Next NYC Spotlight: Determining Hex’s Flavor of PLG

Apr 25, 2024
Next NYC Spotlight: Determining Hex’s Flavor of PLG
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Despite recent advancements in the modern data stack, data work is still fragmented across tools and stakeholders. Recognizing this gap in 2019, Hex was built as a data science and analytics collaboration platform to better serve this need. 

In under five years, Hex has experienced remarkable growth with over 1,000 customers including Brex, Notion, Anthropic, Algolia, Seatgeek, and more, alongside over $100 million in total funding. CEO Barry McCardel attributes Hex’s growing popularity to their collaborative data approach coupled with the growing recognition of AI's transformative impact on workflows. This momentum led to the development of their latest product, Hex Magic, which layers generative AI capabilities to their existing tools. 

So what’s the key to Hex’s growth? We chatted with Jo Engreitz, Head of Product Growth at Hex and previous Group Product Manager at video editing software company,, to learn more. Since 2022, Jo has been leading the charge in finessing what “flavor of go-to-market” is the best fit for Hex’s product, and how to leverage the product itself to power growth. 

First, for some context, we thought it would be helpful to breakdown the full spectrum of what enterprise go-to-market models can look like:  

  • Pure Product-Led Growth (PLG): The classic PLG go-to-market motion leverages the product itself to facilitate users discovering, signing up, trialing, and checking out the product without ever talking to a sales person. Products that are successful with pure PLG typically have a strong single-player use case, a price point low enough to charge to a credit card, as well as a fully frictionless onboarding and adoption flow that does not require hands-on support from Sales or Customer Success.
  • Product-Assisted Sales (PAS): This motion best fits products and segments where users can discover, signup, trial, and/or purchase the product on their own, but benefit from hands-on support to either purchase, expand, or upgrade. PAS motions are common when the greatest value is unlocked by the full team or organization adopting the product together. Sales and Customer Success can then play a key role in helping customers navigate bigger-budget purchase decisions, facilitating org-wide adoption, or guiding upgrades to team-oriented plans.
  • Top-Down Sales: This motion best fits products and segments in which the buyer requires a human-assisted Sales engagement to discover, adopt and purchase the product. This might be because of security or procurement requirements, complex implementations across an entire organization, or simply because the buyer is not the same person as the end user. Think of this motion as traditional enterprise sales. 

Jo warns that many startups fall into the common belief that PLG simply means “build a great product and they will come,” with a top-down sales layer simultaneously attracting larger customers. But unfortunately, it’s not that easy. 

A Tale of Two Products’ PLG Journeys 

Determining the correct sequence for your GTM motion is critical. While you can certainly have layered go-to-market motions, you need to be deliberate in who you are targeting with each and how the product is built to scale for each. Jo elaborated on two product-led sales motions and how they differed:, whose primary product was a video review and approval solution for post production teams, first targeted freelance video editors and small post production shops. The hypothesis was that if these early adopters loved the product, they would organically introduce it to their larger clients. Consequently,’s product team prioritized crafting an exceptional single-user experience and making it as easy as possible to adopt, purchase, and share the product. Their hypothesis proved accurate as the PLG approach eventually generated inbound from larger companies. This new customer interest then justified investments inbuilding out enterprise-grade features and a sales team. 

The path to growth has been different for Hex. 

Hex’s initial GTM motion focused on top-down sales. This is the most common motion in the data industry, where buyers need to navigate data security requirements and complex integrations in order to adopt a new tool. But after seeing how much end-user love the product was garnering, the Hex team decided to experiment with a PLG self-serve motion as well.

The hypothesis was that SMB data practitioners would be able to set up data integrations and checkout on their own, driving efficient revenue and word-of-mouth growth through the data community. 

To give this theory its best shot, Jo and her team set off to streamline every part of the self-serve funnel: 

  • Acquisition: They created a smoother signup and checkout flow directly on the website and improved the pricing page to be more intuitive on which plan is right for the user.
  • Activation: They invested in removing as much friction from the data integration step as possible, including answering security and troubleshooting FAQs in-product, prompting users to invite colleagues to assist where needed, and redesigning the product UI to be more intuitive and mistake-proof. They also built and surfaced onboarding guides, product tours, and sample content,at key moments in the user journey to empower users to learn and build habits in the product. 
  • Expansion: They built sharing features and workspace setup guides so that users could seamlessly invite and onboard their team, and so that new users could easily discover and join workspaces their colleagues had already set up

In the end, Hex achieved the desired user activation and expansion rates, but found that about half of SMBs still required a security review before they could connect their data and purchase. No amount of in-product onboarding would be able to remove this constraint on conversion. So the team layered on a lightweight sales assist for SMB companies who requested it.

The big learning here? Go-to-market motions are not one-size-fits all. It takes some experimentation to find the right flavor for your business.

4 Questions to Better Set Your Product Up for PLG Success

Here are four questions Jo suggested for evaluating whether your product is suitable for PLG. If you answer "yes" to each, you're prepared to begin experimenting!

Question #1: Do you have a single player use case?

If not, your product probably isn’t a fit for pure PLG, and would be better suited to a PAS or a top-down sales motion. This is because products that only deliver value when an entire team or company adopts them, typically also require a human touch to achieve activation and purchase conversion. 

Question #2: Could a user activate without human assistance?

If not, pure PLG is likely not a fit. Don’t be dissuaded by a few leaky steps in your funnel, but remember that it takes consistent and deliberate effort to build a self-servable product.
If you’re not sure where your product stands, it helps to actually observe new users trying your product. For example, at Hex, Jo recruited people within Hex’s target user persona who had never used the product before. She observed as a fly on the wall as the new users navigated the product on their own for the first time. This was a sanity check to see where users ran into challenges, and whether those challenges could be solved with in-product self-serve resources.

Question #3: Is your end user the same person as your buyer? 

The answer to this question may well be different in different market segments. In segments where the person buying your product is also an end user, a pure PLG motion can be successful. By contrast, if your end users don’t have direct influence over budget allocation, you’re more likely to need a sales assist. 

Question #4: Does your price point make sense? 

A pure PLG motion requires a price point that someone would be comfortable charging to their company credit card. That lower price point in turn requires low-CAC acquisition channels, and of course willingness-to-pay for the product offering. If willingness-to-pay for your product offering far exceeds what someone would be willing to charge to their credit card, it could actually be more revenue efficient to leverage a sales-assist motion at a higher price point.  

While it can be tempting to compare yourself to PLG giants like Figma or Notion, it's essential to recognize that every company operates within its unique context. Be realistic on where your product and customer base aligns with these PLG models and where it does not. 

To best understand this, follow the classic advice – talk to your customers. By listening to customers and engaging with others in the space, you can gain valuable insights into their preferences, pain points, and how much they’re spending on other similar products.

In conclusion, diving into the world of PLG demands a strategic approach and a deep understanding of the product nuances at play. One cannot simply copy and paste a methodology from another company. Instead, nailing your go-to-market motion requires meticulous attention to several key factors about who your users are, how they prefer to discover and adopt new tools, and where sales and post-sales customer success are needed to facilitate activation, conversion, and/or expansion. If you’re in the process of defining your go-to-market motion, remember to keep your users first in mind.