Blake Bartlett’s episode on the SaaStr podcast is easily one of their classics. Here’s what I learned when I revisited the episode.
Being product-led means something different to different companies. Blake Bartlett’s philosophy of PLG is one of my favorites.
It starts with the why behind a startup. Founders who had to solve a problem and eventually built a company around the idea are inherently product-led. Their goal wasn’t to start a company but to solve a problem. They couldn’t find a solution when they looked around and had to build the product to solve this problem.
Thinking about the products and customers becomes the default resting state of the business. Being product-led or product oriented becomes the DNA of the company because of why the founders started building the product.
“If you're a perfectionist then you're solely focused on trying to solve the problem perfectly, then you're just never going to ship the product.” Being a perfectionist is not synonymous with being product-led.
You can be product-led and think about the problems you are solving for the customers yet, you can still move fast. Blake values building the best product that people are going to fall in love with and also moving quickly. They both go hand in hand.
Enabling very fast iteration which will ultimately enable continuous rapid improvement on your product and accomplish that mission of being product-led in the first place.
Both are frequently described as either you have it or not. But, Blake thinks there are varying degrees of product fit and customer value.
It all comes back to what problem are you trying to solve. For example, every single product that has a tonne of votes on Product Hunt is not going to be a billion-dollar company. The product might still be loved and used by many. It solves maybe a small problem or a minor workflow inconvenience that people have and they'll love the product and sing praises about it. So, you can achieve a product-market fit for something lightweight and tactical.
But there also is at the other end of the spectrum — the strategic value, which is in contrast to the tactical value. Achieving product-market fit for true strategic lasting value is a much harder thing to do than lightweight tactical value. When we are talking about product-market fit, it's important to not make it so binary. But to understand it as a continuum.
It is similar in the case of customer value. Willingness to pay has a direct correlation to and reflection of how much value the customer gets out of it.
Blake sees the pricing continuum as a good way to also determine whether their product is a lightweight potential feature for a larger product or a company in itself.
Blake explains that time to value is not a one size fits all concept. You have to start thinking about who your customer is, what is the segment of the market, what is your average deal size, etc.
For example, if you are selling an enterprise product with a seven-figure deal size, having a lightweight downloadable freemium app is not really the right approach. And, if every user in your funnel goes through a free trial to begin their customer journey, the time to value is imperative.
Time to value is important for all products but it is also important to understand that it can be very different for different PLG companies.
People have very dogmatic views of Sales. There are supporters of the hardcore field sales carrying out enterprise deals, and ones who believe inside sales and inbound marketing have overtaken the traditional ways. And, there is also a camp of folks who believe they are never going to have a sales team because the product is so amazing and will sell itself.
Blake believes it is not so cut and dry in reality.
Product-led doesn’t mean traditional sales is bad. In a product-led organization, sales is ultimately an extension of support and success.
Customer support is reactive in helping users that are already your customers, and Success is proactive in helping customers, then sales is just being proactive for folks that aren't yet your customers, basically your prospects.
Customer success in B2B SaaS is not a new concept but it looked different in different companies.
Once the product is set up and running, account management makes sure everything is going smooth and they check in again before the renewal. And, if there was a problem, the customer would file a ticket with customer support. All these things put together, that’s customer success.
Customer success proactively managing the account, monitoring usage metrics, following up to see if we're still solving the problem, and trying also from a support perspective, proactively reaching out and holding the hand of the customer. The change brought in by product-led growth is the proactiveness and customer centricity to the forefront.
Blake says data and visibility are the keys to successfully embodying product-led growth.
You have to understand what people are doing in your product, the user behavior in your product, their dos, and don'ts in the product, feature adoption, and other usage metrics, the first steps when they enter the product, their funnel progression, and so on. The only way to answer these questions is by talking to the customers. This is something you cannot scale. So you need data.
For pulling off product-led growth, you NEED data. The more data you have, the more visibility you get. See what people are doing with the product and then communicate with them in those moments where there's a conversion potential and when there's the risk of churn.
This direct quote from the podcast neatly sums up successful product-led growth. “When you nail the right product, and it's priced the right way, you grow with your customers and your customers never outgrow you.” This is a magical dynamic we all can aspire to achieve.
Listen to the full episode here.