B2C vs. B2B product management – 16 differences
May 22, 2011 23 Comments
Most of my product management career has been spent doing B2B product management. For the last year and a half, I have switched over to B2C product management in my current role as Director of Product Management at Gazelle. Last 12 months has been a lot of fun learning a whole lot of new things in the consumer world. Given this learning, I have been able to create a long list of things that matter a whole lot more doing B2C product management that may not be as important doing B2B product management. Here we go:
- It is a millions game – Victory is declared when you have million+ customers, not hundreds or thousands (if your goal is to become the “brand” in the space you are in) unless you are in a niche market.
- There is one buyer most of the time – no technical buyer, no economical buyer, no user. The consumer is coming to your website with intention to buy something for themselves with their money. (exceptions do exist – for example, if I am buying something for my wife or kids or my mom – though this is not the mainstream use case).
- Short sales cycles – Ideally you want every customer to buy from you on your first visit (never happens, but the goal is to get as many to do this). There are no RFPs, no demos, no data sheets, no whitepapers, no lunches with prospects to convince them to buy. Your website is the demo – if they don’t like or understand something, they will leave and may never come back.
- Show me the money – It is harder to monetize consumer products. A lot of apps, services are available for free, and consumers are used to getting products and services for free online. Consider a limited-feature free product or limited-time free trial offer, setting the stage and expectations that they will need to pay. Make sure that the value proposition is crystal clear to the customer. Remember, they are spending their hard earned money and not their employer’s.
- Short attention span – KISS (Keep it simple stupid) principle applies so much in B2C. Use middle-school reading level language on your site – short, simple, easy to digest. None of the gobbledygook you can get away in the B2B world with (the reliable, scalable, innovative, high performance, architecture marketing BS) works.
- Details matter even more – Given the short attention span and the high propensity to go elsewhere (one mouse click away), everything from page load times count. If your page takes long to load (read that as more than 2 sec), chances of your prospect leaving go up exponentially, unless you are an established brand (read Amazon or Google).
- Product experience rules – Site usability matters a whole lot. There is no consulting, no professional services in the B2C world. Either the customer gets it the first time or by quickly looking through your FAQs or they just leave. If your product is not easy to use, expect it to be returned (or if it’s a website, abandoned). Consumers rarely RTFM.
- Customer experience rules – You need to deliver a “crazy awesome” customer experience to every customer. Over and above the product experience, you need to deliver an awesome experience at every touch point – whether it is customer care, online content, surveys, newsletters – you need to aspire to beat your customer’s ever rising expectations. Why? See #9.
- Social proof is mandatory – Consumers look for social proof – who else is using it, what do other think about it? Is this site real and trustworthy? Again, remember, they are spending their money and not their employer’s. And by social proof, I don’t just mean canned testimonials (which by the way lot of buyers do not trust), but instead they expect to read both positive and negative reviews about your service on the web, Facebook, Twitter etc. If you deliver an excellent experience, they will tell others. And if you deliver an awful experience, they will tell even more people and you will not even know. However, they do not expect you to deliver an awesome experience to everyone – some customers can just not be pleased and no company is perfect – you are bound to screw up at least in some cases. So if all they see are positive reviews, it could be a cause for concern (trustworthy?). So, instrumenting your product to allow your customers to easily share their experiences (good and bad) is important.
- Building brand equity matters – You need to appeal to the masses right from the word “go”, but it will take time. There is no fast way to get there. But once you have built and earned good brand equity, you will retain the consumer mindshare for a long time. For example, when it comes to buying books, do you think of Amazon or Borders? When you think about mp3 player – do you think of ipod or zune? When you think about search, do you think Google or Microsoft? When you think social media, do you think Facebook or Orkut? It took a lot of work for all these companies to get to where they are now. Why? Read #1 again.
- Web analytics – In the B2C world, you live and breathe “web analytics” – unique visitors, bounce rates, traffic sources, conversion rates, conversion lifts, funnels etc. become part of your everyday terminology. It is all about getting more customer traffic to your website and getting them to buy or do whatever that helps you make money. If you are running an eCommerce site, you want to make sure they find the thing they want and then buy it from you.
- Test, test, test – Getting ready for continuous A/B testing and multi-variate testing becomes part of your DNA. Consumers are fickle, they change their mind all the time. Hence, no matter how many usability tests you have done before you release changes to your site, it can never guarantee success. You need a lot of data points to declare a winner. The only way to find out is to release changes to production and then conduct A/B or multi-variate testing before you declare a winner. Be prepared for surprises, because what you think will win could turn out to be a sore loser.
- SEO, SEO, SEO – every page you create on your website needs to be SEO (search engine optimization) friendly. Why? Your highly qualified prospective customers will find you primarily via two mechanisms – 1) search engines when they are about to buy what you are trying to sell or 2) by word of mouth. So as a B2C product manager, you need to have a decent knowledge of how SEO works.
- Keep them loyal – As I have mentioned before, word of mouth is huge in the consumer world. Because it is not one person telling another, it is one person telling 10 of his/her family or friends. Consumers love loyalty programs – it is your way of thanking them and keep coming back. I still fly American Airlines because that is where I have the most miles. (I hate their customer experience, but I still remain loyal because of the miles).
- Respect their privacy – Ask only for personal information that is absolutely needed. If sensitive personal information is asked, explain how you would use it. If a consumer opts out of receiving marketing material from you, respect that. Do not require them to “register” with your site to use your product/service unless required. Allow for “guest checkout”.
- Stay in touch – via newsletters, Facebook. Get them to “like” your FB page – use your page for periodic product updates, contests, relevant news, etc. Remarket to them with relevant content, coupons etc. But never, ever spam your customers.
Do you agree? What else are the differences between B2C and B2B product management that you have come across? Kindly share your thoughts via comments.