Product Teams

Silent Majority

Published Nov 16, 2016

Who are they? What do they want!? As we’ve written, B2B software presents some unique complications. Consider this – in the organization using your B2B product, the majority of users:

  • Have never spoken to anyone from your company.
  • Were not involved in the decision to purchase your product and know nothing about how much it costs.
  • Do not attend your product conferences.
  • Don’t read your blog posts or tweets, aren’t on your mailing list, and haven’t liked you on Facebook.
  • Have long since routed your emails to their spam folders.
  • Rarely file a support request, tend to create a workaround when they run into trouble, rather than request help, and may not even know that it’s possible to submit feedback.
  • Use five to fifteen tools daily – they go into your app, get something done, and get out.
  • May not use your product dashboard directly, even if they use work orders generated from your app, import files from it, or ring up orders in the backend.
  • Don’t know your company’s story, haven’t seen the cool marketing video that delivers your brand message, may not have had any meaningful onboarding, have not drunk the Kool-Aid, have not even seen the Kool-Aid.


Why should you care? If you focus only on the users you hear from, you’ll have a very limited perspective. The loudest voices don’t usually represent all users. As time passes, your information will become less and less complete. When the few gatekeepers who are vested in a positive story about your app leave the company, what is left? If no one has actually asked whether you’re delivering value to the everyday users, your product may be the first thing go in a budget cut or reorganization.

What can you do? It’s not usually feasible, or even desirable, to rigidly control access to your app so that you can control every user’s onboarding. Instead…

Build Awareness

  • Locate a few random users, contact them politely, and ask about their story and usage. This is a small thing, but it’s surprisingly rare.
  • Create profiles based on these users and circulate them to your teams. Use real names and stories in discussions instead of arbitrary personas or abstractions and watch the discussion shift.

Use a Brief Survey for New Users

  • Offer a get-to-know-you survey to new users that gathers information about the user’s actual role within their company. If they’re confident the information will be used responsibly, many users are willing to share.
  • One Pendo customer successfully gathered actual role information for a majority of its 50,000+ users, which had a big impact on screening for interviews, NPS analysis, and more.

Try Focused in-app Feature Satisfaction Surveys

Arrange User Interviews and Usability Tests Through in-app Outreach

  • Recruit in-app using highly targeted calls to action, i.e. “We see you’ve been using [feature] regularly and we’d like to discuss your feedback,” or “Would you be interested in participating in a usability test for [area of product]?”
  • You may need to ask for permission.
  • Make the delivery personal and relevant to improve response rates.

You can go for a long time listening to only the loudest voices among your customers, but eventually, you will realize that you have blinders on. Reaching out to the silent majority will let you see the whole picture.

John Cutler is a product management and UX consultant. His passions are UX research, evidence-driven product development, and empowering the front line to solve business and customer problems. For more of John’s writing visit his Medium profile or follow him on Twitter.  He is honored to team up with longtime friend and editor Katherine Maurer, a freelance editor and poet whose work has appeared in many pretty good literary journals. She is also a graduate student in clinical psychology, and drummer in the band Again is Already.