In my previous post, I told you about five of the main reasons why being a PM for a B2B enterprise software product is a real struggle — lack of visibility, certification nightmares, and a whole lot of complexity. After reading that piece, you were probably left wondering, “Why would anyone want this kind of job?”
Well, it’s not all bad in the enterprise world. Below, I’ll share five of the upsides that come with being a product manager in the B2B enterprise software space. Maybe I’ll even convince you to consider a career shift.
Here is your opportunity to develop that deep domain expertise and industry vertical knowledge, as those things are often required when working on enterprise software products. Customers want to see that you understand their language and their pain points. Engineers need to know you are the market expert on whatever industry is your focus.
Moreover, larger enterprise companies often offer opportunities to advance your knowledge outside of the product domain, with training in Agile/SCRUM, Pragmatic Marketing, Crucial Conversations, design thinking, presentation skills, etc. readily available. Speaking of presenting, the B2B world provides a plethora of presentation opportunities for a PM, from conferences to customer visits, from executive briefing center (EBC) to user groups, from interaction with industry analysts to technical advisory boards. Great practice!
If you are inquisitive, your schedule can always be full of training classes, boot camps, and industry certifications. Of course, that’s all in your “spare time” after the product work is done.
Size of Checks
In the B2B world, it’s not uncommon to have deals that reach well into the millions of dollars. In fact, I have been part of many deals in the $1M to $5M range.
You may have noticed that enterprise software rarely leverages a freemium or ad-supported model. That’s because the costs of building and bringing B2B software to market are just too high. And by the way, PM compensation also tends to be higher in B2B organizations.
I still remember the day when my manager asked me to go to Hawaii for work. Someone needed to visit a few prospects and speak at a user group meeting. You can guess what my answer was.
Throughout my years working in enterprise software, I had a chance to travel from Norway to Israel, from Brazil to India, from Mexico to Malta, France, Italy, Argentina, and to many other places around the world. I spent time with amazing customers as well, including the New York Times, Goldman Sachs, the Dubai Police, the Los Angeles Police Department, General Motors, Peugeot Citroen, the Department of Justice, and UPS, among hundreds of others.
Obviously, this is not for everyone and tends to be more common in larger enterprise software companies. However, there is almost always a user group or customer advisory board (CAB) or a conference or a customer QBR where your presence will likely be needed.
B2B customers tend to be less fickle than consumers. Higher sunk costs and a greater degree of customization makes it very hard for customers to move to a competitor. Both human capital and financial capital get committed to the success of the deployment. And some of those deployments can cost into the millions of dollars.
Stickiness obviously means more stability. However, that doesn’t mean you can relax and not care about innovation or your product’s NPS score!
Businesses don’t run on Snapchat alone. Whether you work on a CRM software or a backup product, in cybersecurity or in FinTech, your product supports the backbone of an industry. In many cases, businesses literally cannot operate without your software.
I remember going through passport control at Heathrow airport in London and being asked where I work. As soon as I gave the answer, the border control agent’s demeanor instantly transformed and she informed me that she literally used our software every single day to do her work. I was welcomed with a very warm smile.
A Few Closing Thoughts
I believe that PMs have lots of opportunities to build extremely successful and important products with major global impact in the B2B world. And lately, it’s no longer B2B vs. B2C. It’s B2B and B2C. The differences are starting to blur. B2B is focusing more and more on user experience and ease of use — not just features and checkboxes.
Moreover, some areas that used to be pretty obscure are now very much part of everyday conversations. One example is cybersecurity. Due to extensive press coverage and shows like “Mr. Robot and “Cyberwar,” I no longer need to explain what cybersecurity is.
The enterprise space is definitely not easy. It’s highly complex, requires deep domain expertise, and has all of those downsides I mentioned in my last post. But don’t lose faith — it’s worth it!