Product-Led and Marketing

Usha Vadapalli
January 4, 2022

Marketing has always been synonymous with growth. So, you are thinking about growth and you are not convinced (yet) that product-led is the way to go. At the very least, you want to see what all the fuss is about. Great! So, how do you integrate the product motion into marketing?

Dave Rigotti and Jenn Steele (VP of Marketing, Reprise) had a hearty conversation with Jorge L Soto (Director of Partnerships and Community, Reprise) about product-led marketing and how to introduce product-led growth into B2B SaaS marketing without friction.

Doubling Down on Product-Led

A lot of technology marketing has been about generating leads and serving sales. The product-led movement enters the scene. You must have heard about it by now. No, it’s not just a new buzzword. Many unicorn companies that are product-led make an excellent case for it. We are at the inflection (wink, wink!) point where companies are actively using their product as part of their go-to-market strategy and succeeding.

Marketing is one of many moving parts in the product-led motion. Until a couple of years ago, even experienced marketers used product-led growth (PLG) synonymous with freemium. But, PLG is much bigger and everyone realized that.

In the last couple of years, marketing is reorienting from being sales-focused to customer-centric. Marketing influencers compare the product-led movement with the Social Media and the Account-Based Marketing (ABM) movements.

Is MQL Dead?

When you have multiple funnels, as many companies do, in a self-serve funnel, you will encourage people to sign up and use the product and you are not generating leads in the traditional sense.

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) might be irrelevant in a self-serve funnel and Product Qualified Leads (PQL) is the metric you want to focus on.

Your product listens to signals and user behavior. If you can qualify a lead with your product, in theory, there are no ugly surprises during the sales cycle. It’s the same granularity you care about for an MQL to understand where the lead came from — a piece of content, a particular channel, etc. PQLs ultimately enable sales and marketing teams to listen to what's going on.

The Pushback

Our product is too complicated to go full product-led. This is a popular pushback from teams and companies that think of the old-school way of freemium or free trials. Think about it like this. About three years ago probably nobody batted an eyelid if someone asked for a demo and was replied with “we’ll get to that in the sales process”. That was just how it worked.

You might be selling a complex product, if you're still selling a product in the same way, you're going to be left behind. If you're not giving tours, curated demos, access to prospects to play with the product themselves — so that they actually know what they're buying your competitors who are doing exactly that will take over.

Not only showing the product to customers, but your product can also help understand user intent better and even drive a roadmap based on user behavior.

To Be or Not To Be PLG

From a product perspective, if you don't want to or can't have a self-service motion or if you really want to only go after enterprise sales, keep doing it. If demand generation or nurturing with gated content works well for your scenario, stick with traditional SaaS GTM models. (Awkward silence) Ok, maybe you didn’t expect this after making it so far. In all fairness, product-led is not for every company.

But, if you want to have enterprise sales and decide to move down the market or open up offerings for SMB in addition to enterprise, use the product to listen to customer intent. Build your marketing around product usage data. Enrich your gated or free content with product data that is meaningful to your users.

In this scenario, having a product-led GTM and self-service funnel is how you want to do your company's marketing.

The Qualifiers

You have a product and you want to build your marketing efforts around the product usage. How do you figure out the triggers that are meaningful? There isn’t one definite answer!

We have well-defined benchmarks and frameworks for MQLs but, most of us are still figuring out PQLs. We rarely come across people who feel they’ve nailed it. There are different flavors of PQLs - it’s a little different for every company. But, the takeaway here is that PQLs are hundreds of times better at identifying intent than any MQL.

In theory, your sales team should be jumping a lot faster on a PQL than an MQL. Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) parameters plus your PQL signal is the new SQL (Sales Qualified Lead).

To put it simply, if you have a product, add it to your marketing efforts. Use the product usage data wisely to introduce the product much earlier into the sales process. You can introduce the product at all stages in your funnel.

Dave and Jenn have some advice for you if you are a CMO or in the marketing team at a B2B SaaS company. The conversation about shifting to a product-led motion has to start in-house.

If you're looking to move or adapt a PLG you've got to get your CEO on board. It needs to be an all-hands-on-deck kind of company initiative. There will be a lot of change and needs product, sales, marketing, and customer success teams to support.

If you don't know where to start then talk to your product marketer. They probably have ideas around the product that you've never thought of because they've already been working with the demo and product teams.  Fortunately, lots of companies have already made the shift. Many people have blazed the path. You can start by talking with those CMOs and marketers to learn from their experiences.  

Listen to the complete discussion and join the conversation on ProductLed.Marketing.