At its core, product discovery is a simple concept. By talking to our customers regularly, we can collect insights into their unique problems, needs, and desires (or what I often refer to as “opportunities”). We then use these insights to guide the products we build.
However, many people worry that it’s more complicated than that.
I get a lot of questions about B2B (business to business) vs. B2C (business to consumer) products. Many product people seem concerned that these distinctions have a huge impact on the way that they approach discovery.
Spoiler alert: I don’t actually believe that B2B and B2C are all that different, especially when it comes to discovery.
Spoiler alert: I don’t actually believe that B2B and B2C are all that different, especially when it comes to discovery. – Tweet This
But I get it, these distinctions can trip people up. In many B2B contexts, the end user is not the person who makes the decision to buy the product. This means it can be trickier to actually talk directly with your users. It can also mean that you get requests from sales that aren’t necessarily aligned with what your users want or need.
Today’s Ask Teresa looks at what’s different (or not so different) about conducting discovery and building B2B products.
In this series, I answer common questions about continuous discovery. Find all the posts in this series here. Have something you’d like me to tackle in a future post? Get in touch here to let me know.
Question: When you are selling to enterprise buyers, but your end user is actually not the people who are buying, how do you approach discovery?
It’s funny—in our industry, we tend to think about B2B as radically different from B2C. I don’t think that’s true. And that’s because most B2C products have content providers, or advertisers, or sellers. There’s still a complex ecosystem where there are multiple people’s needs you have to meet.
Facebook has to meet the consumer’s needs and the advertiser’s needs. Netflix has to meet the viewer’s needs and the content provider’s needs. We all work in complex ecosystems.
I think the key in the enterprise environment is that the person choosing to buy the product is not necessarily the person using the product. And so if we just focus on the buyer’s needs, it feels like we’re going to win the deal in the short term, but you actually are putting the renewal at risk. Because if the end user doesn’t use it—regardless of what the buyer thinks—they’re not going to renew.
In the enterprise environment, the person buying the product is not necessarily the person using the product. If we just focus on the buyer’s needs, we might win the deal in the short term, but we’re putting renewal at risk. – Tweet This
Build Products for Your User, But Enable Sales to Sell
The way that I look at B2B is, I want to build my product for the user, but I have to enable sales to sell. That means I’m going to spend the vast majority of my time investing in what people are using, but I’m going to take a check the box approach for what unlocks sales. So if my sales team says, “We need this feature,” but you know users are not going to use it, I might build that feature because that’s what’s required to close the sale, but I’m going to build it just enough for it to demo well, and I’m not really going to care about it beyond that.
The way that I look at B2B is, I want to build my product for the user, but I have to enable sales to sell. – Tweet This
The reason why we’re building that feature is to close the sale. And until we see the user actually wants it and wants to use it, I’m not going to put any more energy into it. So there’s a little bit of understanding each stakeholder and building just enough to meet that stakeholder’s needs.
And in the enterprise world, there’s a lot of that. There are a lot of check the box features that get you in the door, but you should not be building them as full bells and whistles features until you know someone’s going to use them.
Deciding Where to Invest More: It All Comes Back to Discovery
So how do you decide when to invest more? I want to get curious about why the buyer thinks this is important. Are my users going to use this? That’s where I want to do the work.
If it really is a feature my users are going to use, I want to build a real version of it. But we see that people that make IT decisions in companies don’t always know their end users well. They ask for things that the end user doesn’t necessarily want.
As long as I’ve done the discovery to be confident of that, that’s when I’m willing to build a check the box feature. And then you need to stay open to being wrong. If you see people do start to use it, and you’re getting feedback that it’s unsatisfactory, then you’ve got to quickly iterate on that feature and make it a real feature.
As long as I’ve done the discovery to be confident that my end users don’t want a feature that the buyer is requesting, that’s when I’m willing to build a check the box feature. – Tweet This
But there’s lots of examples where things sell in a demo process and they don’t get used, and so we’ve got to manage both.
We see this even with consumer products. When we’re making buying decisions as a consumer, what do we care about? Features. We all do it. What has the most features? What do we care about when we own the product? Ease of use, simplicity, how well it matches our primary need.
So the same problem exists in the consumer world, and we’ve just got to make sure we’re managing both. Because we have to earn the sale and we have to earn engagement over time.
We have to earn the sale AND we have to earn engagement over time. – Tweet This
We regularly discuss questions like this one in the Continuous Discovery Habits community. If you’re looking to connect and learn with like-minded peers, come join us!