In this ProductTank Linz talk, Jason Knight, Product Director at DueDil, provides some insight into enterprise product management for B2B companies, specifically startups and scale-ups selling products to large companies. He also explains some of the challenges product managers will face with enterprise B2B and provides solutions to overcome them.
Watch the video to see his talk in full or read on for an overview of his key points:
- Understanding the enterprise and enterprise B2B product manager
- The enterprise B2B content problem
- Challenges of enterprise B2B product management
Understanding the enterprise and enterprise B2B product manager
When compared to startups, enterprises might be considered oversized and slow, risk-averse with lots of politics and legacy systems and processes. However, these are just some of the differences between enterprise and product startups. These companies also have massive reach, are prepared to sign lengthy contracts, and have exciting problems for product managers to solve.
Whether in a startup or enterprise, the core job of any product manager remains the same:
- Find an important problem to solve
- Find lots of people that really care about that problem
- Find a sustainable, scalable way to solve it (that people will pay for)
The enterprise B2B content problem
Much of the content available on the web is geared towards B2C customers. There is a large and broad market with lots of people for product managers to interview. There are widely understood problems, and the network effects lead to virality and greater product adoption.
With enterprise B2B, however, most of the problems are discussed with sales focusing on big-ticket sales, annual deals, and consultative selling. However, some challenges need to be overcome while working in product management in this area.
Challenges of enterprise B2B product management
Jason talks through a selection of challenges product managers can experience when working in B2B product management.
It can take (a long) time to sell to enterprise
Sales cycles in the enterprise take a long time because these companies have different needs related to security, compliance, integration, and operations. This presents a challenge of no immediate feedback from sales after features are released.
The solution is to prep marketing campaigns early and maintain constant communication with the sales team.
The dark side of sales-led growth
Selling to complicated enterprise companies with diverse needs raises a challenge that can dramatically impact the roadmap. Product managers may find themselves being asked just to add one thing, and the roadmap may flounder.
The solution is to create a culture of continuous discovery and supporting data with a clear product vision that aligns with sales and ensure the product team has executive buy-in to prevent changes to the roadmap.
Your users aren’t (necessarily) your customers
Having your solution integrated across the board is the way to win in the enterprise, but enterprises will likely use a central procurement team. This may mean having to impress two sets of people that may want different things.
The solution is to conduct regular product sessions and discuss your strategy and roadmap while focusing on product discovery for both customers and users.
Your relationship with your users is not the same
There are a near-infinite number of users in the B2C world, and each user’s value is low. This makes it easy to ignore individual requests. With enterprise customers, on the other hand, there are certain expectations that needs will be met.
As the product manager, you will receive feature requests that you can’t say no to, which means you can’t get to everything. Instead, focus on feedback and not feature requests and filter everything through your product strategy.
Your user base might be pretty small in real terms
Many enterprise products only have a handful of users, which might make it difficult to do robust A/B tests and risk the chance of discovery fatigue. The solution is to build relationships with individual customers and users.
The key takeaway from this talk is that enterprise B2B can be challenging but also rewarding. Your core responsibilities will remain the same as the product manager, but the customer profile may change, and maintaining contact with the customer is essential.
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