We as product creators have lofty visions for how our products will create value in the real world. We envision workflows where our product is central to the daily lives of users and feature sets that our customers will rave about. Our marketing material glows, our sales team consistently gets enthusiastic feedback, and we feel good about that.

But in the B2B world, where buyers and users are often different groups of people, what happens next? Do the intended users of our products welcome them whole-heartedly and completely shift their existing processes to incorporate this new tool their bosses signed off on? More often than I would like to admit, I’ve seen my products either shelved completely or used for individual, isolated tasks that only take advantage of a fraction of my product’s features.

There can be many reasons why your product doesn’t end up getting used to its fullest extent. Set up interviews with a handful of users (10ish is a good goal) and find out what’s going on.

Some common culprits:

1. The product doesn’t actually solve the need you thought it did.

This one can be hard to swallow, but the first thing you need to look at is whether or not the value you perceive is valid in the eyes of your target market.

What to do about it:

Go back through your assumptions and find out what you missed. Is the whole concept based on a faulty premise? Or perhaps there’s one key component missing that compromises the overall value—a missing piece in the workflow. Ensure your team knows exactly what your users need and how that need fits into their broader process.

2. Your users aren’t aware of the capabilities of the product.

Enterprise products tend to have a lot of moving pieces and some have a steep learning curve. I’ve conducted many user tests that resulted in a “I didn’t know it could do that!” type of response.

What to do about it:

This is perhaps the best outcome you could have. Put together a training and education strategy that includes regular feedback sessions with users and focused, value-driven lessons.

3. Your users have competing priorities that outweigh the value proposition your product offers.

Let’s be honest, there’s very few organizations with spare man-hours floating around, and if your product is going to demand a time-investment that doesn’t directly lead to time-savings elsewhere in the organization it will likely sit idle.

What to do about it:

There’s two approaches you can take here.

  1. Get buy-in from management that the value your product can offer to the organization is worth committing resources to.

    This approach can be challenging, but it can pay off once you get a handful of success stories under your belt. Put together case studies outlining the adoption in other organizations and the real value they achieved as a result. Have best-practices and step-by-step implementation procedures ready to go. Align sales, account management, and delivery / customer success teams so everyone communicates a consistent value message to the customer at large, not just the person signing the check.

  2. Re-evaluate your sales & delivery structure and determine if a product / service combination offering is a better fit.

    It can sometimes be easier for enterprise customers to get budget approval for outside consulting support than to free up internal resources or increase headcount. Determine if your product could potentially be used either partially or entirely by an outside consultant to drive the same value. Partner with a consulting agency to start selling join offerings or consider bringing in a consulting function to your delivery org.

4. Your users fear the disruption of process change.

Introducing any change carries some risk. Your sales team may have won over the executives, but unless there’s a strong champion advocating for your product internally you may not get buy-in from the staff on the floor. They’ve been doing their job just fine and your product might lead to mistakes they’ll be blamed for.

What to do about it:

This is perhaps the most challenging problem to solve, but not by any means impossible. Change management is hard. Your customers likely don’t do it well. What can you reasonably do to guide users through a period of transition?

  1. Communicate why things are changing for them.
    Clearly communicating why your product will not only be beneficial to the organization, but to users individually, will be essential to gaining support. Again, case studies of success stories, documentation of best practices, and delivery expectations will go a long way to ease uncertainty.

  2. Get management buy-in, eliminate fears of blame.
    Form relationships with your buyers and set expectations on what a period of transition might look like. Try to guide them through communication to their organization reinforcing commitment to your product and understanding of what the potential impact could be to your users.

  3. Form relationships, establish position of support.
    Stay on the radar of your users — reach out to them regularly, actively offer help. Create product champions out of users by recognizing successes (particularly to their managers), and offering incentives for engagement. Make them feel like they have you on their side, that they are not alone if they need help getting up to speed.

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About The Author

Bryce Hamrick

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Bryce Hamrick is an entrepreneur, business & marketing strategist, and product consultant with nearly two decades of experience in industry. Bryce has been a software engineer, product manager, and director of product management for startups as well as large enterprises. He has led teams to bring dozens of products to market and has executed numerous six-figure product launches. Today Bryce and his team focus on leveraging his product execution strategy to help businesses with growth and scale.