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Why Personalized Product-led Growth Is The Winning Formula And How To Get It Right

Dave Rigotti
February 9, 2023

We’ve come a long way since installing software on-premise with an onboarding process that lasted months. B2B SaaS products are consumed differently now. As long as the customers are evolving, so are their problems and ways of looking for a solution.

Your go-to-market (GTM) strategy has to keep up with the evolving customer and market landscape to thrive.

Many moving parts have to align and move in sync to mobilize a successful GTM strategy. As factors like product-market fit, target audience, tech maturity, distribution channels, demand, and competition change, so does the plan to introduce and expand your business.

As the GTM approach transitioned, the winning strategy remained pretty much the same. Let’s take a step back and look at GTM evolution to understand this better.

The Inbound-Led GTM

The inbound era can easily be dubbed the content era. Businesses used content to lay out breadcrumbs for a potential customer to buy the product.

Though the formats kept changing, the mindset of the inbound era has been to educate the audience before selling to them. As everyone started sending out email blasts and creating drip campaigns, it became harder to stand out from the crowd.

Attracting the right audience with the right content was the success mantra of a good inbound GTM strategy. In other words, personalization.

The businesses that took personalization seriously, delivered nurture campaigns tailored to specific buyers. Aided by vendors like Hubspot and Marketo, the companies that took this approach were the winners. And those that adopted a personalized approach to nurturing had a competitive, first move advantage. They dominated growth from 2010 - 2015.

The Outbound-Led GTM

The outbound era focused on identifying and targeting a specific audience that fit the ideal customer profile (ICP). The focus shifted to sales enablement from mass marketing.

The mindset of the outbound era was all about finding high-value and high-intent target audiences and actively reaching out to persuade the buying committee.

As the popularity of outbound sales sequence shot up, so did the difficulty in standing out. Sending a generic sales outreach email did not work and naturally, we turned to the successful strategy from the inbound era — personalization at scale and executed it a bit differently.

Reaching out to the prospects consistently with relevant and tailored messages at multiple touch points which took precedence over batch emails.

The outbound era needed tools to execute a GTM strategy that carried out 1:1 conversations with prospects via sales sequences. Outreach became a market leader by enabling exactly that at scale.

And just like the inbound era, those that adopted a personalized approach to outbound sequences had a competitive, first move advantage. They dominated growth from 2015 - 2020.

The Product-Led GTM

Eventually, the end-users secured a seat on the buying committee and paved a path to the 3rd generation of B2B SaaS— the product-led growth era.

Businesses adopt their own flavor of PLG GTM model like freemium, free trial, usage-based or per-seat pricing, open source, and even hybrid. So the GTM playbook obviously is slightly different for everyone. But, what continues to be consistent is the winning strategy.

During the inbound era, personalized content in nurture campaigns was effective in driving conversions and the same is true for personalized sales sequences in the outbound era GTM.

Similarly in the product-led era, growth loops are the choice of framework for triggering the campaigns at the right time. Personalizing the message for the user and account at scale is the way to win and retain customers.

In the third era, PLG is a modern GTM where the mindset is end-user centric. Getting the user to sign up, adopt, and adore the product is the way to drive growth in PLG. Tailored messages and campaigns relevant and useful to the end user will help businesses earn the attention and loyalty of the user. According to Segment, personalization not only gets repeat customers but also earns more revenue across a customer’s lifecycle.

The success of a product-led GTM strategy depends on how well emails are personalized. We know it was the winning formula for inbound and outbound eras. Why would the product-led era be any different? This was a huge motivator in us building Inflection. Each era had a platform that helped unlock personalization at scale, and we hope to be that platform for PLG.

Personalized PLG

The potential of personalization at scale is not exactly new for the SaaS industry. The customer experience personalization and optimization market is projected to reach $11.6 Billion by 2026 globally.

So, clearly, all businesses want to personalize their campaigns. The billion-dollar question is how do we do it?

Here are some best practices for implementing personalized PLG.

  • Onboarding

To get your product’s first impression right, you need to tailor the onboarding process for individual users, admin accounts, and buyers.

Your users might be the ones spending 20 hours a week on your product but not the admins or the buyers. Giving a detailed product tour is helpful to an individual user. Whereas, showing the settings and access controls are much more beneficial for an admin. In the same vein, finding out the easy steps to add and modify payment details is definitely in the buyer’s purview.

Many PLG companies conduct a micro-survey as part of the signing up and setting account process to deliver a customized onboarding experience.

  • Relevant value metrics

What does the user value most about your product? If you answer this question with ‘it depends’, you are on the right track.

If you are sending a summary of value metrics to your users, you need to bear in mind that their goals with your product are different. Classifying use cases of your product based on industry, user profile, or job function can help you decide which value metrics to showcase to which user.

Also, consider the user’s role in your product to decide about sending a value summary to them and at what frequency.

  • Campaigns at scale

PLG companies have a lot of users to communicate with owing to the low entry barrier to trying out the product. Unlike the previous eras, we are talking about sending emails to millions of users (if not more) every month. Sending emails to a mammoth database and scaling personalization is a problem we didn’t have to deal with in the previous GTM eras.

The secret to not compromising on personalization is to segment the audience in tune with your product-led strategy. We’ve segmented leads based on the company size, geographical location, job title, etc. Add product data to the mix. Data on the source of sign-up, onboarding status, or the number of team invites can decide the right trigger for your user communication; and data on the user’s persona can help curate the right message.

Slice and dice your audience and automate your product-led email campaigns that deliver a consistent and hyper-personalized experience.

Winning With Different GTM Same Strategy

Sending the exact same nurture emails or the same outbound message did not work then. Both Marketo and Outreach became the leaders in their respective eras by recognizing the fact that one-size-fits-all is not acceptable and enabled automated and tailored experiences with a different GTM.

The same winning formula applies to the new era we are in. Having a one-size-fits-all approach for your product-led motion is not acceptable.

Curating a unique product experience at scale for the users through automation and personalization is the way to win in the product-led era and we couldn’t be more excited to help enable that at Inflection.

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