This blog post is written by our very own Product Manager, Ahmed El-Agha, as he covers the most important aspect that is usually overlooked when building B2B products or any products for the matter. Enjoy the read!
If we were to ask the makers of B2B products to describe their target customer, they may go with something like: “Our typical customer is company X, a medium-sized business in the manufacturing sector that is looking to track its sales funnel and automate its lead generation activities to achieve better efficiency and improve conversion.” Sounds focused and clear, right?
Well, not really! That answer is descriptive and concise, but it stumbles into a mistake that is easy to fall into when thinking about B2B products. The answer misses the most critical part of the business; the part that influences everything about how the product gets built. The part where teams overlook the most important factor; the actual human working in said company. With that in mind, a better statement would go like this:
“Our typical customer is Tarek, a sales executive who suffers from constant busywork like documenting and communicating his sales activities, and is looking for ways to improve his number of monthly closed deals in order to increase his bonus.”
When it comes to building B2B products, the company is often mistaken for being the “customer.” The danger of this abstraction is that it overlooks who the actual user of the product is. At the end of the day, the product is used by a human, not by an entity. A human with their own personal goals, challenges, and circumstances when it comes to the work they do within that entity. Being focused and intentional about the target customer in that way makes the difference between a product that is generic and mediocre, and a product that actually provides value to the customer and solves their needs, and as a result, helps the business succeed.
To become more human-centric in your approach to building products, it helps to ask the following questions about the target customer:
1. What are their goals?
Find out the goals and aspirations of the target customer when it comes to their work and their personal life. Are they working to get a certain promotion? Do they seek certain recognition from their manager or peers? In our example, one of Tarek’s goals is to close more deals so that he can increase his monthly bonus.
2. What challenges do they face?
Uncover the pains and problems faced by the customer as part of their job and think of how these problems can be solved to make the customer’s life easier. For example, one of Tarek’s challenges is the time wasted on routine tasks; time that could be better spent on more productive activities. How can the product solve that problem and free up his time?
3. What are their circumstances?
Explore the circumstances unique to that customer’s situation as it will dictate their behavior and usage of the product. For example, is the customer uncomfortable with technology, or is the customer an IT engineer? In what context is the product being used? In our example, Tarek is always on the move between sales meetings and is rarely at his desk, so the product needs to cater to that mode of usage.
Now that you know what questions to ask, how do you stay human-centric throughout your product discovery process? Based on our experience at Trella, here are a few tips to keep in mind when executing.
When building the first version of your product, make sure you are building for only one type of customer, or in other words, one persona. This will help you be much more focused and effective in solving customers’ problems and delighting them with your product, which is very important to achieve when in the early stages of building. To determine whether your customer base falls within a single persona, simply compare customers’ answers to the questions above. If the answers are similar, then these customers likely fall within the same persona. If not, then you need to continue working on narrowing down your target segment until you isolate a single persona.
End Users vs. Decision-Makers
Throughout this article, “customer” was used to refer to the end-user of the product; the person who actually interacts with it. However, at the same time, it is important to consider who the decision-maker is in the situation; the person who takes the decision to buy or scale the product usage. In some cases, the decision-maker is the end-user, but in other times, that is not the case. Like the end-user, the decision-maker has goals they’re trying to fulfill and challenges they’re trying to overcome, so it is important to keep those in mind, especially when it comes to your team’s go-to-market approach (sales and marketing).
No One’s Safe
Traditionally, teams building B2B products could choose to focus on closing the deal with the decision-maker, while neglecting the product and user experience for the end-user. Nowadays, it is not as easy to get away with that.
Given the decentralized nature of many modern teams in larger companies, products often get adopted bottom-up, with end-users getting their hands on it way before it reaches management to decide whether to scale usage of the product across the company. In the case of B2B marketplace-based products, even if the decision to use the product was taken top-down, a bad product will lead to reduced digital adoption at best, and poor marketplace liquidity at worst.
At the end of the day, whether working on a B2C (consumer) or B2B product, the customer on the other end is an individual with their own challenges and goals. If the product doesn’t provide value to that individual, the relationship will be short-lived. This consideration becomes even more important when the person using the product is also the person who can decide whether to stop or continue using the product.
At Trella, we strive to build products that cater to the needs of the individual, by digging deep to understand their problems, their goals, and how they work. Whether we’re building for shippers, transporters, or carriers, the situation is one and the same: we’re building products for humans.