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Top-Down Product Management for B2B - Workshop Q&A
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Compiled by: Tench Forbes

September 21, 2014

The September Practitioner’s Workshop was conducted by expert practitioner John Mansour, Founder and Managing Partner, Proficientz, on September 12, 2014.  Below, we review some of the questions that came from the audience and others about this topic, and John’s answers:


1). How is Top Down Product Management different from other techniques for defining customer requirements such as Voice of the Customer (VOC) or personas?
While VOC initiatives and personas have value, they tend to be focused on products and lower level user activities.  In B2B/B2B2C, it’s more beneficial to focus on uncovering needs at a higher level to determine the user activities that have the biggest impact on goals higher up the food chain. The top-down approach places more emphasis on uncovering broad business needs first, (the WHAT & WHY part of the equation) before considering products:

  • WHAT are my target-customer organizations trying to accomplish?

  • WHY are those goals critical to their success at all levels?

  • WHAT are their biggest business obstacles?

Clear answers to those questions help your organization utilize its portfolio to deliver solutions that have value beyond the users of your products.    

2). You state that Top Down Product Management helps customers identify needs that help them become more valuable to their organizations. How can an outside marketer learn that much about the customer’s organization?

The best way for marketers to become experts on the business of their target customers is by talking with people at all levels within your existing customers and non-customers.  Reading trusted research is also a great way to become a quick study and that information complements face-to-face meetings.  

3). Are there any similarities between B2B Top Down Product Management and B2C/brand management? In B2C, “top down” can be defined as broadcasting a brand idea, as opposed “bottom up”, which is creating compelling brand content that people will share “virally”.

The only similarity is the fundamental principal of uncovering and meeting a market need.  The manner in which a product management or brand management function does it is completely different in B2B vs. B2C.  In B2C, your buyers are your users in most cases.  In B2B, you have to uncover the needs of the buyers (senior management) but build solutions for the users that collectively meet those needs higher in the organization.

4). Product-level or market managers tend to take the market as given and look for market niches where the company’s products can be successful in the short term. How does Top Down Product Management expand this process?

Traditional product management focuses on finding new markets to improve the success of each product.  The top-down approach treats your portfolio of products as the means to creating multi-product solutions that grow your organization’s penetration in existing and new markets.  

5). What else should we have asked you? Why is top-down product management more beneficial for B2B/B2B2C?

In a word, “solutions.”  Traditional product management is more like B2C where the focus is on a product meeting the needs of the user who is also the buyer.  In B2B, the focus has to be on the needs of the target-customer organization and identifying the activities in the trenches that have the biggest impact on those organizational goals.  The highest value solutions in B2B are rarely comprised of a single product or service.  It’s usually a combination of products and services that create unique value.

In summary, the Workshop provided actionable advice with real world examples from John's extensive client base for understanding high level product marketing. The lively question and answer sessions illustrate the attendees' interest. The BPMA very much appreciates John's contribution, and thanks all the attendees for their active participation.

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