After 2 years of virtual Meetups, we finally closed out of Zoom and got back to action at our first IRL NY Enterprise Tech Meetup since the pandemic! We welcomed Gabriel Madureira (Former VP of GTM Operations at MongoDB), Leigh Moore (VP of Growth and Community at Snyk), and Fraser Marlow (Head of Marketing at Elementl) for a panel on “How PLG Enabled Hypergrowth,'' moderated by Justin Dignelli, CEO and Co-Founder of Pace.
To set some context, with all the hype around PLG, it’s important to remember that PLG may not be the right sales motion for every company. Early on in a startup's life, it is critical to think through one key criteria of the product: Is your end user the decision maker? If yes and if that user can quickly enter their credit card information and get up and running, chances are, product-led is right for you.
With that said, our panelists dove into three key areas many early PLG leaders overlook as they build out their sales motion👇
Ownership: Who Owns Growth?
It’s product-led growth, so isn’t it obvious that the Product team would own growth? Not according to our panel. In fact, unanimously, they agreed that almost every functional area of an organization needs to take ownership of growth.
For startups in the very early stages of building a product, assigning growth to the Product team is natural. At this stage, the most attention and resources will be given to the Product team and growth should be one of their top priorities when thinking through how to build features and what features to build.
However, you will leave a lot on the table if you don't include Marketing, Sales, Community, and Customer Success in growth ownership. Without these functional areas invested in the overall growth strategy, there will be a lot of friction in actually taking action and executing on growth.
It’s also important to get buy-in at the highest level. For Elementl, Fraser was intentional about getting PLG buy-in from Elementl’s CEO and CRO. This gave him the aircover when instructing the company to take a more hands off approach as users move through the funnel (aka don’t have Sales reps knocking down their door), which ultimately led to a higher conversion rate and more revenue in the long-run. Not to mention, it didn’t take away any opportunity from the Sales team. Instead, it allowed them to focus on upmarket prospects.
Real-Time Data: Tools for Engagement
When our panelists first started their careers in PLG, there was no software specifically designed to measure self-serve sales efficiency and success. However, having real-time data is not only a key differentiator between a PLG and enterprise sales motion, but it’s also one of the biggest keys to success.
With enterprise customers, it is customary to schedule frequent check in calls and have an open feedback loop. With a PLG sales motion, you’ll eventually reach a user volume that outnumbers your Sales team. So even if you wanted to (which you shouldn’t, given PLG users tend to prefer a hands-off sales approach), you won’t be able to talk to every customer. Instead, you need to engage at key moments.
As we’ve talked about before, PLG spans multiple customer life cycle stages: Evaluation (sign up and onboarding), Activation (product usage), and Expansion (growth and adoption). To gather the most robust intel at each stage, it's important to invest in infrastructure, data pipelines, and observability capabilities. These tools work together to analyze the customer journey from end-to-end, giving insights on how users are moving down the funnel and if they’re MQLs, without having to contact them directly.
Set up specific signals to know when it's time for outreach: For example, conversation openers can be generated directly from the product: “Hey you like this feature? Click here to talk to someone!” That's a much stronger call to action than generically asking a user to “put your email in this form on the website.” Leigh doubled down that outreach needs to be a light touch and nothing too salesy - just a “How’s it going? How can we help you?”
Don’t forget that not all of your free users need to convert into paying customers. It's on the Growth Marketing and Operations team to determine who should be targeted, but some users will be happiest left alone on the freemium plan.
Unfortunately, the PLG space is in desperate need of a toolkit. Right now, the typical data stack is a mix and match of different tools that aren’t specifically designed for PLG, to build an analytics layer. Tools such as:
- Marketing: Marketo, Hubspot, Moat
- Product Usage: Heap, Segment, Snowflake
- Sales: Salesforce
- Finance: Stripe
- Support: Zendesk, Intercom
- Analytics: Hex
On the flipside, Sales and Marketing already have their dedicated tech stacks. And PLG punches weave its way through each of those. So, until a new generation of tools comes to the forefront, you’ll have to work cross functionally.
To help close this tooling gap, Pace is building a platform that enables companies to transform from traditional enterprise sales motions to a hybrid, product-led approach. It combines commercial information from the CRM with usage data from the product to equip customer-facing teams with timely insights about customer behavior to identify the users with the highest likelihood to buy.
Don’t Forget About Customer Success!
When asked what the biggest pitfall to completing the product feedback loop was and how PLG is addressing that better than the traditional model, there was one answer: Customer Success.
Traditional enterprise sales cycles can be one year or even longer. Once the sale is closed, Customer Success teams are brought in to ensure a customer’s longevity with the product and room for upselling. With a PLG motion, the Customer Success team’s role is to determine what users are doing on an intimate level by looking at their behavior - what are users doing with the product (consumption, usage) - and drive them towards reaching the product’s “aha moment” (though education initiatives) where they’ll unlock its true/full value. Once they do that, they’re guaranteed to stick. Afterall, their core metric is retention.
If you’re an early-stage enterprise founder or operator — connect with us directly to chat about anything GTM or check out our events page to stay in the loop on all things happening in the Work-Bench community. If you'd like to expand your PLG capabilities or contact Pace — check out Paceapp.com.