Did you know that Trader Joe’s lets you sample almost any product before buying — chips, cookies, granola, and even ginger beer?
It’s one way to find out if you’ll like it or not. And people clearly love the free treats.
Product-led marketing is based on the same ethos.
No question why more and more SaaS teams are tapping into this growth strategy.
“Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) convert 2x-4x faster than traditional MQLs.”
It’s the perfect solution for the rising costs, trimmed marketing budgets, and the constraints of expensive traditional marketing.
In this article, we’ll look at PLG as a different, but not-so-new GTM strategy. We’ve included real examples from SaaS companies that are already implementing this.
Take notes, as we’ll have actionable tips you can implement immediately.
What is product-led marketing?
Product-led marketing is the obvious expansion of product-led growth (PLG).
To wrap our heads around this marketing concept, let’s take a step back for a quick refresher on what PLG is again.
PLG is a business strategy where the product itself takes the lead role in attracting, converting, and retaining customers. Instead of relying heavily on sales teams, you let your product do most of the selling. And this strategy works well for SaaS teams.
Now, when we talk about product-led marketing, we’re essentially talking about the marketing efforts that support and amplify the principles of PLG.
Unlike traditional marketing, product-led marketers are all about empowering users to discover the product so they convert and become loyal customers.
As opposed to traditional marketing, PLG goes beyond spreading product awareness. It actually provides a product experience — hands-on, interactive, and gives value upfront.
Johannes, Founder & CEO at Financer.com agrees:
“I’ve found that a product-led growth (PLG) strategy can be incredibly successful if implemented correctly. It puts the product at the center of the marketing strategy, making it the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion, and expansion.”
But there’s a caveat.
“This approach [PLG] requires a deep understanding of the product and its value proposition, so only move ahead if you’re confident that your product solves a problem.”
Let’s explore this further.
The perks of product-led marketing
But why should you consider implementing this marketing strategy?
One biggest benefits of letting the product do the selling on its own is less aggressive sales intervention.
That’s true, but there are countless other pros like:
It generates more qualified leads.
Product-led marketing leads to more accurate lead qualification. That’s because sign-ups are leads who have sort of experienced the product in a way. And those who are already familiar with the product and understand its value are more inclined to convert.
It lowers customer acquisition costs.
Most companies that implement PLG offer free trials or freemium plans. And because of that, new users sign up on their own will. Companies no longer have to allocate substantial budgets toward aggressive promotional tactics or pay for expensive ad placements to acquire new customers.
It accelerates conversion.
When customers try out a product for free plus experience your product’s value firsthand, the path to conversion is much faster. Users that get to see how your product benefits them require less time (and persuasion) to seal a deal — and that speed up the buying process.
It reduces churn.
With users already acquainted with your product, they become more committed and are less prone to churn or abandon a product. The more satisfied they are, the more motivated they will be to renew their subscription.
It’s customer-centric, which is today’s marketing trend.
Product led-marketing is all about positive customer engagement. And customers who have had a good experience with a product are happier to share their feedback on the product and recommend it to others.
It gives you a better user understanding
As SaaS companies collect data throughout the funnel, including during the free trial period, they can better understand and identify the user’s pains and motivators.
Here’s a quick rundown of the differences between conventional marketing and the PLG approach.
|Focus of marketing efforts
|Awareness and education
|Sales team’s outreach or any marketing content
|Sales efforts, persuasion
|Inherent product value proposition and demonstration
Important note about product-led marketing:
Considering that product-led growth is gaining traction, it’s important to be clear on the concept of “product” in Product-Led Marketing.
The “product” in the strategy can take different forms, so it’s not only the software we’re talking about here.
Instead, “product” includes any element used to promote, attract, and, ultimately, provide value to the user. It could be a:
- A blog post
- Landing page
- A handy calculator
- A lighter version of the tool
And this “product” acts pretty much like free samples over at Trader Joe’s. It can take any form, but one thing is for sure, it gives the consumers a free taste of the overall value your brand can deliver.
Here’s a solid digital example:
It’s a 100% free tool that uses GPT-3 protocol to create unlimited email subject line combinations (not pre-written templates based on your query)
If you’re in charge of bringing in leads and the revenue through emails, then you’ve probably come across this.
This isn’t the platform’s main offering, though. Being a marketing automation platform, this is a supplementary website asset that attracts users who send emails.
It’s only a piece of Encharge that can guide its users to check out the tool and want to learn more about them. It’s how they grow their user base. It’s PLG.
If you get it, let’s proceed.
Who is the product-led growth strategy for?
According to OpenView, 61% of Cloud 100 companies have adopted PLG.
But this approach isn’t for every SaaS out there. PLG requires product, market, growth stage, and business model fit compatibility.
First, we’ll talk about your product. PLG is best suited for an intuitive product that can sell itself. In short, your SaaS must be easy to use, and your systems should be scalable for a large customer base. If your product requires training or is complex with a high learning curve, it may not fit PLG well.
Also, for PLG to work, the product must target a market with a high willingness and capability to adopt new technology. You must likewise consider the maturity of your business. PLG typically involves allowing users to try your product for free and then upgrading to a paid plan later. So this means that you’ll need to be willing to sacrifice revenue early on and focus on acquiring users.
Most importantly, you need to identify your business model as the key consideration and decision-making criteria for whether PLG is the right fit for you.
Generally, SaaS using PLG offers a freemium or free trial version of their product. But are you sure that a freemium or free trial version will work for you?
Take a look below:
Only offer a freemium version of your product if your product has features that can be offered for free without compromising its core value. Additionally:
- If you’re targeting a broad audience to simply increase brand visibility
- If your product’s user experience is intuitive and encourages ongoing usage.
Only offer a free trial of your product if your product has a clear and compelling value proposition that can be experienced within a faster timeframe. It also means your target audience includes decision-makers who need a personal understanding of your product’s benefits. Moreover, offer a free trial of your product,
- If it can differentiate your offering in a competitive market
- If your onboarding process is designed to quickly showcase your product’s value.
And here’s the true deal, even after you have ticked the checklist that you’re good to adopt the product-led growth strategy, there are a few other factors that you must nail.
- Discoverability: PLG can be particularly effective when your product is discoverable through organic search or referrals. Users who find your product through online searches or recommendations are more likely to engage with it if they can experience its value upfront.
- Product Virality: PLG thrives when your product has the potential for virality – the ability for users to naturally share and spread the word about your offering. This can lead to organic growth as satisfied users introduce others to your product.
- Ability to Monetize: While PLG can be an effective growth strategy, testing your ability to monetize is essential before fully implementing it. PLG relies on the assumption that a significant percentage of users will convert from the free/low-cost plan to a paid plan by themselves. However, if you don’t have a clear and effective pricing strategy, monetizing your PLG efforts might become challenging.
- Product Stickiness: One of the main goals of PLG is to create a sticky product that is hard to walk away from. User engagement and retention must be top priorities in a product-led growth journey. For PLG to be effective, you must create a product without which users can’t live. A sticky product ensures that users are so invested in the product that they find it difficult to move on to an alternative. If you think you have a product that offers this level of stickiness, then PLG provides a perfect framework for this product.
So when is PLG, not a good fit?
While PLG can be highly effective in the right circumstances, there are also cases where it’s not the best fit.
- For example, if a company has a niche or specific audience, relying solely on PLG to attract customers may be difficult.
- Or if the product is complex or difficult to use, it may be challenging to make it the sole driver of growth.
- Another example of when PLG may not be the right fit is when a company is targeting an enterprise-level audience.
Seven (7) product-led approaches you can steal
If you’re looking to use PLG as a GTM strategy, here are 7 strategies that have been used before. Let’s see how other SaaS use this approach to debut to their market and keep the momentum of generating new users going.
1. Engineer viral loops
The most important aspect of PLG is having the means to spread organically through the product alone.
This requires designing your product to encourage infectious cycles, endless referrals, and user sharing.
Here’s how Dropbox integrates virality in its marketing. They swap referrals for extra storage.
PLG tips from the experts:
“Our app’s most strategic product lead tactic came from the “Experts” section. This feature allows users to share the work they are doing and earn from affiliate signups through their landing page as well. Now, it is a consistent engine of people being onboarded to the Expert library, and thus sharing it on their socials to aid in their thought leadership and awareness of their brand.”— Zachary Murray, Founder of Foreplay.co
“If you’re going to employ the PLG method as a GTM technique, my number one piece of advice is to set up Referral and Replication Loops. Create viral loops and referral programs to encourage your current consumers to spread the word about your product. The power of word-of-mouth advertising cannot be overstated.”— Ryan Steinolfson, Accelerate Your Marketing
Virality can also be applied to generating social proof and client attraction. Like this:
“Satisfied users are our best advocates. We encourage users to share their success stories through testimonials, case studies, and referrals. This user-generated content serves as social proof and helps attract new users who resonate with the experiences of their peers.”— Abhishek Shah, Founder of Testlify
A strong virality factor can speed up user acquisition and drive exponential growth.
2. Using freemium and free trials as the entry point
Offering a freemium subscription or a free trial allows users to experience your product’s value without a major commitment. Plus, it’s still the SaaS model that drives the highest signup rates, according to Openview’s Product Benchmark Report.
ClickUp offers a freemium plan dubbed as their “free forever version.”
PLG tips from the experts:
“One of the key strategies we employ to attract new users is by offering a freemium model for our treatment resources. By providing a limited version of our services for free, we allow potential customers to experience the value we offer.”— Aliza Naiman, Marketing Manager of Olgam Life
3. Cultivate an experimental culture starting with the onboarding process
A fun, intuitive, and easy-to-follow onboarding experience is crucial for user retention. You must design onboarding to guide users through your product’s key features, ensuring they understand its value and functionality.
Salesforce does it well. They give a checklist of what new users must do, and each “tour” guides you through contextual tips or other interactive walkthroughs.
PLG tips from the experts:
“Ensure that your product is easy to use, intuitive, and addresses a specific pain point for your target audience. Make sure users can derive value from your product without the need for extensive onboarding or handholding.”— Parvinder, CEO & Founder of The Macios
“You must always keep in mind that your product is your best marketing tool in a product-led growth strategy. A product-led approach can lead to significant user growth by focusing on user onboarding, understanding your audience, and creating an experimental culture.”— Andrew Mavis, 98Strong
4. Personalizing nurturing based on user behavior
Onboarding is crucial, but you have to sustain your users’ attention.
You gotta feed the desire for users to continue using and exploring your app. And what better way to do it than personalizing their journey based on user behavior?
Identify user preferences and guide them toward features that align with their goals.
You can even use data analytics to tailor onboarding just like how Spotify curates playlists based on user listening habits or Netflix suggests content based on viewing history.
Pro tip: For customized emails, use a tool to send messages triggered by a user’s action. A marketing automation platform like Encharge lets you tailor your onboarding based on user actions.
Just look at this onboarding email I received during my trial with them; it’s obviously based on the fact that I haven’t done a critical task inside the app:
“Personalized onboarding emails and targeted product tours also play a vital role in converting free users into paying customers.”— Ali Husnain from reloadux.com
“SocialPilot’s ‘Suggest a Feature’ section inside the app encourages active engagement. This user-driven evolution saw a remarkable 44% rise in user-submitted suggestions, of which 15% were seamlessly integrated. This user-centric enhancement strategy improved premium subscription rates by 22%.”— Suraj Nair, Digital Marketing Executive at SocialPilot
5. Showcase value and credibility from Day 1
People will only invest their time and effort if they are convinced that:
- The company behind a SaaS is credible
- They see how the product can solve their problem
Social and “value” proof on your website builds your credibility upfront.
Reviews, testimonials, and case studies provide evidence of your product’s value and effectiveness. And user reviews can significantly influence potential customers’ decision-making process.
Chargebee’s website is a great example. Aside from the testimonial from its customer, it also included the company logos of merchants already using it and statistics of their community reach.
Registering for its free trial, you’ll see another testimonial to back Chargebee as the right solution:
PLG tips from the experts:
“We also showcased a series of webinars, with real-time demos showing how our product solved specific customer problems. These webinars were recorded and later repurposed as on-demand content for our website and YouTube channel, serving as enduring proof of our product’s value.”— Marshal Davis, President of Ascendly Marketing
“Display user reviews and testimonials on your website or within the product. Positive feedback from satisfied customers can build trust and attract new users.”— Parvinder, CEO & Founder of The Macios
6. Implementing non-intrusive in-app promotions
Introduce users to premium features while they are actively engaged with your product. Non-intrusive pop-ups or tooltips can highlight how premium features can enhance their experience, encouraging users to explore and potentially upgrade.
Here’s an example from Wix. They included a banner on the user dashboard informing of their promo so users can start accepting payments.
PLG tips from the experts:
“Once users signed up for the free version, we implemented in-app prompts and walkthroughs to guide them through the product’s capabilities and highlight the advantages of upgrading to the premium version.”— Peter Michaels, CEO of Yeespy
“A targeted in-app banner promotes subscriptions, yielding an impressive 21% conversion rate.”— Suraj Nair, Digital Marketing Executive at SocialPilot
7. Enable self-learning with ungated product-focused content
If you’re going to make your product your salesperson, you have to lower down the learning curve.
You can do this by having on-demand educational content. Make sure they showcase your product’s capabilities, are easy to access, and are useful so users make the most of it. Work on tutorials, case studies, and real-time demos and let users dive deeper into your product.
A very good example here is Ahrefs which has tons of articles to support their users while also highlighting their expertise: SEO.
PLG tips from the experts:
“We write blogs targeted at mid-funnel keywords like “how to create a sales proposal” and then embed a template within that blog (e.g., our sales proposal template). This allows us to rank for a wide range of keywords and then turn that traffic into actual product sign-ups by giving a super tangible call-to-action (getting a free template) within the article.”— Eric Doty, Content Lead at Dock
“We start with collecting extensive feedback to gain a deep understanding of our user’s problems, we build our product to address those problems, and we create content that supports their journey from start to finish. In this approach, product satisfaction is the #1 metric we look at, and the main focus of our marketing efforts is to improve the product/service.”— Tom Golubovich, Head of Marketing at Ninja Transfers
8. Optimizing organic channels
Being discoverable is a must for PLG companies.
One tactic is to create SEO content tailored to your customers’ needs. By addressing their needs and providing valuable solutions, you not only make your SaaS visible online but also position your product as the right solution right away.
Take this blog article for Zendesk. For the keyword “sales CRM,” their post rank right after the paid ad. So organic searchers of a sales CRM will find their product.
PLG tips from the experts:
“By understanding your target audience and their specific problems and desires, you can tailor your content and campaigns to address those needs directly. This approach allows you to capture users’ attention more efficiently and attract a greater number of potential customers to your product.”— Akil Patel
“It is important to ensure that your content is optimized for search engines so that it can be easily found by potential customers.”— Billy Parker, Gift Delivery UK
“SEO is a must. Learning how your customers find your page or hear about you is essential for consistent pipeline and channel growth.”— James Lott, Founder, and CEO of Scripted
Product-led success: the extra mile you need to tread
Successfully implementing product-led marketing requires careful consideration and alignment within your business.
Let’s go beyond the tactics this time. For product-led to be successful, you need to:
1. Consistently study your user and app behavior
To optimize your product-led marketing, you need to intimately understand how users interact with your product.
Using data analytics and user feedback, analyze user behavior. Find out where people are having trouble and where they’re having fun. This understanding allows you to refine your product, enhance user experience, and strategically introduce new features to align with user needs.
Our experts agree:
“Prioritize a data-driven approach. Collect and analyze user data to understand their behavior and pain points throughout the user journey. This data-driven approach helps identify areas for improvement, optimize the product experience, and tailor personalized outreach efforts.”— Adam Karl of herobot.app
“Make better product decisions, locate product bottlenecks, and grasp end-user requirements with the help of data analytics and user behavior insights.”— Te Wu, PMO Advisory
2. Have clear key performance indicators (KPIs) and tracking
Define specific KPIs that align with your PLG goals. Invest in a robust tracking system to monitor these metrics and gather insights into your strategy’s effectiveness. Regularly analyze the data to make informed decisions and iterate on your PLG approach.
“Define key metrics to track the effectiveness of your product-led strategy. Measure user engagement, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction. Use this data to make informed decisions and optimize your approach over time.”— Parvinder, The Macios
3. Require cross-departmental alignment & collaboration
Effective PLG isn’t a one-man show. It requires collaboration across departments — product development, marketing, sales, and customer support.
Align these teams around the PLG strategy, making sure everyone understands the goals and their role in achieving them. Collaborative efforts lead to a more consistent user experience and a more holistic approach to nurturing and converting users.
4. Don’t forget optimization & ownership
Implement a continuous optimization process to refine your PLG strategy over time. Assign ownership and accountability for different aspects of the strategy. Regularly review performance, gather user feedback, and conduct A/B testing to identify areas for improvement and refine your approach.
“Ensure continuous product improvement. Actively involve your users in the development process by soliciting feedback and implementing their suggestions whenever possible. This not only enhances the user experience but also fosters a sense of ownership and loyalty among your user base.”— Michael Giannulis, founder of CopyMachines
“Continuously gather user feedback and analyze data to iterate and improve the product experience based on user needs and preferences.* This approach ensures long-term customer loyalty and sustainable growth.”— David Cohen, CEO of Badais International
Is product led-marketing going to be your new GTM strategy?
If product-qualified leads convert better, should everyone embrace shifting the spotlight to your product’s value?
It may be true that more big SaaS companies are now into PLG strategy, but as stated earlier—it’s not for everyone.
Gauge your SaaS responsibly to see if you’re qualified for it.
Or, like Trader Joe’s, check if you can give away free treats to generate demand. (It’s not a coincidence that Trader Joe’s is one of America’s top credible companies with a cult following!)
And if your SaaS is compatible with PLG growth, build out your product-led marketing communications with us!
Tailor user experiences and leverage behavior-based emails to thrive in a customer-centric landscape. Complement your product-led strategy with Encharge — a powerful marketing automation platform that seamlessly aligns with your product-led efforts.
With Encharge, you can engage users at every stage of their journey, from onboarding to feature adoption, and beyond. Take advantage of the synergy between PLG and Encharge’s capabilities to create personalized user experiences.