There Really Aren’t Enough PLG Magicians Out There to Hire. Not Yet.

I’ve recently had several different conversations with founders looking to hire “PLG experts”.  One wanted to hire “Mr/Ms PLG” to make their product more viral.  Another wanted a “VP of PLG” to complement their marketing efforts.  PLG, or Product-Led Growth, can mean so many things.

Everyone would prefer a product where 50% or more of the leads come from the product itself.  Where there’s a viral boost to acquisition.  Where the collaborative nature of the app itself brings in the next generation of leads.

And by all means, go build that.  Even a lightly “viral” app, even an app with just a partial PLG motion, can give you a huge boost.  Even if just 20% of your customers in essence create themselves from your app, that’s a huge boost not just today, but an incredible one over time.

Here’s my only suggestion.  It’s too early in this PLG cycle to hire a “VP of PLG”.  This cross-functional magician doesn’t exist yet.  Instead:

* Hire a great VP of Product with strong freemium experience.  They know all or most of the PLG playbook.  Everyone from Trello to Webflow to Asana to Calendly to MongoDB to Elastic are running different pieces of this.  Hire a truly great product leader from here, ideally a Director or above, and they’ll know how to add or improve your self-serve and product-led features.  Arguably, PLG is just freemium with better instrumentation.  That’s Aaron Levie’s argument here:

* Hire a great VP of Marketing with a strong SMB and growth background.  They’ll know how to leverage sign-ups, free users, drip marketing, and in-app conversion to drive up your customer count.

* Hire a great VP of Sales that has worked in a “hybrid” self-serve and inside-sales environment.  They’ll know the cadence, how to mine the free base for paid customers, how to staff up, etc.

In a few years, perhaps there will be a ton of VP of Product-Led Growth hires.  For now, find that expertise in your VP of Product, Marketing and Sales.  Probably in that order.  Rather that searching out a magician with PLG in the title.

For a great discussion on how freemium and PLG has — and hasn’t — changed over the past generations of SaaS software, watch this great SaaStr Scale deep dive from the CMO of Calendly:

Published on February 24, 2022

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