8 Product Led Growth Strategy Lessons For Your SaaS Product
One of the latest buzzwords in the SaaS circles is the ‘Product-led growth’ strategy. Several SaaS experts are raving about this ‘go-to-strategy’ that promises to boost customer engagement and satisfaction by making the ‘product’ the hero of everything the organization does.
It seems like there is so much that PLG strategy can do for your company’s exponential growth that it warrants a closer look.
Product-led growth is neither an entirely new topic nor drastically different from other strategies such as marketing-led or sales-led.
However, using a PLG strategy doesn’t mean you should get rid of your marketing department. It means that your marketing plan should center around your product as well and become product-led growth marketing focused.
While this might seem like a relatively simple strategy to achieve, there is more than meets the eye.
Let’s walk you through a product-led growth strategy overview and give you best-in-class tips to help you implement and grow.
But first, what is Product-Led Growth?
Like all the latest concepts, defining product-led growth is tricky because many ideas and strategies make it successful.
Product-led growth (PLG) is an approach toward organizational growth that focuses on using the product as the primary growth driver.
The product is powered by the product, a methodology in expansion, acquisition, conversion, customer satisfaction, revenue, and retention. This end-user-focused model leverages and enhances the capabilities of the product to convert users into customers.
A shining example of product-led growth in a company — Zoom.
Created in 2011, Zoom has over 300 million participants every day globally. When ‘Zoom’ entered the market scene, it faced stiff competition from some industry giants. But how could ‘Zoom’ zoom past all these competitors?
It implemented a product-led growth strategy. And then the rest is history!
Is Product-Led Growth unique?
A product-led growth strategy allows users to experience the product right away without jumping through hoops of advertisements, marketing strategies, and plans before starting the engine.
It allows users to try the product, enjoy its capabilities and share its strengths with others.
If you were just to skim the surface of product-led growth strategy, it would seem like just another model asking the buyer to ‘try before you buy.’ Should you dig a little deeper, you will understand that PLG is an extensive methodology that businesses can benefit from.
PLG is unique because it allows businesses to lower their acquisition costs, improve retention, enjoy shorter sales cycles, and provide enhanced customer satisfaction levels.
A couple of decades ago, the buyer wrested the decision-making power. The buyer decides what features and capabilities a product is going to have.
However, the buying power rests with the end-user with a product-led strategy. The consumer demands better products and better experiences from the tools and products they use.
How did Product-led strategies begin?
The story of a product-led growth strategy is not a new one. We have always had some form of a product-led technique used in our daily lives. Unfortunately, this concept never really took off until recently.
There was a time when software took ages to develop, market, and put to use. Now, the software is developed, introduced, and championed by individuals. Users are no longer waiting for directives from bosses or the business to tell them what to buy and use.
This shift in the preferences and market might not seem revolutionary at first. But it certainly alters the way businesses have been going ahead with their product development, marketing, and customer satisfaction unless companies adapt to the changes.
Sales-led growth and marketing-led growth are the two strategies used before the run-up to product-led growth strategy. The next obvious question would be the differences between product-led, sales-led, and marketing-led approaches.
What are the differences between product-led, sales-led, and marketing-led strategies?
Businesses used the sales-led growth strategy in the 80s and 90s. It was driven by sales representatives who wooed the CEOs and customers with their selling skills.
The sales department is the driving factor of your revenue-generating efforts in a sales-led growth strategy. While this has seen massive success in the early days, businesses should not confine their efforts only to drive sales without offering value to customers.
The marketing-led growth strategy led the businesses in the early 2000s. During this period, the executives focused on showcasing their software regarding its benefits, increased ROI, and competitiveness.
The business relies on its marketing to bring home revenue in a marketing-led strategy. Companies have many approaches to a marketing-led growth plan, such as working on content marketing, conducting webinars, and more to retain customers and generate profits.
In a marketing-led strategy, the business concentrates on acquisition instead of retention. Moreover, the marketing costs take away a large chunk of profits.
In a product-led strategy, the product is the force behind the business’s success and raking in revenue.
A PLG is an approach where the user identifies and uses a product in a self-serve manner. It reduces the sales cycle, generates higher profits, eliminates the cost of retention, and decreases the time-to-value.
A PLG is cheaper because the product does the talking on behalf of your business. This strategy has the potential to reach a lot of interested people. It helps prioritize the product, aids in product development and enhancement, and gets fast feedback if you have developed an MVP- minimum viable product (although you should start with an MLP- Minimum Lovable Product).
What are the benefits of becoming product-led growth?
Product-led growth strategy has many aspects, but PLG experts consider the following as the main differentiating factors.
Grow without dependencies
SaaS businesses led by their products can grow without depending on other factors such as sales, marketing, or advertising. Your business can save thousands of dollars, time, and resources spent on these activities.
Become completely customer-oriented
Every product is designed and developed to meet the specific needs of customers. And, when it satisfies those needs, its adoption naturally increases. Without customers, a product ceases to have a purpose — or to exist.
Product-led growth is all about creating happy customers by developing valuable products that solve customers’ real-world problems.
So, the first step would be to understand customers’ pain points and build software products that address those pain points by collecting feedback from customers and reworking its capabilities.
Self-service product adoption
Earlier, customers depended on the sales representatives or marketing channels to explain the products, their features, and differentiating factors. However, of late, customers are independently picking up the products of their choice, using and adopting them.
SaaS companies that use product-led strategies allow customers to seek out their products, discover their features and functionalities, identify their use cases, and find value.
SaaS companies are also helping their users onboard the products by lowering the adoption barrier and providing timely help.
Gets adoption started quickly
Customers choose to use the products and align their value with their needs without committing to them for long-term use. They can try the product’s features and discover its capabilities and limitations by starting for free.
If you take the example of Slack, they have consistently led the market with their product-led strategy. How do they do it?
Every department in their company focuses on refining and enhancing the product offerings and has a ‘try-before-you-buy’ policy that works for them.
Product Development becomes streamlined
If you have developed an MVP — a minimum viable product — the first thing you’d want to do is get it into the hands of your audiences.
By having large sections of the target audience trying out your products, you’ll have a better chance of gathering as much feedback as possible.
With the data, you will be better equipped to build feature additions, correct discrepancies, and bring in changes to the product.
Is PLG strategy a perfect fit for your SaaS Start-up?
PLG is an excellent problem-solving strategy that promises several benefits to any business, but as a SaaS owner, you are bound to question its value.
To make it easier for you to decide whether or not your SaaS product is cut out for PLG or not, we built a list of what you should look at.
The market conditions for the product are ideal
PLG strategy is likely to succeed when some ideal conditions such as buying power, decision-making power are in favor.
Existing products do not satisfy the changing needs of customers
Your product offers a unique and personalized solution that adds value to the customers, solves their pain points, and helps them improve their efficiency.
The end-users can gain real value from the product without your help
The products are easy-to-use, adopt and integrate with existing systems without much interference or help from the business.
The product is the main driver of growth
Your product is developed based on customers’ requirements, which makes it easier to retain customers, acquire a new market base, and expand.
8 Successful Product-led Growth Strategies
Now that we know why it is essential to bring down the acquisition costs and ramp up retention activities, let’s look at the top successful PLG strategies implemented by businesses.
To build a successful PLG-based SaaS business, you have to understand what your customers are looking for in a product and make a solution that adds value to them while successfully rectifying their pain points.
Once you have created the product, your next step would be to communicate the product features, usability, and uniqueness to your target market.
1. Customer comes first
What ignites growth is a positive customer experience. A happy customer is your biggest advertisement, and in a PLG strategy, your product is your growth driver.
When you start focussing on delivering value and user experience, you are bound to open up revenue and patronage floodgates.
86% of customers are willing to pay higher for a better customer experience. By focusing on customer experience, companies can increase their revenue (42%), retention (33%), and satisfaction (32%).
How to put customers first? Go to your customers.
Ask your customers what they are looking for in products, incorporate feedback into your system, analyze surveys responses, identify pain points, and iron out friction spots in your product.
2. Building a product roadmap
With information from your customers, you should be able to chalk out a product roadmap that incorporates all points from customers.
The product roadmap will give you an idea about what features you want in your product, the feature additions, and enhancements.
Use the user-generated data — surveys, shopping history, and behaviors to plan your product.
3. Data-Driven strategies
For a strategy to be effective, data has to be fuelled. Identify the areas where your product is falling short of customers’ expectations. While one aspect of developing strategies is identifying drawbacks, the other is recognizing positives.
Have a system of metrics that will help you gauge the effectiveness of your product-led growth strategy, such as:
4. Communicate value to customers
Communicate positives and value to customers as soon as possible because initial positive responses can contribute to the conversion. Word-of-mouth helps promote the products among the masses.
Making the product valuable and appealing will help bring in users.
5. Constantly improve product performance through feedback
Improving a product is not a one-off thing; it has to be a continuous task if you are willing to move forward.
While it is a good idea to gather feedback from users before improving performance, it is also crucial to proactively take measures to improve product performance.
Take a hard look at your customers’ sales journey. By using sales and funnel analysis, you can easily track and monitor your customers’ steps to reach the sales page. By analyzing these steps, you will gain insights into what features your customers are aiming for and how you can move forward.
6. Concentrate on greater adoption
While every customer wants to purchase a valuable product that satisfies their needs, they aren’t going just to appreciate many features packaged into products.
A product-led strategy focuses on keeping the product as the main hero, but it should also engage with the customers and build a dialogue.
Create in-app messaging flows, feedback micro surveys, and in-app guides to help users reach their goals with your product. These techniques will help improve adoption and engagement with the people using your products.
7. Eliminate onboarding friction
Although your customers want the best and most valuable products, they can be a little fickle-minded and lethargic in trying.
They might not have the time to go through all the features in a product or read every user manual or documentation. It is why you have to make the onboarding as friction-free and straightforward as possible.
Frictionless onboarding doesn’t stop with making the product findable or understandable. You have to make the entire onboarding process seamless and hassle-free. Incorporate selling points and differentiating factors in as simple language as possible. How?
- Make the sign-up process simple. A complex sign-in is a huge turn-off
- Provide easy-to-follow in-app guidance and tutorials to get your customers through the first hurdle
- Offer constant assistance through live chat and using an in-app resource center
8. Align Sales and Marketing with PLG
Your marketing department should not function as a separate entity if you want to see your SaaS successful.
Your product-led growth strategy will yield the required results only when it collaborates with your sales and marketing strategies. You can use marketing automation software to automate your marketing and sales processes.
To drive growth, you have to be able and willing to use all resources available to you.
But how do you bring all teams together?
Before product-led growth strategy was predominantly adopted, the sales and marketing teams worked independently from the product development teams. Information collected by one department rarely made its way to other ends, and as such, the products developed weren’t what the customers ordered.
There has always been a disconnect between both teams.
However, with a product-led strategy, all three teams are aligned seamlessly. By leveraging the information gathered by onboarding teams and analyzing the data, all teams can utilize the information to improve products, enhance features, offer deals, convert sales, and more.
A product-led growth strategy will transform how you look at your product, your customer, and the market. It will give you a wider view of your product’s place in driving growth and success.
And it will also give you complete insights into your customer’s requirements and your relationship with them and develop a product that satisfies their needs.
While not all SaaS products can play piggy rides on the promise of product-led strategy, you should be ready to build a valuable product, communicate the value and encourage adoption.
In the era of robust competition, most businesses have no choice but to take a harder look at their products and devise strategies to deliver a more remarkable customer experience, adoption, conversion, engagement, and retention.
About the author
Anisha Bhandari is a passionate content writer and SEO strategist at PSDCenter who creates and curates’ content on marketing, sales & CX. She is enthusiastic about traveling and exploring new places.