slow.
  4. Distorted user personas
  5. Limited number of customers.

Everything is about revenue:

The challenge:

B2B companies typically use revenue as their (only) success metric.

As a result, the only way the PM can prioritize improvements, features, bug fixes, and tech debt is by converting the impact to a revenue number.

And that, is not easy.

The second challenge this poses is that it indirectly makes the highest paying customer(s) an active influencer of your roadmap. (But that is a topic for another post)

Possible solutions:

There is no one size fits all.

There is no straightforward formula to do the math.

However, there is one thing that works -finding relevant proxies.

Example 1:

You’re shipping a product improvement.

  1. Find a similar instance in the past.
  2. Determine the impact (increase in adoption, decrease in churn, increase in CSAT) from the earlier instance.
  3. Use the same impact as a starting point, apply relevant adjustments, estimate the revenue impact for the new improvement.

Example 2:

You’re trying to prioritise a bug fix.

  1. Determine the number of customer issues relating to the bug
  2. Estimate (using internal benchmarks or past instances) the decrease in complaints by fixing the bug.
  3. Then estimate the increase in CSAT.
  4. Finally, use that to estimate the increase in revenue.

What you’re trying to do is to create a “best guess estimate” using all (past and present) data, intuition, and expertise.

It might feel random when you do it for the first time, but the more you do it the more accurate you get.

Finding the right problem is not easy

The challenge:

B2B customers don’t care about aesthetics, beautiful UI, presentation, or ease of use.

They are buying your product to solve a problem.

But they might not realise that.

And when you ask them what they want, they will respond with a list of features.

When you ask the same question to the sales team, they share another list of features.

Building any of those features, as Shreyas says, might solve *a* problem, but not *the* problem

Potential solution:

Your goal here is to get to *the problem* that customers are trying to solve through your product.

So when you talk to customers (or internal stakeholders)

  1. Don’t force them to focus on a single problem.
  2. Instead, start broad — ask the customers to share their problems. And then make them prioritise the problems from the highest to the lowest impact.
  3. Once you have that list, use five whys to uncover the underlying need.

This will help you look beyond a list of features, and truly understand the their need.

Do this regularly. Your customers’ problems will change very often. The priority of problems will also change frequently.

Things move slow:

The challenge:

The speed of ideating, testing, validating, shipping is much slower for a B2B product manager compared to a B2C PM.

Some reasons leading to the slowness:

  1. A lot of “legacy” everything — in a B2B product, you might have a feature built five years ago. One high paying customer is still using it. And to maintain it even today, you take away resources from your current roadmap.
  2. Non-product nuances — B2B products usually involve mandatory certifications, contracting, legal agreements, privacy requirements etc. Getting all of that in place takes a lot of time.

Potential solution:

  1. Familiarize yourself with all such requirements.
  2. Go deep. Understand the processes to get everything in place.
  3. Know the people who can potentially help by expediting/waiving off/suggesting alternatives for such requirements when needed.
  4. Optimize (where possible) the processes for speed and efficiency.
  5. Build buffers in your estimation to accommodate such requirements.

Distorted user personas:

The challenge:

The decision-maker, the person who signs the check, and the user are all different people.

Every person has a different goal.

It takes time and effort to find the right person for the right task.

Potential solution:

  1. Know who is who.
  2. Build relationships at all levels.
  3. If you, as the PM, cannot do that then ask your sales team to do it.
  4. Then understand the goals of each person in the chain.
  5. Tweak your message based on their goals
  6. Talk to the users to identify the problems or get feedback.
  7. Talk to the decision-maker to share the 1–5–10 year vision, and get them to sign up for a longer duration.

Limited number of customers:

The challenge:

A B2B product manager works with, at the most, tens of thousands of customers. Hence, the quantity of data is less.

Less data limits the the quality of data-driven-insights.

Potential solution:

Find extra insights that complement the data.

  1. Build hypotheses based on data.
  2. Validate them with internal stakeholders or customers.
  3. Start with internal stakeholders like sales, account management and customer support. They have a good sense of the customers’ pain points.
  4. Create an effective system to extract structured feedback with them. Regularly.
  5. Build mental models to convert the subjective feedback into objective next steps.

​That’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed this quick guide.

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Oct 6, 2023
Fundamentals of Product Management

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