Product Management in B2B SaaS - AMA with Aatir Abdul Rauf

Hello Folks!

Hello folks! Welcome back to our weekly AMA series. This week we were glad to have Aatir Abdul Rauf, Director Product Management and Marketing at vFairs.

In this AMA, Aatir answered questions about testing hypotheses and features, upskilling as a PM and important product metrics. He also shared details about his day as PM. Find all this and more below!

How do you test hypotheses and features before launching a SaaS product? 

  • Our first goal is always to widen our input funnel and talk to a number of customers to understand their motivation. Once we have a better sense of the underlying issue, we collaborate to formulate a prototype first.
  • No line of code was written until we had shown the prototype to at least ten customers (this number comes from our personal count and some internal math) who confirmed that it aligned with their mental model and would participate in active feedback. In some cases, people were willing to pay for it as well.

How much of your week do you spend on upskilling yourself? How was this when you started as a PM? 

Around 30 minutes every day but I do it after work hours. It's impossible to weave that up-skill time in my daily schedule. I read a lot of stuff on Medium and some favourite blogs (like Ken Norton). At the start of my career, it was probably a bit more because I would need tons of perspective before embarking on specs. However, I started 12 years back when the content volume and quality wasn't as good as it is right now.

Is it better to be a generalist PM or be focused on one particular industry? 

I personally prefer being a generalist PM who can carry the principles of product management across any discipline. However, every PM eventually needs to gain some specialization in the domain they operate in. Without that knowledge, they’d lose out on product strategy and competitive differentiation.

What’s one user insight that helped drive adoption significantly from your experience?

  • Back in 2018 (before the pandemic!), one of our key clients shared an insight on the lines of "people get webinar fatigue and we need to engage them with something that keeps them hooked”. Better yet, how can we reward them for participating actively?
  • This insight led to the creation of the Scavenger Hunt module in vFairs which we built closely with our customers. In this case, participants were tasked to look for hidden objects in our 3D virtual spaces. People who would collect all the hidden pieces would then be eligible for a virtual prize like an Amazon Gift Card. 
  • As a result, it proved to be a refreshing activity during a webinar break, it enabled attendees to discover more areas of our event and clients & attendees loved it as it brought fantastic novelty into the events. This became a USP that kickstarted further adoption from prospects looking for novel ways to engage audiences in multi-hour events. 

Which aspect of product management do you like the most?

Building technical user flows, logic, solutions & prototypes that eventually solve actual pain points. I love it when customers tell me "I don't know what I'd do without this." I'd say seeing a product live on production after a hectic sprint is a great feeling but positive feedback is the oxygen we live for. 

What is the one belief you had when you were starting out in PM that you think is not true anymore? 

I was made to believe that data is everything at the start of my career. "If the data doesn't support a theory, don't take the plunge." However, I've realized that more than being blindly data-driven, one needs to be evidence-driven and have data-informed intuition to build great products. Customer feedback is evidence, industry trends are evidence, competition is evidence.

How important role does interviewing potential stakeholders play while building product strategy? 

Extremely important considering the fact that you simply can't move to build anything unless you have spent time with your stakeholders and interviewed them systematically. Craft a questionnaire and understand underlying jobs-tobe-done and motivations for the stakeholder. This information when consolidated across multiple stakeholders then becomes the basis of your hypothesis and future product development. The worst thing a PM can do is to conjecture in a silo without validation.

For beginners breaking into PM, how does one navigate between product marketing and product management?

  • Product Marketing is all about building the bridge between the product on offer and customer needs. It involves researching and sizing the market, matching pain points to features you have and then building messaging around it. The key activities revolve around creating effective go-to-market plans and releasing strategies to ensure healthy uptake along with retention campaigns. 
  • Product Management, on the other hand, is more about the science of what to build and why. Here's where you conduct product discovery, distil learnings into themes, build roadmaps, prioritize, spec solutions around them, get validation, build with engineering & design, release and measure the results. 
  • In practice, organizations do conflate both roles at times. So, you might have to investigate JDs and ask questions to HR to assess a role's dynamics. 
  • For beginners, I'd recommend them to learn the specifics of each discipline by reading up online content and talking to actual PMMs & PMs to assess which line of work appeals to them more.

What are usually the most important business and product metrics for a B2B SaaS company? 

  • Business metrics- Revenue, Acquisition (customer counts), Average value per Transaction, Logo Churn, Revenue Churn and Paid conversions. 
  • Product metrics- Product adoption metrics like MAUs (is a feature or module being used), utilization metrics like for HR software and customer satisfaction metrics (e.g. NPS or CSAT).

How does feature experimentation (A/B testing) differ in B2B SaaS products in comparison to B2C software products? 

B2C products which have scale produce results far quicker because of the traffic footprint. A/B tests conclude in a few weeks’ time with enough statistical confidence. In my experience, B2B has a much lower volume which means tests run for longer. Because of this, the iterative process in B2B involves a lot of upfront validation with customers, rather than hyper-quick "test and trial."

How does a day as a PM look like at VFairs? 

It really depends on what area you are working on but generally: 

  • Syncing up with engineering a design teams on active in-flight projects.
  • Catching up on emails from leadership, filing in performance reports, coordinating next steps.
  • Conducting spec work in collaboration with product owners, designers.  
  • Getting into calls with marketing and sales to answer product queries or update on roadmap. 
  • Analysing product data and formulating insights. 
  • Scheduling customer calls for discovery or validation.  
  • Rolling out a release and announcing it to the company. 
  • Appreciating and praising teams on Slack.

Want to join the next conversation? We’ll be having another Product Chat soon, get your invite to our Slack community to get all the details. See you inside.

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