B2(very small)B Customers

I have spent most of my time in technology companies working on B2B software. Whether it’s been in support, design, product management, or operations a few interesting things stand out from having the smallest of businesses as my customers.

There are many differences between working in B2B and consumer software. B2B typically deals with a lower volume of customers and have a closer relationship with them. Which is related to the fact that the acquisition channels tend to be different and the sales cycles often much longer for B2B. Use of products are often more casual and ad-hoc for consumer versus more structured, goal-driven, and often 40 hours per week for B2B. Or at least that what is tends to look like at the ends of the spectrum. So pure consumer entertainment software versus enterprise level deeply integrated software. I have mostly been working with small and medium-sized businesses, in some cases even tiny businesses. And they sit somewhere in the middle of the scale on many of those dimensions. Which makes for an interesting set of challenges and opportunities borrowing from both consumer and enterprise-level B2B software.

Some of the challenges in working with very small businesses come from the consumer side of the scale. An owner or employee at a very small business will most likely cover multiple roles and responsibilities. Which means that their time and attention is split across multiple priorities. Which again means that whatever tool or service you are offering them most likely only related to one of their priorities. In a enterprise setting it is more likely that the person who will be using the tool is fully focused on one area of expertise, which means your tool or service helps them with the one thing that is most important to them. So when approaching small businesses about a service, understand that they have many things to do. On the flip side, in a small business you are more likely to be talking to the person who can make the purchase decision. You won’t usually need to wait for the supervisor meeting and budget reviews for someone to OK a purchase.

Build the tool with a casual gaming mindset. It is unlikely that your user will be spending all day every day in your tool, so it needs to be very simple to jump in and get work done whenever some time frees up. Whether that is once per week or every other week. Consider when your users will most need help from you. Any tool that is not the top 3 most used by a small business, are likely to find usage on evenings and weekends when other priorities have been taken care of. So consider whether you need to be available on the phone outside of business hours, or if you need to build really good self-help content that can cover during those times.

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In related news, I wrote a post a while back about how the guy strapped to my back in that picture is in fact a small business owner “at the office”

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