Product-led growth is a hot topic. As a startup, you want people to love your product, plain and simple. Getting them to love it is more complicated.
At SaaStr APAC 2023, Matt Vethuis, the VP, APJ at Amplitude, shared his take on how to bring power to your products through a hybrid blend of product and sales-led growth called product-led sales.
Product-led growth is a GTM strategy where the product is the main driver for growth. I.e., your product is helping your customers try, buy, and ultimately grow with it. You want them to fall so deeply in love with your product that they will spend money on it.
But PLG hasn’t always been the way companies do things. Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
This Isn’t The 90’s
Buying patterns have understandably changed over the decades. From the 1980s to around 2000, the internet wasn’t really a thing in most places. It makes sense that a sales-growth model was the number one growth driver during this time.
Fast forward 10 and 20 years, from 2000-2020, and executives took control of the buying decisions. CFOs were looking for solutions to budgeting and planning. CROs looked for revenue forecasting. Marketing-led growth and tailored messaging were the name of the game.
Now, we’re in a digital products era. Digital products have grown massive over the years, and by the end of 2023, we’ll double the amount in the market. They’re everywhere, which is why product-led sales is even more important.
Buying decisions have shifted to you, to us, to consumers. A McKinsey study found that 70% of all buying decisions are done remotely or by self-serve. The end user is making the call. They try a product and swipe their credit card without ever speaking to a human.
And that means companies would do well to look at how they interact with customers, whether by human or computer.
Spend Less Time Cold-Calling
Product-led growth isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It can solve many use cases, but working with PLG for large enterprise opportunities will be tough. The good news is you can adapt to a product-led sales hybrid model, blending the two for a strategy that aligns with your organization.
Product-led sales combine the power of your product with the power of your sales team, so your sales team spends less time cold-calling, and the product team focuses more on the customer journey.
For Amplitude specifically, Velthuis says this strategy has tripled its leads to pipeline conversion rate. Their sales team is three times more effective at closing product-led opportunities vs. traditional MQL or hand-raisers.
Phase One: Make A Good Product
If you want people to love your product, it must be good. Without that, all of this comes to a grinding halt. How do you create a good product? Let’s look at five components that make a good product. Each of these can result in the next, creating a continuous life cycle.
A good product should:
- Spark curiosity.
You can encourage an audience and create a pull around your product through traditional and non-traditional ways of marketing like ad promotions, utilizing influencers, or thought-provoking campaigns.
- Create an aha! moment.
This moment is when the user says, “ahhhh, now I understand why everyone’s talking about this.” They see the value.
- Nurture a value exchange.
The customer or user has traveled so far into the product that they’re ready to spend money on it.
- Develop a trigger to keep users around.
Your product needs to engage and delight customers constantly. They won’t stick around forever unless you create something they’ll keep coming back to.
- Prioritize virality.
Virality is the buzz that spreads. From here, each of these steps begins again. Virality sparks curiosity, and you’re off.
Phase Two: Market For Free
Now, you have a good product, and it’s time to think of a way to market it for free. The best companies do this. Snowflake offers a free trial. Zoom and Slack too. Even Canva gave Adobe a run for its many when the free product took off.
50% of Amplitude customers started as freemium members and then moved to paying. If you don’t have a free plan in place, consider these 3 things.
- Do you want to offer a free trial vs. freemium?
Velthuis recommends freemium. Free trials are time-bound and often fall flat because customers are tied to a clock. Let them explore when they’re ready.
- Do you want to offer something specific for startups and SMBs?
They have small budgets but could become future Canvas or Atlassians. At Amplitude, they have a scholarship plan for startups with less than $5M worth of VC funding and less than 20 employees. As they take off, Amplitude is in the slipstream.
- What does your sign-up experience look like?
Keep it self-serve, simple, fast, free, and frictionless. You don’t need salespeople involved in most cases when people are trying to sign up, especially for a free version of your product.
- Do you want to offer a free trial vs. freemium?
Phase Three: Move From Free To Buying
You have a product, a way for people to try it for free, and now you need customers to move from free users to buying users. To do that, you need to identify product signals — when the customer is ready to graduate to paying.
To do this, you’ll need visibility into the customer journey to understand which actions they take within your software. If you don’t have that visibility, you’ll be looking into a black hole.
There are a lot of different signals to consider, and they’ll be different for every single business. You can ask yourself these questions.
- Is a free user maxing out the number of queries they can run each month? When they hit 80-90% of their usage, reach out to them.
- Is the customer pulling data from another vendor that does something similar to you?
- Is the number of times a customer logs in each day increasing?
- Is the customer sharing dashboard insights with people who don’t have a license?
- Are active users consistently stopping their journey at the same spot?
Phase Four: Train your Team
Once you have the answers to these signals, you can build a playbook for your sales team. They need to understand how to interact with these Product Qualified Leads. It’ll be different than how they used to do sales in the past.
Some recommendations to consider as you build your playbook:
- Develop a deeper understanding of how your product works at a technical level. How do users behave through the product? Teach your team to read and interpret these product signals correctly.
- Now that you have PQLs, the sales team needs to monitor this daily. Ensure they can access the information easily to see how users interact with the product.
- Train your team to talk to customers. You don’t want a sales rep calling a user and saying, “hey, I saw you interacting with our product for 4 hours yesterday.” That’s creepy.
Some sales teams are reluctant to adopt PLG, afraid it will cannibalize their business and reduce commissions. Don’t worry. PLG and product-led sales don’t cannibalize commissions. They free up sales teams to go after larger and more complicated deals.
When done correctly, the product assists the sales and expedites deals. Sales can still score the goal, and product is there as a partner to the sales margin. Together, they’ll bring power to your products.
PLG is a fantastic growth tool, but it’s not all or nothing. The best teams combine the power of the product and PLG with the power of sales-led growth.
To pull off product-led sales, you need to get 4 things right.
- You need to have a great product.
- You need to build a free plan.
- You need to identify product signals to know how customers behave within the product.
- You need to train your sales team on how to follow up on those leads.
If you can do these 4 things, your team will be stronger, better, and more efficient.