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10 min read

Bringing a product-led growth mindset to your product marketing organization

Membership content | Product-Led

This article is based on Srikant Kotapalli’s talk at the Product Marketing Summit in Singapore. As a PMA member, you can enjoy the complete recording here. For more exclusive content, head over to your membership dashboard.

Quick question: how familiar are you with product-led growth (PLG)? 

In case your answer is “Not at all,” let me quickly break it down for you. 

According to the classic definition, product-led growth is a methodology in which user acquisition, conversion, and retention are primarily driven by the product itself. 

In short, the product is the hero. 

Thanks to my background in product management, PLG is a topic that’s very close to my heart. So, over my last five years of leading product marketing at Insider, I’ve seized every opportunity to apply PLG best practices to our PMM team’s work.

Of course, there are plenty of other methodologies out there – sales-led and marketing-led for example – but these don’t have to be mutually exclusive; you can always augment your approach with multiple models, including PLG.

So, let’s explore how you can turbocharge all your product marketing activities with PLG strategies – even if you’re not in a product-led organization.

Who’s nailing the product-led approach?

To understand PLG, it's important to see which players are really nailing it. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Airtable 
  • Slack
  • Zoom
  • Notion
  • Calendly 
  • Dropbox

I'm willing to bet you've at least heard of these tools. You may even have a few of them open on your desktop right now. 

The keys to product-led success

To get to grips with what makes PLG work, we first need to see what sort of workflows users go through in a product-led model. From there, we can start to figure out why this strategy works for a certain set of products; we can also start to challenge the assumption that PLG doesn't work for a different set of products.

As an example, let’s look at Calendly. In the most basic workflow, you might integrate this scheduling tool with Gmail, and then send a link via email, which allows the recipient to book a meeting. 

Let's look at another example, this time from Slack. One of the most common workflows involves creating a channel or a workspace, and then inviting your teammates, so you can start collaborating. 

Finally, let’s see how Notion does it. Again, it’s super straightforward – you create a doc or a space, you share it with your team, and then you start collaborating.

In each of these workflows, there are two commonalities: 

  • Experience: It's critical that the experience is owned by the end-user – not the decision-maker or the buyer. They shouldn’t have to wait for whoever’s holding the purse strings to say, “Yes, go ahead and use the software.”
  • Value: Users have to find value in your product quickly – if not instantaneously.

The combination of these two elements is what allows the companies we’ve looked at to leverage product-led growth super successfully.

Which types of companies is PLG unsuitable for?

So, we know what types of products can succeed with this model, but what about the other side of the coin? Which companies is this not a great strategy for?

There are three main factors that can make product-led growth tricky to pull off:

  1. Complex products with no self-serve experience 
  2. Significant integration or purchasing barriers
  3. Long time to value 

As I mentioned, I work for Insider, a B2B SaaS startup selling to enterprise and mid-market companies. For us, there's a steep learning curve and some pretty significant integration is required before customers start to derive value from our product. 

At first blush, it seems like PLG just isn’t for us. So, rather than pursuing a product-led approach, what should our PMMs do to drive growth? The obvious answer is to equip our sales team with a ton of decks and other collateral that’ll help them crack deals. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, and in fact, that’s exactly what we do as part of our sales-led motion. 

But, like I said earlier, sales-led growth and product-led growth don’t have to be mutually exclusive – perhaps we could harness some elements of PLG too. We asked ourselves: could we adapt our product to facilitate product-led growth? 

The answer is yes, and I’m going to share how.

How to bring a PLG mindset to product marketing

So, how can you cultivate a PLG mindset even if you can’t drive a purely product-led strategy? I've identified five key tactics:

  1. Surface mini-use cases: If you have complex, multi-product offerings, you might want to showcase specific applications to quickly demonstrate value.
  2. Leverage marketplaces: Consider how to use platforms like Salesforce, Slack, or monday.com to drive a product-led motion.
  3. "Dogfood" your product: Try using your product for the kinds of workflows your customer would be most interested in. 
  4. Create DIY product demos: There’s been a recent explosion in new software that enables you to quickly create product walkthroughs.
  5. Build free experiential tools: Go beyond ROI calculators to give customers a taste of your product.

Now, as a product marketer, you can't execute this alone. Initiatives like surfacing mini-use cases and leveraging marketplaces require close collaboration with product managers and engineers. However, the last three strategies can be largely owned by product marketing, and they represent relatively low-lift ways to harness the power of PLG.

The key is crafting self-serve resources that make it easy for prospects to interact with your product and grasp its value – no sales rep required. 

Now, let’s dive into how you can use these tactics for success.

Written by:

Srikant Kotapalli

Srikant Kotapalli

Srikant is the VP of Product Marketing at Insider.

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Bringing a product-led growth mindset to your product marketing organization