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In enterprise SaaS, the buyer and user are often different audiences with disparate needs, but both need to experience value for the product to succeed.
This poses a challenge for B2B product teams: with limited resources, how do you balance delivering everyday value to the user while proving ROI to the buyer? What strategies do you use to prioritize what to build? We spoke with experts from Notion’s portfolio to learn their approach.
Christopher Lewis, product strategist at Shell, starts with the basics: understanding not just what your users want, but also your buyers.
“Users and buyers are part of a single value chain we need to satisfy to achieve product-market fit. So in start ups & scale-ups, it's all about understanding not just what your users want from your product, but also how your customers’ buying cycle and process works. Who are the decision-makers? What are their needs and behaviours? How often do they purchase? How can you access it?”
He recommends leveraging buyer-focused roles to build understanding, then embedding these players directly into the product planning process. “Having Solution Engineers and dedicated salespeople integrated into the product team is essential, even at an early stage. They’re uniquely positioned to empathise with and understand the needs of your buyers, as well as work on creating a relationship across the value chain and strengthening the sales penetration.”
Once you understand your buyers, “Linking the user's benefit to the buyer's interest is fundamental in fostering mutual success,” says Alberto Ortiz, VP of Product at Cobee.
“At Cobee, our platform serves both employers (the buyers) and employees (the users), so we've adopted a product strategy with a strong consultative approach.
“We use internal employee metrics and data to make a compelling case for both buyers and users –frameworks like eNPS, ROI, cost-of-employee turnover analysis, and collaborative employer branding campaigns.”
Alberto points out that when you’ve prioritized user-buyer win-wins, highlighting how the user's benefit aligns with what's valuable to the buyer is easy:
“Often, we find ourselves in the role of an advisor, illustrating how aligning the platform with user needs can result in significant returns for the buyer as well. These tools allow us to explicitly communicate the value proposition to buyers.”
Christian Miccio, product leadership consultant at All Things Product seeks out hidden opportunities to build for users that can influence buyers.
“In an advertising product, the buyer was the Director of Advertising and the user was the junior role who was managing the ads directly. We had two products: an ads management tool for the juniors, and a dashboard to let the buyers monitor the ads’ performance. The buyers never looked at the dashboard and we didn’t know why.”
“We investigated and learned there were middle managers sitting between the users who managed the ads and the buyers. These middle managers prepared reports every week for the buyers, gathering data from the performance of the ads and creating graphs to illustrate it. This took time and effort.”
“With a very simple export feature, we were able to offer these middle users a way to create their weekly report in one click. They became the biggest evangelists of our product, helping us close new deals and reducing churn. So ultimately, we understood that the dashboard for the managers was a vitamin, but this same dashboard with the extraction feature was a pain killer for the mid-managers.”
How have you balanced building for buyers and users? Share your strategies, wins, and learnings here with the Productology community.
Is there a challenge you’re currently facing with your product? Let us know and we’ll discuss it with our community of product experts.
Productology is a series of short content pieces aimed at providing insights on product-related topics. It is brought to you by Melissa Haij and Itxaso del Palacio. Melissa is a product advisor to Notion's portfolio with over 20 years of experience leading product and design at startups, agencies, Meta, and Apple. Itxaso is a General Partner at Notion and has led investments in product-led businesses such as Yulife and ForestAdmin.