Some job roles are easier to define than others. Marketers market product benefits to attract prospective clients and identify potential leads. Salespeople build relationships with those leads and sometimes help manage existing accounts. Engineering teams develop the products and technical features to be sold. But a product managers’ responsibilities are hardly consistent across industries or companies. In some cases, the focus is almost exclusively on internal product tasks like product development and feature definition. In other instances, product teams spend a lot of time providing support for marketing studies, interviewing prospects, defining segments, etc.
In any case in a B2B SaaS environment, the primary role of product managers, just like nearly all other functions, is to maximize customer growth. This might sound a bit generic at first, but that’s the ultimate guideline every employee should follow to ensure the long-term viability of a cloud-based application, which translates to the following two objectives for product management:
- Delivering value to users with superior features and providing the best experience to keep them renewing their subscription month after month.
- Developing a product experience conducive to users hitting milestones and boosting revenue when they expand their accounts and advocate your SaaS application to others.
So what are the actual responsibilities of product teams to support these objectives? While they differ based on the unique characteristics of an application, we’ve spotted the activities which we perceive to be the most common in SaaS businesses.
Getting and keeping departments aligned
Customer experience is suboptimal when business units aren’t aligned as gaps between user expectations and realities emerge. For instance, imagine a scenario with marketing and sales promoting and selling benefits that are inconsistent with product functionality. The first thing that customers would notice as they transition from the sales funnel to the customer journey is a disconnect between what they were promised and what they receive, generating confusion and frustration, as well as having an adverse impact on customer growth.
To avoid this, product teams in a SaaS business are typically involved—in some fashion—in the process from sales to delivery and are the go-to people for all product-related and technical queries. They’re also accountable for product performance as measured by churn, customer health and success rates at each milestone.
Building and following a data-driven product roadmap
Product managers must also define a product roadmap built on both customer feedback and coherence with the company’s high-level business objectives. Customer intelligence solutions are invaluable in the process as these help other departments understand what product data means and its implications. For instance, a decline in feature usage may indicate the need for improved functionality. And a market opportunity supported by data has more weight for budget holders when they can see how improvements and new investments are likely to drive growth.
Protip: Establish success thresholds that indicate when users are ready to hit the next milestone of the customer journey. For example, deliver an in-app message to users whose login activity goes beyond a certain level encouraging them to upgrade early no matter how many trial days they have left.
Guide customers through their optimal experience
If you’re monitoring your users’ in-product interactions to spot where users seem to struggle, why, and which segment they pertain to, then you have an understanding of how you can improve the user experience. Use highly targeted engagements, like guided tours or tooltips, inside your product to help users find what they may be missing and ensure they are getting the value they need.
Let’s say that half of your users find your features valuable in solving their business problems, while the other half consider them to be too complex. In this case, how do you improve the user experience of the latter group without harming the former one? You can develop a targeted campaign for the second segment to help them achieve the Desired Outcome they’re looking for.
Balancing high-tech and high-touch product-related interactions
The product management team must work closely with customer success managers to decide which interactions should be automated versus kept on a 1:1 basis. There really is no hard and fast rule regarding the types of communications that can be automated as this will depend on your specific users and their needs.
However, here’s a good way to get started: Consider your most successful customers to date and the most common path they took to get to that point. Help your company build out a communications strategy that guides new customers to model that same behavior. That should help you find your baseline for automated communications. And ideally, that strategy will evolve as your product and customer base evolves. Check out our whitepaper on High-Tech vs. High-Touch for our complete take on this topic.
SaaS applications are different than other products, and so are the responsibilities of product managers. They must keep everybody aligned, leverage customer intelligence to build a solid product roadmap, manage and optimize user experience, and decide when and when not to automate communications. Would you like to learn more about the factors that can contribute to customer growth in your organization? Read our Complete Guide to Customer Growth.