In B2B you have to really look after the Choosers and Users
I feel blessed to be working on a B2B product used by mid-size companies; the type of clients that need a motivated sales force and a good go-to-market strategy at that.
When conducting user research, discovery sessions and observations I was really intentional about understanding who the players are.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that you really have to look after the choosers and users.
A simple definition
When we’re considering our salescycle in B2B there are two personas we must have in mind: Users & Choosers (or “buyer” persona if you prefer).
- Users actually use the product
- Choosers evaluate your product for the business when they are reviewing what’s available in the market
Choosers have the most influence
IT is an example that typically fit into both. They may use the product, more from a support/configuration case, but they also have a lot of influence on the buying decision.
Let’s say you want to build a product that improves the work your end-users do daily, BUT it doesn’t give the “chooser” the visibility they need; do you think it will get signed off?
If you download a free app that you don’t like, in the worst case you will uninstall it right? Maybe even ignore it — no big deal in the grand scheme of things. But this is an example for a consumer product so the buyer and user is the same person (it’s you). With B2B however, you are likely to face barriers if you don’t tick some boxes for those that influence the buying decision.
B2B products can solve user needs perfectly but if you don’t take care of the “choosers” it will never get used — I learned that myself. We sell a product, it offers a solution and the clients buy it for the promise of value we deliver. But for every business decision, there are the people you engage with and these can include:
- Project Managers
- Project Sponsors
- Head of Departments (i.e. budget holders)
These days do you know what makes IT and Ops shooketh ? Security, compliance and of course in the EU its GDPR.
A colleague said this to me, I thought it was hilarious.
By understanding more about the “chooser” personas, you can work with your outbound salesforce/inbound marketing to spell out the right benefits in your comms. No matter how good your product is, if you can’t convince these influencers, it won’t pass go. Remember, IT could be banking their career on your “project” so they need it to be a success — ultimately they want happy users and a happy business or they will be the ones to suffer the consequences.
Users are who we are solving problems for
Every business wants to stay competitive. The love language is ROI, cost, productivity, happiness, retention and so forth.
This is what all the products being sold to businesses claim they do. But if they don’t get used in the right way, or the onboarding process is dead and people struggle with your product that renewals conversation can get really awkward and stormy.
The expectations of users are changing. Gaps in the user experience are being accentuated so fewer people want to use crappy systems.
Industry-leading B2B companies are responding by putting customer-centricity and experience at the heart of their strategy — McKinsey
Of course, employees don’t get to choose the suite of products they use, they pretty much have no say in most cases but the smart chooser will be able to assess if the product delivered on the impact it promised; if he/she is coming from another company, it may be they have seen a better alternative.
What happens when the contract is up and your client goes out to tender?
Like anything, clients shop around.
The incumbents will argue that their products (although not perfect) are a tried and tested but if you’re product is good people will promote it.
User satisfaction will help you understand if you are building a good product that is delightful to use and solves important problems better than the existing alternatives.
Client satisfaction will help you understand the whole picture which is where Account Management comes in.
So what can people who build B2B products and sell them to customers do?
Differentiate between your Choosers & Users — they both need to be considered.
A good product is just one piece of the puzzle and to sell into businesses you are likely to require the other functions to work together. Your company is part of the product so the more you consider the end-to-end journey your customers go on the more you can improve the whole experience.
If you are serious about driving impact (and you really want the highly sought after LTV) you need to work closely with users. With this info, you can make better decisions and design better solutions.