In today’s rapidly changing digital landscape, businesses must constantly adapt to remain relevant and drive growth. In order for a business to thrive, it must find innovative new ways to engage its target audience and meet unmet demand.
Innovative startups have become particularly adept at driving growth by introducing products that are so helpful or delightful that they become indispensable to their users. These companies have achieved what is known as “product-led growth.” In this post, I'll try to explain what product-led growth is like with detailed examples of successful businesses who have led their company with products.
What is product-led growth (PLG)?
Product-led growth is a strategy used to drive exponential growth by focusing the business around the product and creating growth opportunities through it. In other words, It's a concept that aims for growth by adding sales and marketing functions to the product itself. PLG refers to a "business model in which the product sells itself," in which marketing, support, and other sales-related functions are provided to users as part of the product.
PLG is one of the go-to-market strategies originally named by OpenView, a U.S. venture capital firm, and has been adopted by Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, and other startups, and has become a common strategy among rapidly growing startups in recent years. It is often discussed in contrast to the sales-led growth (SLG) model, in which salespeople take the lead in selling products, and there are some major differences between the two, which will be explained in detail in the next chapter.
Why is PLG so important?
In the past, companies focused on marketing and sales as core elements of their business strategy. But the landscape has changed so much that the old strategies no longer work. Product-led growth enables companies to create long-term growth and profitability by focusing on the product and its user experience. This means that companies build marketing and sales efforts around a product that people actually want and are eager to pay for.
Also, product-led growth strategy is more beneficial than sales and marketing because it is more durable, saves on costs, broadens your reach, and provides faster feedback loops. In other words, focusing on the product first will help you increase word-of-mouth more quickly, leading to organic sales and growth rather than relying on marketing and sales alone.
This strategy is extremely effective, as demonstrated by the tremendous growth product-led companies have experienced in recent years.
Differences between "sales-led-growth" and "product-led-growth"
SLG is often compared to PLG but in SLG, the funnel generally looks like this;
- Marketing team acquires leads by marketing
- Sales team approaches to the lead and try to convince to buy the product
- Sales team closes the deal
- User starts using the product
- Customer success team assists the user in all aspects
In the case of SLG, users experience the product fully only after signing a contract (step 4 above). Therefore, it is the role of sales to sell the product, and it is from the company and sales to communicate its value and attractiveness. Therefore, SLG can be viewed as a mechanism for sales to communicate the attractiveness and value of the product.
On the other hand, in the case of PLG, it is the product that communicates its value and attractiveness. First of all, the product is spread by having the users learn by themselves by experiencing it, and then by making them pay for it or recommending it to other users/companies. The company (and sales staff) will aim for growth by creating a mechanism that encourages users to pay for or purchase the product at the appropriate time.
How to Get Started with PLG?
If you want your startup to achieve successful product-led growth, it is important to design a product that can be delivered quickly to end-users and that allows them to realize its value immediately. In other words, make it free and easy to get started, and get them to pay as soon as possible. Specifically, it is important to provide quick wins, or small success stories, as quickly as possible.
There are a few key things to keep in mind if you want to achieve product-led growth
- Build a great product. This is obviously the most important step. You need to build a product that people will want to use and tell their friends about.
- Make sure you have a strong onboarding process. First impressions matter, so make sure new users have a great experience with your product from the start. Make it easy for them to understand how to use your product and what its key features are.
- Figure out what's most important to your users. What are the features or areas of your product that they seem to value the most? Prioritize those when it comes to new development or updates.
- Focus on engagement. Once you have a great product, you need to focus on engagement. This means getting people to use your product as much as possible and keeping them coming back for more. There are a number of ways to do this, such as through push notifications, email marketing, or in-app messages.
- Decrease churn and maximize retention. Prioritize features that increase user retention. By ensuring that your users are sticking around, you'll be in a much better position to drive growth. Of course, this isn't always easy to do – but it's worth it in the long run.
More about reducing churn
It can also be helpful to think about how you can reduce churn. Churn is the percentage of users who stop using your product over a certain period of time. If you can keep your churn rate low, it will be easier to grow your user base.
There are a few ways to reduce churn, but one of the most effective is to focus on engagement. Engaged users are more likely to stick with your product. So, look for ways to keep users engaged with your product. For example, you could send them personalized messages or give them rewards for using your product.
Focusing on retention and engagement will help you achieve product-led growth. Keep these tips in mind as you continue to grow your startup.
More about maximizing retention
There are a few key things you can do to increase user retention, such as:
- Focusing on onboarding: Make sure that your new users have a great experience when they first start using your product. A smooth onboarding process will go a long way towards keeping them around.
- Creating engaging content: Keep your users engaged with your product by creating content that they'll find interesting and useful. This could include blog posts, how-to guides, or even just helpful tips & tricks.
- Drive viral adoption: Use strategies like referral programs and social media to get users to invite their friends and followers to try out your product.
- Providing excellent customer support: If something goes wrong, your users need to know that they can count on you for help. Provide them with excellent customer support and they'll be more likely to stick around – even if things do go wrong from time to time. Good customer service will go a long way in keeping users happy and retaining them as customers.
- Keep your users engaged with timely updates and new content. If you can keep your users coming back on a regular basis, they're more likely to stick around long-term. Try adding new features or content on a regular basis to keep things fresh.
- Provide automatic updates and notifications. It keeps users in the loop about new content or features without them having to constantly check for updates.
- Personalized recommendations. It gives users tailored recommendations based on their interests and usage patterns.
- Create a sense of community. It lets users connect with each other and build relationships within your product. This could be through forums, chat features, or other collaborative tools.