Does the Lean methodology make sense for B2B and if so what are the important aspects to consider?


The Lean Start-up methodology seems to make some implicit assumptions (such as about the number of available customers) that, IMHO, do apply well to B2C but not so much to B2B. Can anyone point me to experiences in applying Lean to B2B and if there are experiences I'd be interested in learning about what important aspects should be taken into account, for example: do an MVP but make sure that XYZ also happens. Background: I'm chiefly interested in start-ups in the ICT/Web/data management domain.

B2B Lean

asked Mar 11 '12 at 23:23
Michael Hausenblas
118 points

2 Answers


The same principles should apply.

It is still people who buy and use software, not businesses. So structured development processes, getting feedback from those users, validating and learning, measuring, pivoting / persevere all those apply.

But you are right, most of Eric's examples are based on businesses who target individuals as the consumer. Versus that individual buying software to be used throughout their business. However, I think Intuit's process would be the same if they were selling it to an individual to do their taxes or for a larger application for accounting firms to use. Marketing language, and strategies may be different but I think the creation, learning and feedback process would still be the same. You may only release features for certain businesses to try, versus individuals and things like that.

answered Mar 12 '12 at 00:16
Ryan Doom
5,472 points
  • Thanks, Ryan! I'm having issue with one rather essential assumption here: that of having potentially many customers you can 'test'. With B2B, we might have 1/1000 or less of the number B2C typically have and a lot of credibility to loose if we deliver crap in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally sold on the MVP concept, on the BML cycle, etc. - I just doubt that you can in fact apply it 1:1 on B2B. Thoughts? – Michael Hausenblas 11 years ago
  • Exactly - your pool of prospects may be much smaller. Which for a product is good, finding a niche is great. But, right you don't want to blow it by delivering crap. Remember the adoption graph: - you need to start on the left with your product. Find people who can handle a little inconvenience, and are excited to try it out. The key to the cycle is to be rapid in your iterations. As long as those early adopters see you improving, fixing adjusting regularly they will be excited to be a part of helping you craft the product. – Ryan Doom 11 years ago
  • Again, thanks for the clarification. I'd love to up-vote your answer but can't ATM as I don't have sufficient reputation ... – Michael Hausenblas 11 years ago


You'd be surprised but the core of Lean Startup Methodology, customer development, was created as a result of Steve Blank's long career in B2B startups including his last one E.piphany. (I'm actually not even sure whether he has ever created a B2C company and/or product.) Thus, if you haven't done so, make sure to read his first book The Four Steps to the Epiphany or the latest one The Startup Owner's Manual.

There's one main distinction between B2C and B2B in Lean Startup: who users and customers are.

  • In B2C, they're either the same person (individuals buying for personal use) or very different (customers sponsor free services to individuals). When users and customers are different, you have to validate 2 very different sets of hypotheses and you will occasionally find yourself in a situation when one side needs something that is harmful to the other side.
  • In B2B, there're more likely to be separate entities within the same organization: people responsible for procurement aren't always using your product, but at the same time one procurement person is responsible for dozens if not hundreds of users. Such a relationship between users & customers means that you just need to emphasize different points when talking with the respective side. It also means that finding users through customers and finding customers through users is much easier.

However, in terms of the market size, there isn't much difference. Yes, there are fewer companies than there are individuals but not every company and not every individual has the same problem - you still need to find your highly specific targets.

answered Mar 13 '12 at 02:27
1,963 points
  • thanks a million; makes a lot of sense to me. I have to admit that I wasn't aware of Steve's work (I only read Eric's book recently) - will catch up on it now and very eager to see how it works in practice, starting in a few weeks time ;) – Michael Hausenblas 11 years ago
  • @MichaelHausenblas: Good luck! – Dnbrv 11 years ago

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