Product Led Growth, or PLG, is the latest buzzword in the SaaS industry, and rightly so – product-led growth examples are strewn around everywhere in the SaaS universe. When a company aligns towards PLG strategy, the product sells itself, leaving everyone enough time to plan bigger things and grow more.
But what is PLG? Simply put, PLG is taking a product to market and doing everything you can as a team to ensure it is a hit product. When everyone in the organization rallies behind one product, the customer will have a mind-blowing experience and see value from the word go.
With a PLG product, you get to hear and know about the product even before you use it. PLG products become famous through word-of-mouth publicity and hardly rely on traditional marketing and sales strategies.
Traits of PLG products
So, what are the things typical of a PLG product?
- Seamless sign-up: PLG companies collect the bare minimum information from their customers – the idea is to give the customer immediate access to the product and encourage sign-up
- Deliver value ASAP: This is crucial as PLG relies on social sharing and publicity – people must find the product worthwhile enough to talk about it virally
- Free trial/Freemium approach: The idea is to give them value – make them understand how they will benefit from your product – before you ask for money so that they are more willing to pay
- Bottom-up approach: All focus is on the end-user. The customer is the person seeking a solution to his problem, not a stakeholder.
Companies that have done it right
What makes product-led growth examples such stupendous success stories? When the PLG plan is executed well, the entire team can concentrate on the customer, scale their business, and grow. Let us take a look at a few companies that have the strategy right and how they are utilizing it to their benefit:
Today they are the leaders in conducting web-based surveys (20% year-on-year user rise), and they played smartly by building virality into the very concept of conducting digital surveys. Anything you want to know from the market or your customer, what do you do? Conduct a survey, of course! So, you use SurveyMonkey, send out a survey to your database. Now they are exposed to the brand, and when they click to complete your survey, they automatically become SurveyMonkey users, too! But what has SurveyMonkey itself done for this snowballing customer acquisition? Almost nothing – they just got you on board!
Calendly was designed to succeed – it addressed one of the biggest pain points of the corporate world – that of scheduling meetings that do not clash with one another. Now since meetings cannot be held alone, Calendly encourages collaborative work – you have to send a Calendly link to someone you want to have a meeting with, and that person may send it to another – so a loop of Calendly users is formed. And when you are using Calendly – you are also promoting the product. Calendly also acquires new users without much effort – as everyone who uses the product needs to send it to at least another person. No wonder, Calendly with fewer than 250 employees, is a unicorn valued at $3B, with almost $100M in revenue.
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Unlike Calendly, Slack focuses on collaborations within an organization. Many companies today see Slack as an amazing networking tool, and the more people in an organization use Slack, the more value everyone derives. The ease of being able to reach everyone and create an intra-office digital network prompts many companies to encourage their employees to adopt Slack. Each person who joins can potentially urge five others to join, too, to create a network, which helps Slack’s exponential growth.
If a product can address an issue, users will find value in it and discuss it with their friends. This happened with Productboard, a system that helps bring transparency to a company’s product management process. Productboard can help managers collect and process user insights, create a flexible roadmap, and a product strategy. The management community sings its praises and advocates adopting this collaborative product for everything from feedback to real-time discussions.
Who has not heard of Dropbox – the file storage and sharing system? It is an easy-to-use product for collaboration and sharing. However, virality is built into the very usage pattern of the product – the moment someone sends you a Dropbox link, you open it to see what has been sent, and there you are – a Dropbox user! But wait – it is when you put a Dropbox link on the website or for public access that magic happens – now everyone who accesses it is a Dropbox user – and with shared folders and referral bonus options (users get extra storage). It is not surprising that Dropbox boasts a $1 billion turnover in less than ten years.
Anyone can open a free account and begin using the product straightaway – this in itself is a great value addition. The price point is dependent on the number of users you want to send it to. So, the free users drive conversion – allowing the product to reach judicial and legal institutions where marketing a product is not possible and yet, where this product is of prime significance (today, DocuSign is a given in any legal firm). But outside of legal firms – the product is accessible to corporates, financial institutions, and even sales.
Koan is a new baby in the PLG bandwagon because it is only right in the middle of the pandemic that Koan transitioned from a sales-led to a product-led strategy. When Covid twisted workings and market spending, Koan decided to relook their selling strategy instead of spending on marketing. They realized their strength lay in Reflections – the purposeful weekly status generator. Koan realized that once someone used Reflection, they became repeat users 92% of the time. With this ah-ha moment, they changed their go-to-market strategy and went product first.
Airtable is focused on the end-user. It enables everyone to build their collaborative apps. The feeling of empowerment makes first-time users adopt and advocate this software. The freemium subscription model works here, as once a few tools are given to the user, and he gets the heady feeling of a ‘creator’ of an app rather than being a user, he will want tools that support everything from producing videos to UX. Check out some Airtable alternatives if this is close to what you are looking for.
Figma, the vector graphics editor and prototyping tool hit the jackpot with its dual reach aspect – though it is primarily web-based, additional features can be made available offline for a fee. Its pricing is upfront, but the starter free pack does the trick for conversion. Figma offers unlimited free collaborations and personal files even with the free subscription. So, imagine a beleaguered user looking for something addressing the painful task of having to take a web-based design over to his macOS or Windows coming across software that offers free project organization, file management, and real-time collaboration – won’t he become an immediate advocate?
LogRocket scores on the frictionless onboarding front. You can sign-up, up and immediately gain valuable insights by inspecting logs, network data, and DOM status to troubleshoot customer issues. Since the software lets you replay what users do on your site, it is a tracking tool most user-fronted companies like Reddit sing praises about.
To sum up
A product-led growth strategy is designed to change how you look at the product and its relationship with the users and focus all your energies on strengthening that relationship. Virality is built into the very DNA of products that succeed with a PLG go-to-market strategy. This is why the PLG model is not for everyone. The Calendlys and Slacks of the world make for great success stories, but one must remember that they are all collaborative software that empowers the users to address their pain points at their level.19
However, since all SaaS products are not built for collaboration and sharing, the first thing to look at before adopting the PLG model is whether your product has the wherewithal to piggy ride on it. If not, the first step is to develop a product that addresses one or many of users’ problems and ensure they are satisfied with the solutions. So, the bottom line is design a product that meets the needs of the end-users.
Rakhin has over 10 years of experience driving business development and client services. In his prior roles, he stayed close to customers to understand their requirements and help them achieve their business goals. He is passionate about customer success.
Published January 26, 2022, Updated September 23, 2022