215. How to do PLG if your product is not built for PLG 🤷♂️
Three Product-Led Growth ideas for delivering value up front
Thank you for being part of this newsletter. Each week, I share playbooks, case studies, stories, and links from inside the startup marketing world. You can click the heart button 💙 above or below to share some love. And you can reach out to me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
Links that are worth your time:
Slack CMO Julie Liegl on how to pivot for a post-pandemic era [LinkedIn Live]
Free guide to understanding and optimizing a recurring revenue pricing strategy [Price Intelligently e-book]
The time to withdraw [Justin Murphy]
When you’re in the rhythm of bouncing around between podcasts, Youtube videos, Twitter, and all the rest, the decision to stop in favor of reading and writing is more devilishly difficult than any educated person wants to admit.
Hi there 👋
I had some great conversations last week with people both inside Polly and outside Polly about Product-Led Growth, which led me to reflect on just how accessible a PLG motion is for every business. I remember when I was little and wanted to dunk a basketball — it was cool, and all my friends wanted to do it. I feel we’re in a similar moment with PLG: it’s cool, and all my friends want to do it. Good news is, I believe PLG is a lot more accessible to everyone than dunking was for me. Check out the article below.
Wishing you a great week,
P.S. Here’s a dunk compilation to inspire you:
How to do Product-Led Growth if your product is not built for Product-Led Growth
As you’ve probably noticed, Product-Led Growth is having a moment.
(If you’re unfamiliar with the specifics of Product-Led Growth, here’s an awesome primer.)
And calling it a moment isn’t quite right. I believe that Product-Led Growth is here to stay. We built a $20+ million business at Buffer purely through PLG (no sales even). Tons of other SaaS companies are reaping the benefits of a user-first, value-forward go-to-market motion.
Everyone wants some PLG in their business.
But what about those businesses where PLG is more of a stretch versus a natural fit?
If you’re building software to solve problems with long timeframes, high upfront investment, or multiple stakeholders (example: enterprise solutions or e-commerce or HR and compliance or deeply technical products), then you may find that your product has a longer road to go than others.
Even if you’re pivoting into PLG or looking for ways to deepen your PLG footprint, sometimes the next step isn’t always clear.
Well, I do love a creative challenge. 😘
Here are three ideas for making some forward strides in PLG for those products that aren’t as PLG-friendly as you might wish.
1. PLG with content
Content is typically thought of as an awareness play, an acquisition lever, or an onboarding / activation / education tool.
But what if content was part of the product?
We talked about this idea at Buffer a lot. What if you logged into the product, and alongside your solutions like publishing, analytics, and engagement, you also had an option for a library of social media strategy content.
For Buffer, this would help overcome that initial first hurdle between signing up and posting to social media. What if you don’t have anything to post yet? What if you need to get things approved before you post? What if you’re a new small business that hasn’t even launched, much less set up your social profiles?
It’d be so great to sign up and have something to do or somewhere to go (a community of like-minded people, perhaps?)
(To take “content-as-a-product” even further, you could monetize access to content by including it on different plans and packages.)
Shopify uses content to further fuel the PLG process by giving you plenty to read and consume when you first get set up. If you ask Shopify, this is probably done under the guise of customer education, but it serves a PLG purpose: getting people to experience value with your product right away.
After all, content is such a major, major part of a PLG engine in almost every conceivable way —
Category creation 🌳
Why not let it be part of your PLG product as well?
For companies looking to connect a PLG go-to-market motion with a sales go-to-market motion, one of the key elements is building a pipeline of PQLs (product-qualified leads). These PQLs typically qualify based on criteria from three buckets:
Product activity — Taking certain actions within the product like activation, setup, Aha moment, etc.
Demographic information — Title, Company Size, Industry, etc. Basically, do they match your Ideal Customer Profile?
Buying intent — Visiting the pricing page, starting a paid trial, converting a paid trial, being part of a large org with other paid subscribers
You can use content to help qualify both the product activity (if content is within the product) and buying intent (based on the content the person views). Just take a lot of what you’ve instrumented with your existing content and lead gen engines and push them deeper into the journey, after signup. Voila!
2. PLG with free tools
Basically, free tools.
Here’s one we built at Buffer: Pablo.
Not only do these work for awareness and acquisition. These can be fantastic starting points for building a PLG-first product, too.
For instance: Maybe the core of your product is difficult to get into, but you can surface value early on for new signups by letting them experience a small piece here and there.
What are common customer questions we hear about and could help answer in the initial product experience — either through content or through MVP features?
What related jobs could we build for that we don’t currently cover today?
What parts of our product can we break out into either standalone apps or initial experiences? (We did this for a time at Buffer with an “ideal time to post” calculator.)
(Calculators, especially, seem to be quick wins. You could even think of something like HubSpot’s legendary Website Grader as a type of calculator.)
3. PLG with previews
And, if building something new or standing up a content engine isn’t in the cards, then you could simply show people how the product works with an always-on, interactive demo.
There are tons of unique ways to do this. One that came across my radar this week was a product called Navattic, which lets you share an interactive demo of your product without asking for any type of configuration or lift from your new signup.
(Thanks to the ProductLed community for the tip.)
Over to you
What creative PLG workarounds have you seen?
What PLG experiments are you running?
I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to reply to get right in touch with me. Thanks! Happy PLG’ing :)
About this newsletter …
Each week, I share playbooks, case studies, stories, and links from inside the startup marketing world. If you enjoy what’s in this newsletter, you can share some love by hitting the heart button at the top or bottom.💙
I’m a marketing exec who specializes in startup marketing and brand-building. I currently lead the marketing team at Polly (we’re hiring!). I previously built brands at Buffer and Vox.
Not subscribed yet? No worries.
I send a free email every week or so. You can check out the archive, or sign up below:
Already subscribed? You’re in good company …
I’m lucky to count thousands of subscribers as part of this list, including folks from awesome tech companies like these:
Thank you for being here! 🙇♂️