In the traditional way of marketing, all roads led to sales. We built funnels and processes to support the sales team because that’s how we grew the business — by closing more deals. Companies are quickly adopting PLG motion to succeed and grow like never before. It is time for us marketers to adapt to the changing landscape to thrive.
The role of a marketer is up for a paradigm shift in the product-led universe. The change comes with an amazing opportunity to take a step back and reorient the process around the customer.
We are in the end-user era. The customer is not relying entirely on marketing to educate them about the product to make a purchase decision. The content marketing activities we did in the past to educate the user are still relevant. But, for a self-serve product’s user, we approach it a little differently.
The marketing funnel is flipped on its head to put the previously heavily guarded product at the very beginning of the customer journey. Back when we obsessed over demand generation, the goal was to push leads down the funnel to the sales. The product-led marketing funnel is focused on helping the customer get things done.
A product-led marketer would deliver content differently. A simple example would be increased emphasis on developing frictionless onboarding with the help of in-product messaging, push notifications, and emails rather than sending an ebook to the user after filling out a form. We rely on product data and usage patterns to gain more visibility into a user’s journey.
We need to change our mindset to embrace this new way. Here are some techniques I’ve learned to help the shift, through my own experience and by talking to marketing teams at product-led companies.
Rethink your way of measuring success. In the traditional model, generating leads and developing a pipeline for the sales team meant success. Marketers are generally not used to owning much post the initial sale in a demo request world. But, once you adopt a PLG funnel you need to measure things and gauge your team’s performance differently. You need to start thinking beyond the initial goal of getting sign-ups.
The metrics you measure have to be at various stages in the customer lifecycle. If not already, start thinking of product qualified leads (PQLs), user activation and retention, conversions to paid accounts, product and seat expansions.
The product data gives you all the signals to understand what the customer is trying to achieve with your product. During every stage of the funnel or flywheel, you need to understand product analytics to figure out if the customer is at the cusp of churn ( decreased or no activity), finding it difficult to apply a feature to their use case, using only the basic features, and so on.
With the right product data, you can zero in on the product actions that a user takes before converting to the paid user and before churning. Replicate the path taken by a successful user to nudge your product beginners. Use messaging to swoop in and help a customer if they are at the churning point.
Layer in experimenting and test how your product is working from a customer’s perspective. You might have heard about ‘secret shopper’ programs in retail. Bring in a friend or colleague, if you can, to go through the complete process and assess your communication in-product and from sales.
After you’ve redesigned the role of marketing and defined a funnel, fine-tune your messaging and the entire product funnel by testing, experimenting, and implementing a secret shopper kind of program. Keep repeating this every few months to check if everything is working as intended.
If you can segment your product users make sure you find feasible ways that are meaningful to your business growth. Leverage the power of product analytics to understand the goals of each segment and measure the results of your experiments in the target pool. Beware of slicing and dicing the target audience in too many ways. This could be counterproductive to your mission.
For most of my career in marketing, the team’s alignment with sales was an area of constant focus. We needed it to establish a relationship with the customer and improve it.
In product-led, there is another party in the mix — the product team. In the old way, marketing had a loop-sided relationship with product. Marketing received product updates, launch schedules, and so on in a demand generation model.
But, in PLG, marketing has to be closely connected with the product to get to know the customer. Marketing needs to know the usage patterns and the critical actions taken by users throughout their product journey, and how the product meets their expectations. Seamless communication with the product team is necessary for marketing to keep up with the user’s journey and step in to keep the user in their path to product championship and advocacy.
This cross-functional collaboration is also beneficial for the product. Marketing can help improve the product in 3 major ways
You might be working closely with the product team for the first time in your career as a marketer, but it’s the best way to embrace product-led motion in your work. Understand your product, improve your technical knowledge, get on developer roadmaps, and build a relationship with the product team like you would with sales.
What excites me most about the intersection of PLG and marketing is that now marketing owns more in the lifecycle of a customer than ever before. Owning the onboarding process, product messaging, and churn mitigation is new to many of us in the demand generation model for too long.
The best way to get over the initial insecurities in my experience is by digging deep into the product analytics by collaborating closely with the product team. Your product data tells you all you need to succeed in product-led marketing and you have to learn to embrace it.
You have to be more customer-centric, have to think more long-term, and be more tied into customer’s growth and overall business growth at our organizations. The product-led growth movement is an awesome opportunity for us all to up-level marketing.