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Using Product-Led Growth (PLG) To Unlock More ENT Pipeline via ABM

Dave Rigotti
September 21, 2023

Tim Geisenheimer, CEO and Co-founder at Correlated, and myself - Dave Rigotti, co-founder of Inflection.io discussed why product-led companies need an ABM motion and how it differs from other companies. Here's the recording.

Prior to digging my heels in product-led growth (PLG), I had the pleasure of running ABM at Marketo, speaking on ABM at Adobe Summit, Marketo's Marketing Nation Summit, Demandbase's ABM Summit, and many others, and also running marketing at Bizible, where most of our demand efforts were account-based.

In this post, I’m going to share how you can drive more enterprise pipeline via ABM at a product-led company.

Why does PLG need ABM?

I’ve been studying PLG for the last few years, speaking with most of the high-growth PLG companies. What I have found is that “A product that sells itself” is a myth, especially for enterprise prospects!  Even if you really make it as a PLG company, you’ll eventually need strong enterprise sales. Just look at Slack:

When to introduce an ABM motion?

ABM is critical for product-led growth companies. However, it's a relatively new strategy in this context and some PLG companies struggle to adopt ABM, resulting in revenue plateaus between $3 million and $5 million ARR. This is where I see a number of PLG companies start to stall out. They need to get bigger deals. They need to get to executives. A good time to start doing ABM is when the company is at $3M in ARR.

How is ABM different in PLG?

In traditional SaaS, ABM is all about acquisition. This holds true to some extent in PLG too. You need to do acquisition marketing. Drive those SQLs and net new pipeline. That’s how I ran ABM anyway.

But in a PLG org, you need to be thinking about expansion too. This involves identifying Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) and generating expansion opportunities from existing customers. When I ran ABM I didn’t do this at all and it was probably the #1 mistake I made at the time.

It’s also important to expand metrics beyond traditional sales and marketing KPIs.

  • Customer TAM is a great example. Usually, we think about the first deal value. In PLG you need to think about the Expansion TAM as well. A 100-person company paying $5K/mo is very different from a 10K person company paying the same amount.
  • Net Revenue Retention (NRR) is another great metric. There’s such an underappreciation for NRR. If you get to 110% NRR you are unstoppable. The best PLG companies I see are really focused on NRR.

What drives NRR and the expansion pipeline?

Onboarding the product-led way

The biggest driver of the expansion pipeline and NRR is to orient your onboarding around what a company is actually doing in the product. Way too many products do onboarding based on time. Move it to be activity-based. TODAY!

Send them reminders if they missed a step. Send alerts to CSM if a key enterprise is struggling. Be really smart about it… treat it like a content download flow. In fact, marketing should put more effort into product activity-based onboarding than nurturing and it’s easy to move onboarding to be based on product usage with Inflection.

Recap as a reminder of value

One “ABM” campaign I absolutely love is recap emails.

Our customer Stack Moxie sends weekly emails, but most companies send them monthly. Marketing teams can create this email. I’ve seen teams spin this campaign up in a day without the product team being reeled in.

But the key to getting great ROI from this is getting to executives who are not using your product actively. Help them see the value. You can also make the CTA dynamic to drive the next best action - add more users, upgrade to unlock something, etc., because these emails have massive open rates.

First-party intent data

Next, you have to ARM the BDR team with product data. It’s the ultimate first-party “intent” data. It’s what they are actually doing! At Marketo, I spent so much time trying to do this. Now, it’s so easy to map Segment data into Salesforce.

Again Inflection can help with this, so can reverse ETL tools. Map segment data into Salesforce. Take it further by building lists and plays for the BDR team. Help them understand when to pounce on a user and when to sit back.

Reaching the executives

Such a key piece of ABM is getting to executives. Almost required for a top-down sales approach and with traditional ABM you might be exclusive events, wine tasting, etc.

An awesome play is using data to move up the chain. You can do this remotely too and at way more scale than events. This is an example from Hypercontext. They use data from their users to do ABM up to executives. How?

Well, usually outreaches to execs are cold and you’re looking for ‘an in’ to them. With product data, you have THE in. I love pitches like “Your team is using Hypercontext to manage meetings. Can I get 30 minutes to show you the manager's dashboard?” or “I have a new report showing you which of your colleagues is running the best 1:1s. Want to see it?” It works great.

Expanding to other divisions

Another awesome play is intra-expansions. When we think of expansions we usually think of more uses or higher tiers with more features. A largely untapped expansion play, if you are doing PLG at enterprises, is across divisions.

One of my favorite plays is making a custom case study for that company using their data. Their actual product usage data. Really nail how one org was successful and shopping that to the other divisions. Make it really great. Don’t make it public, this is more of a confidential case study.

Note: This graphic is only for representation

Wrapping up

Account-based marketing is key to unlocking enterprise pipeline potential. Adding an ABM motion in a product-led growth company requires a mind shift and strategy change.

While ABM remains vital for customer acquisition, expansion, leveraging PQLs, and capitalizing on opportunities within our existing customer base becomes paramount. Expanding our metrics beyond conventional KPIs to embrace factors like Customer TAM and NRR provides a more comprehensive view of our growth potential. The top PLG companies recognize the significance of these metrics and focus their efforts accordingly.

If you are a PLG company thinking of expansion revenue, Inflection can help. Request a demo.

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