Difference between B2C & B2B Product Management
+ A product metric that troubled me + an interesting tweet
In this edition of Behind Product Lines:
An interesting Product tweet that’s taken “flight”
A product metric that personally troubled me
Differences between B2C & B2B Product Management
Tweet: The Plane Analogy
A Product Manager’s job is like the pilot of a plane.
The more I thought about this analogy, the more it made sense.
The destination is the vision, the flight path governs the strategy & roadmap, the engine is your development/design functions, the wings are GTM/Product culture and so on.
Another interesting parallel is how everyone doesn’t necessarily “report” to a pilot.
The one setting up the destination/flight itinerary or building the mechanics of the engine don’t take orders from the pilot. A PM, similarly, has to drive teams (not just “influence”) without authority.
A SaaS Product Metric that troubled me: Time to Value
There's a SaaS product metric that I messed up for a long time.
Until I had a face-palming realization.
It’s called Time to Value (TTV).
Time-to-value is a handy indicator to measure the quality of onboarding flows in PLG products.
It's measured as:
"Duration between the time a user signs up for a product & the first time they experience (value) from it."
The definition of "value" obviously would vary from product to product. It could be the first time they book a ride (Uber) or place a meal order (SkipTheDishes).
How is TTV helpful?
Say, you run a free trial of 14 days.
Ideally, you would like to see users discover value from the product in less than half that time. If on average users take more than 10 days to find their aha, they'll probably be hard to retain (i.e. churn). This means the "first-mile" of your product needs attention.
Back to my situation.
While working on a recruitment tech SaaS product, I made a boo-boo with TTV.
The "value" event I selected was the time the user first publishes a job on their career site.
Poor choice. Why?
To explain this, imagine what you do when you sign up for a SaaS product - say SurveyMonkey.
Most users sign up and create a TEST survey to get a feel of the product.
Similarly, in my product, most recruiters were posting sample jobs to see how it looked like on the career site.
That wasn't the real aha moment I wanted to track.
Why? Because that doesn’t represent real value to the end user. It’s just a test drive. I need to track the point where the customer actually receives a return on their investment of time/effort/money on the product.
Thus, I had to adapt & peg the "value" event to something else.
I aimed at the first time recruiters received a candidate application for a job they posted (from an email domain they didn't own).
[Most recruiters didn't really test the candidate flow]
In the SurveyMonkey example, the aha moment would probably be the first time a non-spam response to the survey is collected.
In fact, Loom - the super popular video messaging tool - ran into a similar problem.
This was explained by Shahed Khan, co-founder of Loom, in a medium article posted by Product Hunt:
"Initially, the team thought that signing up to Loom and recording a video would be the “aha” moment to the product’s value. Data and feedback showed that it wasn’t.
In actuality, people’s first videos were just a test to play around with what the product could do. From there, they began measuring adoption metrics starting from a user’s second video.
Consequently, they learned that it wasn’t until someone received their first view on
their Loom video that users would see the value in their product and continue using it.
That learning &experiment help them set the right strategies for adoption going forward."
If you're measuring time-to-value, see how customers use your product in the initial days. Take that usage behavior in account when identifying the first potential aha- moment in your user’s journey.
What’s the difference between B2C & B2B Product Management?
I'd say the differences have thinned a lot over time. This is primarily due to the rapid consumerization of B2B side of things.
But I can try to contrast my experiences at Pakwheels, Yallamotor & Bayt (B2C) with my time at Talentera & vFairs (B2B).
I had the opportunity to talk to a clique of power customers regularly to help validate prototypes & ideas.
Direct interaction with customers is episodic where you may take a call from a power user or conduct a focus group. Otherwise, the feedback loops was driven more by surveys, community forums & social media hashtags.
I was tasked to balance business metrics (revenue, churn etc.) & product metrics (utilization, adoption etc.) from Day 1.
The initial focus was about scale & volume, so acquisition & engagement metrics (e.g. Traffic, MAUs, Sign-ups, market share etc.) were a big focus initially. PnL management came sometime later.
UI & UX Demands
B2B customers demand polished UI/UX nowadays, but they generally have a higher tolerance for blemishes as long they can get work done.
Users are vocal about UI/UX issues & especially, now have a high bar. Users generally expect a higher standard for design & onboarding/the ease of use determines the rate of retention.
Cases where this may not matter as much are where the product already has immense network effects e.g. Reddit, Craig’s List.
This has its benefits as they sort of help pseudo-QA the product. However, if the UI/UX issues persist, they might even jump ship.
Deal sizes & velocity
Fewer customers but usually have a higher transaction value. If you’re in the enterprise market, then sales cycles can be in the order of months + annual & multi-year contracts are common.
Volume is the name of the game. Lots of users to deal with. If you’re running a SaaS, several will be found on free plans. The few paid users have smaller ticket sizes. Churn is common & annual contracts are unheard of.
I would often maintain an external roadmap (to excite customers) along with an internal one. At vFairs, customers expect to see the innovations we are working on in virtual events to see what their future events could benefit from.
The roadmap was primarily internal to the team. In some product cultures, they may have a public Trello board to showcase what they’re working on but that too might be reserved for a pool of advanced/power users.
Since customers are fewer, those who pay big bucks also have more leverage over the product roadmap & have a tendency to semi-hijack control.
Users have voice & wish lists but we still had more control as the product team.
Sales reps & customer success have to maintain a 1:1 relationship after the sale is made to create renewals & upsells.
In low-ticket B2B SaaS & marketplaces, the acquisition of a customer hardly involves a sales rep. Customer success is not hyper-personalized either. Most retention mechanisms (& thus customer relationships) were automated & email-based.
This might be different in products in Notion where there is an enterprise tier as well. In such cases, sales reps will identify through product usage which accounts are showing signs of expansion & approach them individually.
Customers were highly sensitive to major product releases. They needed warnings, trainings etc. if we were changing something, especially to core modules.
Unless I completely butchered a core feature, users were indifferent to new enhancements & changes. In fact, many users were curious to give it a try.
I had to think about flows for an entire team, not just an individual. For example, role-based access control & permission systems are a critical consideration.
There was more focus on ability to configure personalization preferences rather than defining roles & permissions.
Data migration & training costs are major barriers-to-exit for businesses.
Users are more likely to churn due to various reasons: not enough usage, episodic activity, better alternative etc. One effective barrier-to-exit was if the product has considerable network effects.
The source of tech debt was often associated with myriad of client-level customizations that come through with urgency. Of course, lack of foresight, muddled strategy & last-minute scope changes didn’t help anyone’s cause.
In B2C, strategy & poor planning were contributors too. Tech debt often emanated from hot fixes & micro-pivots in the strategy. Moreover, the shipping cycles were quicker & teams wanted to build/ship more. That “change velocity” affected the stability of the code base.
A lot of internal teams would get involved during deal stages to scrutinize factors like data redundancy, backup plans, disaster management, compliance & security. Companies are sensitive to these because it can affect their business continuity & cybersecurity issues can translate to monetary losses.
Users obsess about speed & uptime. Privacy is a concern that’s picking up too.
Both B2C and B2B fundamentally depend on how well you understand your customer base and how you navigate through their expectations.
B2B setups have slightly more complex stakeholder matrices on the client side as end users are different from the actual people who will write the cheque. Businesses also have a lot more requirements, factors & consideration cycles.
At the same time, B2C may not have that much complexity per customer, but working on scale & distilling all the behavioral data down to actionable improvements can get taxing.
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