What can B2B product managers learn from Facebook's a-ha moment?

A recipe for B2B customer activation

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Jonathan Anderson
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Many B2B product managers think fondly of Facebook’s “7 friends in 10 days” — the magical threshold that predicted whether a new Facebook user would “activate” into a lifelong Facebook user. With it, Facebook had a simple North Star metric to judge any feature release.

At Candu, we’ve talked with hundreds of product and customer teams at B2B companies and one thing on which they can mostly agree is that they aren’t satisfied with their activation metric.

B2B companies tend to oscillate between struggling to define a single activation event and choosing from a smorgasbord of options. Because activation is not measured consistently, few enterprise teams rely on it.

If it’s so useful, why aren’t we using it?

More cuts, smaller N

Consumer apps have a few things going for them that enterprise apps do not. Namely, they have clarity regarding what activation means, discipline around data-driven experimentation, and just one user journey to optimize.

When B2C companies think of their funnel, they can often trace a straight line from an ad to in-app conversions (and even on to repurchases). When B2B companies think of their funnel, it often cuts off abruptly at lead conversion.

B2B companies juggle multiple activation points with multiple types of users. Throw in a few offline interactions, and a customer journey can start to look less like a funnel and more like meatballs in spaghetti.

Complicating things even further, if you take a small dataset and start slicing it into smaller and smaller cuts, you end up with … nothing, statistically significant speaking.

It’s no one’s fault. It is just the nature of activation in the enterprise context.

There can only be… one?

For subscription services, the vast majority of your users’ value will accrue in the future. To capture tomorrow’s value, you have to get your user hooked today. More specifically, that gut call needs to happen in your users’ first session.

But how do we orient our product development toward activation when there are multiple needs, multiple users, and a “gut check” on value is so subjective?

It looks like an impossible optimization problem. The trick is to stop thinking of B2B activation as a single funnel, but as a set of smaller ones.

Candu’s B2B Activation Recipe

  1. Identify your key personas and create a unique funnel for each.
  2. Understand the moment when your product creates value for an individual persona.
  3. Remove everything you can between those points.
  4. Remove more.

Facebook’s 7 Friends wasn’t powerful because of its significance. It was significant because it helped Facebook recognize how it delivered value and oriented the company to deliver as much of that value as fast as it could.

That is something we can all agree on.


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