How B2B and B2C Product Management Differ
Product management roles vary across companies as a function of many different aspects, for example company size, culture, or historical context. One important factor driving differences in the role of product managers is whether the product is B2B (with businesses as customers) or B2C (with consumers as main users / customers). This delineation is of course imperfect (technically Facebook is a B2B product…), but since it fundamentally impacts some of the responsibilities of product managers, I wanted to highlight some key differences, having worked in both contexts.
One big point up front: it used to be that B2B meant that user experience didn’t matter as much. What mattered was that you convinced the person holding the purse strings to buy your software, even if the people who had to use the software groaned about the bad usability. In the last 10 years, this has changed with the trend of the “consumerization of IT”. Business users demand a great user experience, and with web and app based software that is easy to buy with a credit card and deploy independently of an IT department, a whole world of B2B software targeted at bottom-up adoption and viral growth has sprung up. Bottom-up adoption, of course, works only if people actually want to use the software, which requires a good user experience. In summary, usability and user experience is no longer a differentiating factor between B2B and B2C.
However, there are some important aspects that continue to be different — although over time, these may continue to blend more into each other.
Customer / user acquisition
One of the big differences between B2B and B2C tends to be user and customer acquisition. Although virally adopted self-service B2B software has started to blur these lines, by and large, B2B technology companies will have a sales team that is responsible for converting new customers and increasing revenue. Depending on the model, the sales team may focus more on inbound sales or outbound sales or account management. The marketing team in B2B companies is more about positioning, messaging, and producing collateral for sales (material used by the sales team in convincing potential customers to buy).