Product led growth

Product-Led Growth, or how to create a product that sells itself

Companies with a Product Led Growth strategy are twice as likely to grow faster than companies with a Sales Led strategy (source: OpenView). And even more so when they offer a freemium plan.

From Pinterest and Slack to Notion and Calendly, Product Led Growth has been on a roll among Saas companies in recent years. And so much the better: this growth strategy works, and for the better. It puts users back at the heart of marketing strategies, relying on an element that is all too often neglected: knowledge of your target, its needs and issues. Turn your leads into fans of your products.

What is Product Led Growth ?

Product Led Growth in a nutshell

The initial observation of a product-led growth strategy is simple: happy customers make the best marketers. As a result, your company’s growth is based on creating a product or service with such perceived value that it will sell itself. In other words, your entire sales strategy revolves around your product. Your goal is to develop a product so relevant that your users simply have to try it to adopt it. And buy it.

Product-led growth (PLG) is a business strategy and methodology that positions the product as the main driver of customer acquisition, activation, satisfaction, retention, and scalable expansion.

Mallory Busch, Amplitude

Product Led Growth origins

OpenView, the Product Led Growth specialists on the other side of the Atlantic, distinguish four periods for this strategy:

  • the On-Premise Era ;
  • the Cloud Era ;
  • the End User Era ;
  • the Age of Connected Work.

The On-Premise Era dates back to the 80s and 90s. Back then, software was expensive and took up a lot of space. It was sold directly to CIOs, the Chiefs Information Officers.
The Cloud Era arrived in the 2000s. Bye bye data centers, hello clouds. Sales are no longer made to technical managers, but to non-technical executives in charge of monitoring KPIs and ROI. The trend is towards Led Growth Marketing, and Inbound Marketing is becoming the norm.
The 2010s see the emergence of the End User Era. The arrival of APIs and modular tools transforms development needs and significantly lowers costs. Access to products is democratized for users. Free trials and freemium plans proliferate.
Ten years later, the Age of Connected Work has arrived. To get the job done, users have adopted agile, automation-based workflows. More productivity, fewer human errors and more and more data to analyze and improve. But also more dependence on software. A breakdown can impact entire work systems.

Exemples de Product Led Growth SaaS

How to create a product that sells itself ?

Step 1 : really create a product for the end user

Designing for end users is really understanding what they do—and it’s also truly understanding who you serve. 

Tope Awotona, CEO de Calendly

I know, it sounds obvious, but at a time when all we talk about is ideal customers, personas, pains and solutions, this step seems all too often neglected. To implement a Product Led Growth strategy, you need a product that perfectly meets the needs of future users. You need to understand who they are (without dwelling on socio-demographic criteria, which are far too overestimated in my opinion: it doesn’t matter if your ideal customer is John, 44) and what their job-to-be-done is.

There’s no secret to this: you need to get to know your customers through customer interviews. That way, you can design the ideal product and the best customer journey to sell that product.

Step 2 : give before you receive

This is the basis of Product Led Growth. First you give, then you reap. So, you can choose one of three models:

  • free trial ;
  • freemium ;
  • open-source.

Your user needs to understand the value of your product before he or she has to get out their credit card. You therefore have a short period of time in which to convince them: don’t skimp on the features on offer, or on the added value.
With this in mind, you need to put customer success ahead of the purchasing process in your customer journey. Eliminate all friction points that could prevent the customer from reaching the “Aha moment“.

On this topic : Pricing : SaaS could learn from médias.

Step 3 : Invest in your go-to-market

We often hear that Product Led Growth can drastically reduce acquisition, marketing and sales costs. This is true. However, the first few customers will cost you. The good news is that once you’ve acquired and retained those first customers, your acquisition costs will actually drop.
To succeed in your product-led growth strategy, you absolutely must invest in the measurement and analysis of user behavior. As always, the rule is: identify, apply and change. It’s essential to ensure that your teams are always ready to test and improve both the product and the user journey.
In the same vein, plan strategies to propel user-generated content (UGC), to continue your growth.

Product Led Growth cycle

4 tips for successful Product Led Growth

1 – Know your users inside out

I’m coming back to this because it’s undeniably a crucial point in Product Led Growth (and marketing in general): you need to have precise knowledge of your users and their needs. There’s no magic formula here: the best way to acquire this knowledge is to conduct customer interviews with them.
You need to understand why people “hire” your product to do the job-to-be-done, and how they came to that decision.
After a thorough analysis of the responses, you can implement the findings in your marketing strategy.

2 – Unite all your teams around a single vision

Of course, it can’t all be about your users. From marketing teams to product teams, sales teams and customer teams, everyone needs to be aligned around the same vision.
It may sound simple on paper, but getting an entire company behind the same idea can be a real challenge. That’s where the North Star Metric comes in, aka the metric that best represents the value delivered to your customers, while reflecting your company’s growth. This tool is also excellent for uniting your teams around a shared future.

3 – Bet on customer success

Everyone in marketing knows: acquiring a customer costs on average five times more than retaining one. This is even truer in a Product Led Manager strategy. You need customers who are fully satisfied with your product to acquire even more customers. And boost your company’s growth.
From customer onboarding to daily use of your product, you need to make sure that everything goes smoothly. I stress the word “use”: don’t stop your efforts once your customer has subscribed. You want referrals, not attrition.
So now’s the time to build your team of customer success managers.

4 – Create Product-Led content

Before your product really sells itself (by which I mean thanks to your users), you’ll need to demonstrate its value and get the word out. Inbound marketing can help.
Contrary to popular belief, however, inbound marketing isn’t free: it requires time and/or money. You’ll be creating content around your product to develop its visibility and brand awareness. Little by little, you’ll also build up your credibility.
There are many channels open to you:

  • social networks ;
  • blog posts ;
  • webinars ;
  • podcasts ;
  • videos ;
  • press.

Your product must become Top Of Mind. In other words, when your target audience thinks of job-to-be-done, they think directly of your product. Become a must-have.
With this in mind, you’re going to create a differentiation that’s hard to copy, thanks to unmistakable and remarkable branding.

It’s a wrap

Product Led Growth is a common SaaS strategy, and rightly so. It puts your product at the heart of customer acquisition, conversion and business growth. It’s particularly interesting for your company if :

  • your product offers a unique, personalized solution to help the user perform a frequent task ;
  • the user can quickly understand its value;
  • your product is constantly being improved.

To build your strategy, ask yourself: how can you put your product at the forefront of every stage of your customer journey?

And if you want to go further, take a leaf out of Wes Bush’s book, How to Build a Product That Sells Itself.

Crédits photo :
Midjourney – prompt/an advertisement of a computer with the colors of a blue midnight sky and a light bulb:: –ar 2:1 –v 4 –stylize 1000
Graphics : créations Canva

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