3 Tips for Managing a B2B2C Product

Rajesh Nerlikar April 9 2021

At HelloWallet, we sold web and mobile apps that helped employees improve their financial wellness.  The product was offered as a benefit to employees by their employer, who was our our client.  The B2B2C model is complex to manage – here are some tips I learned along the way:

#1. Get KPI Alignment First

Make sure you know what outcomes your buyer is expecting your product to deliver, and how they’ll be measured. Then, make sure you know what outcomes your consumer users are expecting, and how they’ll be measured. If the buyer and consumer outcomes aren’t aligned, stop. Do not pass Go. Figure out how to get them aligned before proceeding. After all, your buyer is paying for consumer behavior change, and if your product doesn’t help consumers with an urgent problem they want help with, your product won’t last long.

At HelloWallet, our clients were looking for a variety of things – productivity gains due to less financial stress, “engaged” employees, retirement readiness, and retention. As you might imagine, the solution could take many different forms based on which of those outcomes was most critical. It’s important to make sure you know exactly what metric the customer will use to measure success. During sales calls, I would often ask:

How will you measure the success of this program in a year? How will you know if HelloWallet is “working”?

Sometimes they didn’t have an answer, or they focused on metrics like adoption and engagement that I knew weren’t enough to justify our fees come renewal time. Make sure you have a definitive answer to this question from prospective customers. Work with your sales, account management or user research colleagues to solicit the answer to this question. Also, don’t pick more than 2-3 Key Performance Indicators – otherwise they’re not “key.”

Note: the KPI(s) you select with clients should be consistent across clients. If you’ve already established KPI(s) with existing clients, new clients should hear that is how you measure success during the sales cycle. Otherwise you’ll end up with an unmanageable number of KPIs.

#2. Establish Flexibility 

As a SaaS product manager, your worst nightmare is to have a multi-year roadmap written in stone for 1 or 2 key clients. I’m not saying you don’t need a multi-year roadmap or a way to explain short, medium and long term initiatives to prospective and existing customers, but you need the flexibility to update that plan when necessary. The basic idea is to let customers know that the way you’ll deliver ongoing value is to test and learn what product changes deliver better outcomes. Which leads me to the third tip…

#3. Be Transparent 

Provide updates to clients on how you’re doing with your KPIs and what you’re learning along the way. Present data analytics, user research insights, usability testing findings and experiment results to make sure your customers understand that the value they’re getting comes from your team’s constant efforts to improve the product to better deliver the outcomes they’re expecting. You should be presenting this information to each customer and soliciting their ideas to achieve better outcomes at least once a quarter. You should also present your longer-term vision and strategic roadmap to get their feedback and validate they agree on the direction you’re headed. After all, SaaS customers aren’t just buying the product as it stands today - they’re also buying the future versions.

Closing Thoughts

Being a B2B2C product manager is hard, especially at a startup.  You have to juggle the needs of your internal stakeholders / execs, the buyer and the end users.  Hopefully these tips help you figure out how to build a balanced product strategy, focused on outcome metrics rather than output, and give you the flexibility to build trust with your colleagues and customers as you demonstrate movement on the KPIs that matter to them.  Keep your head up, and of course reach out to us if you'd like to talk shop about your situation!

Written by Rajesh Nerlikar

Rajesh is a co-founder of Prodify and Principal Product Advisor / Coach. He is currently the VP of Product at Regrow. Prior to that, he was the Director of Workplace Products at Morningstar, a Senior PM at HelloWallet (which was acquired by Morningstar) and a PM at Opower (which went public in 2014).

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