If you are into selling a B2B SaaS product, then chances are you might have come across the term – Product-Led growth. The question is, what exactly do you mean by it? Let us try to search for answers to these questions in this write-up.
The first question you might have is – What exactly is a product-led growth strategy? Let us head-start this write-up with this topic and then focus on the much bigger questions as we move ahead.
Definition of product-led growth strategy
A product-led growth strategy can be defined as a tactic that emphasizes projecting product as the key driver of growth. The PLG go-to-market strategy focuses on acquiring, activating, and retaining customers through continuous product improvement.
Unlike sales-led businesses, which aim to get a customer from point A to point B in the sales cycle, product-led businesses turn the traditional sales model on its head. Product-led businesses enable this by providing the customer with the “keys” to using the product and assisting them in achieving a meaningful result. Upgrading to a premium subscription becomes a no-brainer at this stage.
In SaaS, product-led growth models have been becoming increasingly important. The best way to understand PLG is to take the examples of Dropbox and Slack. These companies used PLG to build an internal userbase before bringing B2B sales to drive revenue.
Why go for a product-led growth strategy?
The preference of buyers
‘Satisfying customers by addressing their needs is one of the key foundations for a successful business. And based on statistics, the PLG model is preferred by the buyers.
Assume you’re trying to sign up for a software program you’re unfamiliar with, and you have two choices. First, you see and use the product before deciding whether or not to purchase it. Second, you wait to be qualified by a marketing team, then sent to a sales rep, who then provides you a detailed explanation of why the product is the greatest fit for you. Which one would you choose?
Well, the preference is obviously the first one! Most individuals would rather use a product before making a purchase than go through a lengthy sales procedure and then spend hours conversing with sales professionals. A free trial of the product appears to be the better alternative for most consumers.
The increasing cost of acquiring customers
Cost efficiency is one of the most significant reasons for opting for a product-led growth strategy. There has been a significant increase in Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). It has now become extremely easy to build SaaS companies; owing to this, the competition is also rising. However, adopting PLG gives an advantage over competitors because it focuses on continuous improvement of the product. Thus, switching to PLG helps beat increasing CAC.
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It is a time-tested strategy
Having a strategy that looks good on paper is one thing, and having a strategy that brings practical outcomes is one thing. The good thing about PLG is that it looks good on paper and works very well in reality.
Businesses using PLG as their go-to-market strategy are twice as successful as those that don’t. Openview report suggests that ‘PLG-using companies outperformed non-PLG-using enterprises in almost every category, including growth, gross margin, a revenue multiple, etc.
Benefits of adopting a product-led growth strategy
Big names such as Slack or Dropbox relied on product-led growth strategies for their growth. Instead of spending big bucks on marketing and sales efforts, these companies focussed on the product to do all the talking. The core idea of PLG’s strategy is that a good product will infiltrate the market and grow by itself. This makes the strategy much cost-efficient as you don’t have to put tons of money into product marketing, build free content, and host webinars. Instead, the money is spent on bettering the product. Thus, it is cost-effective.
Imagine having a freemium subscription for your SaaS product. Imagine the number of people opting to check it out for free! By adopting this model, PLG effectively speeds the customer to reach your product sooner.
A practical example of B2B product-led growth in the bona fide business world
Slack is a software company that needs no introduction. They went from zero to a $7 billion value in only five years, and they’ve become a premium brand for the freemium, bottom-up go-to-market strategy. Their early success with product-led growth (PLG) has elevated them to the forefront of this new discipline.
Now, try to remember how your company started using Slack. The company did not set up a booth at a trade event or make cold calls to the target audience. Rather, it built an internal userbase for the internal communication. Slowly, the product entered wider markets.
Today, Slack is the de-facto choice for global companies because everybody knows about it. Now, the question is ‘how did Slack achieve this status?
Here’s how –
- Every activity orbits around the product. The sales team uses the product to qualify prospects. The marketing team focusses on using it as a lead magnet. The engineering team increases conversions/retention with the time-to-value.
- Option to try-before-buying. When a user signs up for the freemium model, they can experience the product and its features directly. Thus, they can know how beneficial it is before buying.
Tips for creating a robust product-led growth strategy
Truth to be said, implementing PLG is not easy! Switching to PLG can take several months. Additionally, it is also important to keep in mind that ‘it needs the right steps for a product-led company to succeed.
Here are a few steps that will help you build a robust PLG strategy –
Define what customer means to you
To begin with, understand that your product needs to reach customer expectations. For this, you need to conduct product research and predict their needs right. The more you identify customer needs, the better are your chances to satisfy them. These are some of the questions that you need to start answering –
- Who the potential customers are?
- What are their needs?
- What are they interested in?
Deliver value before the paywall
In several cases, the value delivered determines if a customer makes a purchase. When giving a value, it is important that you mustn’t drag. Instant value is what they appreciate the most. Once you identify what your customer needs, you should show your credibility by showing value. Dragging it for long will make them lose interest.
You should deliver the value you’ve promised to them, i.e., perceived value + experienced value.
Have minimal frictions
There could be certain frictions, which you may consider small but they discourage users from purchasing. Such frictions can also limit product usage. For instance, difficulties in UI could drift users away from the website/app.
Some common frictions in a product include –
- Complicated sign-up process
- Not having onboarding procedures for new users
- Ambiguity in pricing
- Redundant or useless features
- Tight restrictions
Communicate perceived value to the user
In contrast to the sales-led strategy, you must communicate your entire value to the user, including the financial component. With the sales-led model, it’s usual to see corporations hide pricing information as much as possible. They want potential clients to come to them because of the pricing, but it won’t work with the PLG strategy.
Pricing ambiguity can cause friction in the product’s use and drive users away. Customers should be able to understand your perceived value. Tell them the price right away. Remember that your product is in charge here; if your product is excellent, you won’t have anything to worry about.
Perceived value = experienced value
Make sure that your product’s perceived value (the promised value) and the experienced value (real value they get) are aligned. Your churn rates will be sky high if you advertise that a free trial of your product will give people X, but it gives them Y.
Think about the USPs of your product from the perspective of the users
Prioritize features that will have the most impact on your users, not those that will help you enhance your marketing stats. With this in mind, create your KPIs and OKRs.
Make the sign-up procedure as simple as possible
A tough user-onboarding experience should be avoided in any product. If getting people to use your product is your most important driver for growth, your teams must make it a priority to make sign-up easy.
Make time to value a priority, especially if your product is an app that can be easily uninstalled
This is especially crucial if your product is an app that people may delete and forget about with only a few clicks and drags! Customers must fall hard and fast in love with your goods. Collaborate with your engineers to make this a priority.
Finally, hire a sales team
Remember that the PLG model does not replace a sales team. However, the sales team’s responsibilities differ from those of sales-led firms. Instead of pre-loading the user with information, the sales staff in this approach is more focused on catering to the customer’s particular demands after they’ve tried out the product. The end goal is to produce sales, not for the customer to test the freemium and then depart.
A good sales team will have sufficient product expertise to educate the customer. The sales team gathers vital information from consumers about the product’s benefits and drawbacks and then uses that information to improve the customer experience by providing helpful suggestions.
You’ll still need a sales team, just like the sales-led approach. In contrast to the sales-led model, you can hire the sales team last rather than first to provide user assistance.
We hope that this write-up inspires you to invest in building an effective product-led growth marketing strategy.
It is a strategy working best for the present and will be an instant hit for the future. Do not rush into your decision. 38
Contemplate hard and then adopt the strategies mentioned above to ensure that your product-led growth strategy is one of the best in the B2B market!
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 12, 2022, Updated October 11, 2022