Viewpoint / CXO of the Future

The PLG Crash Course

How your team can embrace automation and drive down CAC

We brought together the GTM leaders from companies across the Mayfield portfolio to share best practices and realities of reaching a successful PLG GTM strategy. Shanee Ben-Zur, CMO and Chief Growth Officer for Crunchbase was our lead guide in the discussion, and shared her experiences in her current role at Crunchbase, plus at Dropbox, Salesforce, and nVidia.

The intent was a frank discussion on product-led growth, uncovering the realities and best practices that early-stage companies need to focus on (and address) in order to find success in using this model. Although it’s rightfully associated with a viral, freemium, bottoms-up distribution model, product-led growth is more than a simple go-to-market formula. Any company—even those selling to large enterprises or operating in niche vertical markets—can adopt PLG principles to improve user experiences and increase go-to-market efficiency.

Topics discussed:

  • What is PLG? Let’s get the definition straight.
  • Where is PLG the right model for go-to-market (and where is it not?)?
  • Who in the organization owns PLG and all the corresponding metrics?
  • What’s the right direct sales motion in a PLG company?
  • What is the hiring profile for the PLG team? A customer concierge with product, support or sales skills?
  • PQL and other key metrics that the team needs to measure
  • What tends to break down and what lessons can be learned from that?

TL:DR Key Takeaways

  1. From PLG to “PLX’ – Product can be the starting point for every stage of the user lifecycle. People typically talk about product led growth, but you can have product led demand gen, product led customer support. When a user is engaged with the product you have the choice to interact with them in whatever way makes the most sense. Whether that’s product led with a sales assist, or product led with a CX assist, or product led with demand gen assist. This means that every team has the opportunity to benefit from a product-led business, from product, to marketing, to sales, and customer teams. And, from the customers perspective it means they have the freedom to engage with the product in the ways that are best for them — fully self-serve, or fully human drive, or some combination of the two.
  2. The Aha Moment – The most important question is when does the prospect have the “Aha! Moment” in the product? In the PLG world, prospects have their “aha!” or initial moment of value recognition, very early in their consideration experience. Whereas in the traditional SLG world, they don’t get to experience the value of the product until after speaking with a rep or even potentially after becoming a customer. If you are able to let our prospects try your product—either in a sandbox environment or an actual trial with their own business data—you could benefit from a PLG motion.
  3. Automation and cost efficiency – Companies cannot beat the scale that automation provides. If there’s a way you could automate the users consideration, purchase, activation, engagement, or retention through a self-serve motion, do it. Use automation to power your first touchpoint with prospects—think free trial, in-product chat bots, triggered emails etc. That way you’re not limited to when a sales rep or CSM is online, or the size of your revenue team. Automation can scale infinitely with limited costs. Humans do not. Use automation to handle the majority of cases, and then leverage human intervention to handle the outliers, the special cases, and the white-glove opportunities.
  4. The new Marketing to Sales handoff — In the PLG world, marketing an use customer data to identify product-qualified prospects based on usage, firmographic, and other data points that qualify prospects as a much higher level of sophistication than e-books and webinars. Sales can focus on understanding the lead sources and homing in on the right tactics for the right campaigns rather than spending time hunting for leads.
  5. Compensation Alignment – Aligning your sales incentives with a PLG model is so important. Oftentimes what ends up happening is that the number one competitor that the sales team perceives is not your external competitor– it’s the self-serve product. Mitigate this by ensuring that sales sees the self serve customers as a lead source and lead qualification motion, rather than something to compete with.

Shanee Ben-Zur is the Chief Marketing and Growth Officer at Crunchbase, after successful prior roles in multiple marketing functions at Dropbox, Salesforce, and NVIDIA. She has a proven track record in driving revenue growth, customer engagement, and operational efficiency. She has unique insights into what product-led growth looks like at multiple stages of development, and at different company stages. Shanee understands what it takes to build revenue organizations at companies that rely on pure self-serve, pure direct sales, or hybrid self-serve plus direct sales motions. She blends a mix of analytical, technical, and creative expertise to partner with product, engineering, sales, marketing, and analytics teams and bring new monetization strategies to market.

Advisory Services

If you want to talk about reality television, or product-led growth, Shanee is currently advising many different companies. Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.

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