From A Place Of Empathy - Product-Led Marketing Done Right

Usha Vadapalli
February 21, 2022

Any standard benchmark report about B2B SaaS conversion rates tells you that the average closed won to lead rate is 1% or less. It varies with the business niche and the acquisition channel, of course. But in general, marketing and sales in B2B SaaS celebrate a job well done if the conversion rates are in the single digits.

Demand generation or lead generation methods are a numbers game. You need to keep the visitors coming, keep the pipeline alive, and keep qualifying the leads to send them down the funnel. The more prospects you acquire, the better your chances of winning a customer’s business.

Though there are subtle differences, at the end of the day, the goal of lead and demand generation activities is to create and maintain a predictable sales pipeline. We filled the pipeline with prospects by telling them about the use cases of your product, the business value, the testimonials, standing out as a thought leader, and many more ways.

Talking of Pipeline

The marketing activities generate leads and nurture them and pass them along to the next level. The marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are then gauged if they fit into an ideal customer profile (ICP) forged from demographic and firmographic data. The leads that fit into this profile are moved along the pipeline to the Account Executives after interacting with the SDR or BDR. Many of the unqualified leads are sent for further nurturing by telling more about the use cases, the thought leadership, ... you get the drift.

In this entire journey, the methods, the activity, and the goals - are all logical yet aggressive ways to win a buyer’s attention and trust. Marketing in the sales-led motion revolves around finding the target audience, grabbing their attention, telling about the product, and trying to gain their trust by telling more (read: testimonials) and moving them down to the next campaign until the prospect is won or discarded.

The prospect doesn’t have much choice to decide for themselves if your product is the right solution for their problem unless they make it through multiple rounds of lead qualification.

B2B marketing has come a long way since Dave McClure’s pirate metrics framework was first introduced in 2007. Though it worked for a long time to quantify important metrics for businesses, in the end-user era, the funnel gets flipped on its head.

Source: Startup Metrics for Pirates

With the user at the center of your marketing, you need to walk in their shoes to get an understanding of how your product helps them. In other words, developing empathy for customer pain points is how you market in the PLG era.

Why Change? Why Now?

Downloading a white paper, attending a webinar, or even talking with an SDR are all good signs. Signs that the customer consumes your content, and perhaps regards you as a thought leader. What are they not signs of? They are not signs that your product is the right solution for the customer.

And, the user has gotten weary of the long sales cycle that passes them to the next team without necessarily showing them the product.

The customers who are actively looking for a solution do not want to wait till they get to the demo stage. The product-led movement gained momentum from that customer sentiment. The product makes an entrance at the very beginning of the buying journey in the bottom-up approach.

A prospect’s journey in product-led starts with the product evaluation - a priority for the customer.

This Is The Way

We all have slightly different stages in the customer’s journey. In a product-led flywheel, the user goes from beginner to product champion while they activate, adopt, adore, and advocate for it. The best-in-class marketing in all these stages is guided by compassion for the user's needs.

Source: ProductLed.com

Activate

In product-led growth motion, we strive to keep the entry bar low with a free trial, freemium, or open-source model. The user has the controls and takes the product for a spin and sees what the product does for themselves. They want to see if the product can deliver the promised value.

Your goal as a marketer should be to provide the best frictionless onboarding experience and in-app guidance for a newbie to get to a critical Aha! moment. Guide the user in the evaluation stage to achieve a small win.

Adopt

You know the user is activated and transitioning from beginner to a regular user when you start seeing more login instances and interest to explore and discover more features. Your role is to guide the beginner to realize a tangible value from using your product.

Reduce the time to value and have on-demand help resources available to help the beginner understand the power of your product. At this stage, they’d want to use your product as part of their work and would start using real data. The goal of marketing here is to provide quick guidance with the basic functionality of your product.

Adore

Picture a user who started seeing tangible value in your product. Your product is part of their everyday workflow with real data now. They are more habituated to using your product a.k.a a regular. Their questions about product usage get tougher when they make this transition. Rope in your customer success team with in-depth product knowledge if they experience a blockage.

Send them your educational content with comprehensive guides and use cases. Invite them to workshops and webinars with a select few other customers. Instead of long speaker sessions, have interactive and engaging hands-on events. Give them the necessary knowledge and support to stretch the limits of your product.

Connect with your customer at this stage. Ask purposeful questions, gather feedback, and use it to power your customer insights. At the adoration stage, the user is invested in the product enough to want to try and use your product for more use cases. They would love to get a peek at your product roadmap and beta features at this stage.  

Advocate

Your product champions would love to share their success with your product. They are writing reviews, answering questions in your community forum,  and telling their friends and colleagues about it. If they are not doing it already, nudge them to be proactive.

Show that you value their feedback. Give them exclusive access to new features, show the product roadmap has their inputs, incentivize referrals.  

Form relationships with your champions. Celebrate their successes. Offer advanced usage guidance and power features to help them go further. Get their pictures with your swag!

Room for Improvement

Through all the stages of your customer’s journey from an evaluator to a champion, you need to be mindful of these repetitive problems which can affect user experience if not addressed proactively.

  1. Friction

You need to keep constantly checking for points of friction that are causing customer churn. This can be anywhere from signing up to credit card payment to third-party integrations.

To identify friction, test the product from a user’s perspective, talk to your customers, and get in-product feedback. Share your findings with the product team to come up with solutions.

  1. Qualifying

At every stage in the fly-wheel, you get to define what each customer stage means to your business. Listen to your product. Pay attention to in-product activities that trigger the user’s progress or churn. As always, rinse and repeat.

  1. Right Product Support

Sending resources on basic features to an advanced user and roping in customer success for a lightweight user can both be counterproductive.

Assess the guidance given to customers at each stage of their product usage and adoption. Identify the shortcomings and correct course if and when needed.

  1. Team Work

This is crucial for any product-led company to succeed. The alignment of product, marketing, sales, customer success, human resources - you name it. All the teams have to be centered around the product and seamlessly exchange product insights and customer intelligence for product betterment and ultimately grow the business.  

A Mile In Their Shoes

In a world apprehensive about in-person meetings, being able to conduct business online is a blessing. But, it comes with new challenges. Building customer trust has never been harder. Doing it from behind a screen is extra TOUGH.

PLG is changing the way B2B marketing operates. Embracing empathy in marketing campaigns is one of the most impactful changes. Telling changes to showing; acquiring changes to activating; dictating changes to guiding. We are giving up aggressively gating the product in favor of guiding the user to get things done.