Aren’t We All Just People? Building Products For B2B And B2C

September 2, 2014

Product Leadership

User experience is growing as a mode of thinking across B2C and B2B businesses alike. We’re beginning to consider business customers less and less as corporate cogs, and more and more as the same people we sell to over in B2C companies. They’ve just got different clothes on, right? User personas that account for background, motivations and pain points are equally integral to building great products no matter what kind of audience you’re building for. Each of us has personal challenges at work that we’d like to solve to make life easier and more enjoyable.

So if customers are all just people, what are the real differences between B2B and B2C product management?

Marquee customers VS fluid masses

When you’ve got a B2B customer base, it’s much more likely that you’ll have fewer, high-revenue customers and that these are individually more important to your product decisions. B2C customer bases however are much more high-volume and individuals come and go. Finding the average use case is much more important than responding to specific needs.

Sales insight VS customer surveys

B2B and B2C businesses have different access to customers therefore the feedback that comes with it. Product managers with internal sales team can benefit from (and also have to push back on) feedback and suggestions funnelled internally from direct customer interaction. B2C product managers however must go direct to the customer themselves and use different methods to reach that insight, which are often much more large scale and broader in reach – such as customer surveys, or focus groups.

Predictable and fixed VS vague and variable user goals

When we’re at work we’re in a more structured environment than when we’re relaxing at home or out with friends. Whereas B2C user goals can be hugely diverse when using the same product, B2B user goals are based on prescribed tasks and are therefore easier to predict. However, this means that the product capabilities you have to account for might be more complex. This is one area where our behavior as people notably shifts – we are often more prepared to learn a product at work if it means that all of our needs can be met.

Decision makers VS financial freedom

Finally, who the product manager must take into consideration when setting product vision and roadmap direction is usually very different between B2B and B2C companies. Consumers are, generally speaking, free to make their own purchasing decisions. If something saves them time, reduces headaches, or is just plain fun to use they’re often free to make their own calls. In B2B markets however, management sign-off, budget approval and even legal departments are the norm before any product is chosen. But be careful with this one. If you need buy-in from the CMO, make sure your product’s what and why offers them value. But don’t forget that you aren’t necessarily designing for the CMO when it comes to the how.

If you’re trying to apply product management best practice to your role, or you’re looking to make a switch between B2B and B2C products, keep these differences in mind. However never forget that whatever they’re doing, your users are always people. Keep the differences explained here in mind when it comes to product lifecycles or roadmapping, however never stop striving for a great user experience that relieves your customers’ frustrations and adds value to their day.

Aren’t we all just people? Building products for B2B and B2C Click To Tweet

Janna Bastow is co-founder of ProdPad, software that helps product managers plan and deliver better products. Janna also organizes ProductTank events around the world, including Mind The Product, a global community of product managers. She likes to inspire great product conversations by asking: “What problem are you trying to solve?”

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