I did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on product management on NextBigWhat a couple of months ago. There were a bunch of questions I was asked about product management. I just realized that I had not cross-posted my responses on the AMA on my Medium blog.

Here are a select few questions I was asked in the NextBigWhat AMA and my answers to those questions.

What’s the difference between product management in B2B/SaaS and B2C?

Following are some of the differences I can think of:

  1. Customer Research: B2B PMs tend to speak with customers a LOT more than B2C customers. In B2C, it is quite likely that you are an end user of your product (think PMs in Ola, Swiggy etc.). In B2B, you’re not always the primary user of your product. As such, it is even more important to speak with customers in B2B than in B2C.
  2. UI/UX: I think there’s a lot more focus on getting the UI/UX perfect in B2C than B2B. It’s not like the UI/UX doesn’t matter at all in B2B but you can build a great product/business with an average UI/UX in B2B.
  3. Quantitative Analysis: You will likely do a LOT of quantitative analysis in B2C compared to B2B. That’s just because you have so much data in B2C compared to B2B. You could build a B2B/SaaS company that does $50 million in revenues even with a few hundred customers. Would quantitative analysis based on data from a couple of hundred customers be enough to draw insights? Probably not.
  4. Feature Development: For B2C products, you’re likely to only develop those features that affect a majority of your customers. It can sometimes be a bit different in B2B where even if 20% of your customers strongly desire a feature, it is likely that you will consider developing this feature.

That said, a lot of B2B/SaaS companies (Dropbox, Mailchimp etc.) that focus on SMBs tend to behave a bit like B2C companies where UI/UX is important, they deal with thousands of customers etc.

How did you get into product management?

Which is more exciting — B2B or B2C and why?

It can also happen that you end up investing a lot of time, money and effort for a B2C play and have nothing to show for it. Things are a bit different in B2B. If you’re solving a critical business problem, you’re likely to be successful. It’s a different matter whether you’re moderately successful or highly successful.

Lastly, B2C seems to be a winner take-all market. B2B, on the other hand, is very different where you might have dozens of competitors solving a similar problem and all of them doing relatively well.

How do I get a break into doing product management?

  • Try to move into a product management role in the current company you’re in. This is possibly the easiest and the most convenient route of getting your first break in product management.
  • Do an MBA from a Tier 1 college (ISB, IIMs etc.). For some reason, companies tend to be open to PM roles for folks fresh out of an MBA program, even though these folks don’t have any experience in product management. I don’t know why this is so but it works.
  • Work pro-bono part-time for 10–15 hours a week for an early-stage startup on their product. You can do this on weekends or in your free time on weekdays. Once you have done this for a few months, you will have something to show on your resume for your product experience.
  • Learn coding and design and build your own products. Basically build a portfolio that you can then show off to potential recruiters. This is probably the toughest (since it takes a lot more time and effort compared to the options above) but I can guarantee you that this is a highly enjoyable experience.

I’m helping a client solve a customer retention problem by helping them identify leading indicators of churn for their software product. Any frameworks I can leverage?

The ‘Who’ of churn can be understood by analyzing/segmenting churning customers basis any of these dimensions or a mix of these dimensions: Pricing Plan, Regions/Countries, Source of Acquisition, Size of Company, Industry etc.

The ‘When’ of churn can be understood by analyzing the lifecycle of the churning segment.

Early stages: Are they churning in the early stages? Maybe it is an onboarding problem.

Middle stages: If they are churning in the middle stages, problems could be any of the following:

  • Team adoption issues
  • Irregular use
  • Product issues
  • Poor support/service
  • Cheaper competitors
  • Low RoI on product

Later stages: If it’s in the later stages during renewal, it is likely to be an adoption issue, not enough RoI or maybe a recurring credit card failure issue.

I’ve explained this in a series of blog posts here.

How did BrowserStack became so successful in a short time?

How do I stay ahead of the curve in my industry for new feature development?

Any pointers on conducting customer meetings?

I do find the following list of questions very useful in validating whether a business problem that a customer is telling you is actually a critical business problem or not:

  1. When was the last time they faced this business problem and how often do they face it? This helps in understanding whether the problem is occasional or if it is persistent. It might be difficult to build a business around a product that solves only occasional problems for a customer.
  2. How does the problem impact their business or how much time and money does the problem cost their business? This helps in understanding the gravity of the problem. Even if the business problem is persistent, if it doesn’t cost the customer substantial time and money, they wouldn’t be that keen on solving the problem
  3. How are they currently solving the problem? Even if the customer claims that the problem is persistent and that it results in a substantial loss of time and money, a good way to further validate the problem is by asking the customers about their current solution to the problem. If the problem is critical, the customer would already have some sort of a solution to alleviate the problem. If there is no solution currently, then is the problem as grave as the customer is making it out to be?
  4. What are the challenges with the current solution? This helps in understanding why the customer still perceives the problem to be a problem even though they’ve figured out a solution to it.

How is the product experience at WebEngage different from BrowserStack?

Another big difference is that majority of BrowserStack’s revenues comes from the US and Western Europe whereas with WebEngage most revenues come from India, Middle East, South East Asia and some from the US. There is considerable difference in how users in these regions behave.

What growth hacks did BrowserStack use?

There are a bunch of things we did while I was there to increase conversion and reduce churn. It will be too many to cover here (although I did cover a few in my blog post). We did a bunch of things — made the free trial more restrictive, changed the content of the lifecycle emails to show more product value, changed the pricing plans etc. There are no one or two hacks that stand out. Of course all of this is from 2014–16 while I was there so things should be a lot different now.

Any thoughts on SaaS sector in India?

Can you talk about the core skills needed as a PM?

  • Strategy & big picture thinking
  • Product sense
  • Structuring problems & analytics
  • Soft skills & communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Project execution

I wrote a blog post on a similar topic. That blog post covers what each of the points above mean. See this.

I loved your blog post on product roadmap. Where did you find this model? Is this how you guys build product at WebEngage?

We had to stop using the Theme aspect of the roadmap as things are slightly more chaotic given that it’s a startup so it’s difficult to work only based on Themes. We built this model internally. I guess I was just looking for something very simple and this model fit the bill perfectly.

How do you effectively allocate resources for user growth or how do you accurately determine total cost per acquisition for each channel?

How do you decide the success of a feature or improvement?

However, not all features are disruptive in nature. Maybe there are a bunch of small UX improvements that need to be made to make the life of the customer easier. There’s no monetary impact here. But it certainly makes the customer very happy.

What are the typical documents that a PM at WebEngage is expected to produce?

Other than these, there’s just the product roadmap that we maintain in a Google Sheet.

Any thoughts on how to organize PMs? Should they be oriented on basis of product area/customer journey/business goals? How is this achieved at WebEngage?

At BrowserStack, engineering & product teams were organized mostly based on the product you’re working on (so product A has 1 team, product B another team) with design & QA being shared resources.

It’s very different in WebEngage. The product & engineering team is extremely lean. Just two of us in the product team and 20–22 folks in the engineering team. Right now the engineering teams are divided based on the function (so front-end team, mobile SDK team etc.). Product team currently oversees the entire product as a monolith. Definitely not the most efficient way of doing it but this is what works for us for now at least.

Hey Arpit, thank you for being here. Would love for you to share how you see the SaaS mar-tech industry evolving with greater integration of AI & ML.

What framework do you use to prioritize features? Plus, do you use/recommend PRD format ?

We just stack rank all our features based on this formula:

Total Score = 100 x Urgency + 10 x Impact — 1 x Effort

Of course there is a lot more to this than just coming up with a score for the feature. We ensure that we work on a mix of disruptive features, minor improvements etc. every quarter. The blog post above has the details.

How do you decide on urgency? How much of that is sales influenced — how do you convince Engineering when it comes to a controversial feature?

Principal Product Manager @ ThoughtSpot

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