Building the First Software for Executive Assistants
Base CEO Paige McPheely explains how High Alpha helped Base build a product-led company.
In the past a great product became successful because a salesperson would come calling and show buyers all about the value of their product. This method of sales was traditional, and it had its successes. However, people’s expectations, wants, and needs change over time. Now people are less inclined to schedule a time with a salesperson. Instead, they often try new products that they think might be useful for free. And if the products are useful, the customer starts talking about—or evangelizing about–the new software or hardware that made their life easier. This is product led growth.
PLG is about making a product that proves to be useful when a customer tries it for free or at a discounted price, then the product becomes the primary driver of users acquiring the new product—no hard sales pitch is involved.
According to the product led growth pdf, the product is the most important means of attracting and retaining customers. Less time, energy, and money is spent on more traditional marketing and sales calls. Rather, companies spend more time creating good products that fill a need in an industry. Then, if that need is filled sufficiently, word of mouth spreads and the company becomes successful.
As people become happier and happier with the product they are using, not only do others in their own company use the product, but word spreads outside, and soon, people want to try services or products that require them to pay. One thing all successful PLG companies have in common is a great and reliable initial product that fills a need by being easier to use, or offers something that the user will turn to. Often these solutions are found to even be enjoyable for the user; convenience in a product or program can be invaluable in the success of a PLG.
Product Growth SaaS
Part of the success of a PLG is the success of SaaS. Anyone anywhere can receive your software if they have access to the internet and a web browser. It is up to the software vendors to take care of the servers, databases, and the other technical aspects of a program or an application to ensure it all operates completely reliably. This is part of what makes PLG so attractive to users. No one has to visit them and put on a hard sell (or soft sell). If they are interested, they can visit a website, and if they decide to, they can download a program or application and give it a try. Then, if the product is good enough, people will use it. If it is really good they will tell their coworkers and friends. Word spreads, and PLG is set in motion toward success.
The other part of the process after the free or partly free download is that if customers like the product they download and use, then in a week, or a month, they begin to pay a subscription fee. If they don’t like what they’re using, they lose access to the product unless they change their mind and decide they did like their download. This process also allows them to keep a detailed product led growth market map to show how many downloads there are, and how many keep the product. The map can also help determine what industries or businesses are more or less inclined to try and to keep the product.
The Product Led Growth Playbook
The term Product Led Growth sounds new and that can be intimidating. However, there are several different ways to find help and to get some guidance that will help find success. One is an ebook, Product Led Growth Wes Bush. This ebook, Product-Led Growth: How to Build a Product that Sells Itself, is available on Amazon and provides a great deal of help in determine dos and don’ts of the process, it is basically a Product Led Growth playbook.
There are also several Product Led Growth podcast, or podcasts that have PLG’s as the topic of the day which can not only give great explanation of the process, but also help determine who to find success using PLG’s. Kieran Flanagan of HubSpot offers an example of how to introduce a product via PLG, and how to create a product and a process that will help create and drive faster adaptation of your product. Another PLG podcast is an episode of SaaS Revolution Show which has an episode with Ashley Murphey who goes into detail about how a company might use PLG to grow a product and a company.
Exactly What is Product Led Growth?
Software and Applications used to be sold the same way most other things were sold. Someone at a company made a contact with a prospect client, and a salesperson went to visit and tried to convince the prospect that their software would either be better than what they had, or it could support what they had.
Enter PLG. According to a Forrester report from 2015, almost 75% of B2B buyers would rather buy through an application or website rather than from a salesperson. That does not mean people are removed from the equation of making a sell and retaining customers. People who download software still want personal support to help solve problems, or to simply inform them if a product can solve the thing they want.
It is important to offer prospect clients a smooth download and user experience, and a product they will want to try. If all goes well, that prospect will spread the word about the new product they tried, and growth will occur-this is product led growth. In short, product usage becomes the main thing that encourages product acquisition, retention, and growth.
Product Led Summit
One great place to learn more about PLG’s, and to network with other, likeminded people is the Product Led Summit. The summit is a yearly event in which dozens of companies that are already in the PLG marketplace come and learn and get great ideas, and where they also get to meet many other people with similar sensibilities and goals about the best way to grow a product and company.
Those who attend the Product Led Growth Summit will be able to learn not only why, but how to turn a traditional approach in sales into a PLG approach. There will also be discussions, led by current practitioners, about what business model will be best for various situations. You can learn if businesses are better off offering free trials, freemium, or a hybrid model. Not all options work for all businesses. Come and find out which option might best for you product or business.
Another popular topic will be how to turn people who are taking advantage of your free trial into loyal and satisfied paying customers. Similarly, you can learn what makes a product more successful at acquiring new users, and what bells and whistles are a waste of your time, effort, and money.
The PLG Summit can take a lot of the stress of using PLG away. You’ll get to speak to other people who have made the transition and you can learn from their mistakes, and also from their successes.
How Can You Make a PLG the Primary Part of your Go-to Market Strategy?
Markets evolve. One company tries something and it works, so customers want to see more of that “thing” that someone else tried and it worked. Today, more than ever, customers want to try the program or application before they buy it. They don’t want to see a demo of a product, they want to see how a product works with their own specific numbers and needs taken into consideration. However, a successful PLG is more than letting someone try the product before they buy it. It is also more than a successful sell. What really determines success is if the customer like the product enough to recommend it to another customer.
The marketing department needs to study what is working and what isn’t. Part of their goal is to decrease the amount of time it takes for someone find value in the product, purchase it, and spread the word. Part of this process is to determine if freemium, free trial, or a hybrid of the two is the best way to make the product a success to more people. The marketing department has to be nimble and constantly willing to make changes to ensure their product led gtm strategy is successful.
Successful Product Led Growth Companies
Recently, Open View Partners published a list of dozens of companies that have used PLG to find success in today’s markets. They divided companies into four different categories.
- The first category was Developer and Product Tools. Some of the companies that have found success using PLG in this part of the market include AWS, twilio, DigitalOcean, MalWarebytes, and many more.
- Another category was Back Office and Operations. Some of the companies that have used PLG’s in this category include ZipRecruiter, intuitQuickBooks, shopify, Dropbox, indeed, and others.
- Another category was Customer Engagement. Businesses listed in this category include SurveyMonkey, WordPres, Wix.com, Sqarespace, and others.
- For Productivity & Collaboration some of the companies incuded slack, zoom, Google Suite, LogMeIn, Skype, and others.
- And for the category for Companies that Enable Product Led Growth, some companies included ProfitWell, invision, userlane, Gainsight and others.
An example in the Productivity and Collaboration section of PLG companies map is Slack. How did Slack become a leader of, and example for product led growth companies? Slack is an application that allows a team to communicate and work together. If a team has a project, then two people may start using Slack to communicate about the work getting done. Then the rest of the team sees an additional amount of productivity and ease of communication, so soon the entire team is using slack. Then someone from the team tells someone who works somewhere else, or they go to work somewhere else and they take that knowledge about how to successfully work together with them.
In order to find success as a PLG, it is important to evaluate your company and see what changes you can make to see growth as a PLG. At High Alpha, we believe in product-led companies. Learn more about our venture studio today.