With growth comes challenges as evident by GE, Oracle and other now established giants. When your B2B startup begins entertaining larger deals, your customers’ needs grow in complexity. And when you scale your product to meet these needs, your product—no matter how much blood and sweat you poured into it—will inevitably fall short.
The good news is, however, that you can probably already predict where most of the shortfalls will occur. Time after time, product managers see the same patterns and themes in customer feedback. While you won’t be able to anticipate every problem, you can shore up the categories that are known troublemakers: permissions, onboarding and in-product communication. Learning to anticipate what will break as you scale, enables your team to prepare and eliminate future headaches.
Building Robust Permissions
Large enterprises have greater expectations and requirements around workflow and accountability within any product. This means that as you scale your product, you may need to create additional, differentiated layers of permissions to accommodate for different types of users and to meet the workflow needs of your customer’s organization.
For example, a cloud-based document management product might launch with just two options for permissions: standard users who can create and edit their own documents and administrators with broader access and more control. At a certain point, though, customers may want to invite external collaborators—users that can’t create their own documents, but can comment or make suggestions on existing documents. Or perhaps they may want to designate supervisors to have access to certain documents created by people under their chain of command, but no further permissions.
These workflow requirements, in a product reflect the complexity of growing organizations and they exist for the same reason—accountability. Large organizations need these processes in place to ensure quality and make sure employees can be held accountable for what they sign off on. If your product doesn’t provide the levels of control needed, your ability to sell to larger enterprise customers may be limited.
Make Onboarding Easy and Engaging
Every provider knows the importance of a smooth onboarding process. In just minutes—or perhaps even seconds—a potential lifetime user can either start building loyalty toward your product or can turn away for good.
If a product truly is simple and self-explanatory, a tour layer is enough to walk new users through the process without losing their interest or engagement. Too often, though, companies default to a tour to check the onboarding box, even when it isn’t a good match for their product. If a user’s first experience with your product is clicking all over the place following never-ending tour popups, they will become frustrated with your product and even worse, they may give up.
Instead, your process should enable users to immediately identify the opportunities your product affords them. The sooner you can get a user to see the value they get from the product, the more likely they’ll be to stick with it. This process not only solidifies the value the app provides, but also helps users understand how to navigate it and what your product is all about.
Your onboarding process should be informative, but don’t think of it as a ”hit list” of features that you have to explain. Instead, think of it primarily as creating an amazing first impression. It’s a selling opportunity.
Adding In-Product Communication
As you scale, especially if you evolve from a product to a platform, somewhere along the way, you’ll reach a point where you should consider providing in-product communication between users.
You’ll know it’s time to consider a communications feature when your customers consistently using an outside communications platform to talk about work that’s being done inside your product. For example, if your customers are using your product to manage and edit their documents, but report discussing what they’re doing in Slack or over email, this showcases an opportunity to build collaboration or discussion features in your product to serve customers in a more streamlined way.
There are different kinds of collaboration, so take the time to understand exactly how your users need to work together and communicate. For example, are they collaborating with specific input on documents, events, or projects? Or are they using more free-form communication like Slack? The answer should help you decide how to move forward. A strong appreciation for how your customers are using your product will be key in designing the right type of communication features.
Overcoming the Learning Curve
Instead of waiting to see where your problems will crop up, anticipate the specific areas that commonly experience growing pains to plan ahead and avoid being caught off guard. Permissions, strengthening onboarding procedures and considering possibilities for in-product communication are three of the best places to anticipate issues when scaling your B2B product.
Growing pains are unavoidable, but having the foresight into how your product roadmap will need to shift to adapt to your scaling product will ease the process. This is no substitution for genuine customer research, but planning ahead and being aware of expected issues as you scale can enable preventative measures that increase your company’s chance of success.