A guide to Product Led - Business design for long term growth.
Updated: Jan 29
Product led growth - explained.
We are living a technological revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and relate to one another. Ambitious attempts are being made through technology to bring amazing products and solutions to end users’ hand, end users are finding these products on their own, referring to their peers and telling their bosses about which one to buy.
In the current era, when products are built with high market value focusing on user experiences and we are in a direct value exchange with end users, it becomes crucial to build and apply an efficient strategy for go-to-market for long term success of the product. Traditional sales focuses on buyers to sell the product with a top down sales approach but thoughtfully designed products with a focus on end users should take a different route of bottoms up product led growth approach where product distribution and sale is focused on end users. Contemporary product focused organizations are adapting to meaningful bottoms up - product led growth strategy to fuel and succeed in faster growth environment, for example Slack, Dropbox, Docusign, Twilio, Pinterest, Warby Parker, Calendly, Expensify, Atlassian, InVision, Zapier, Hootsuite, Buffer to name a few.
Applying a product led growth strategy would benefit and empower any organization in following ways:
Alignment with how customers want to buy
Ability to personalize experience earlier in buying cycle
Product usage would be better correlated with buying intent
Sales, product, and success revolves around solving customer problems
Enables ability to build innovative products that people love to use
Provides exponential growth rather than linear growth
Brief history about product led growth
Product led is about the rise of end users. There is a huge shift in the way people buy and use software products.
Be it Apple bringing digital experience to people’s pocket back in 2008 or Salesforce bringing software to cloud, since then, the market has been flooded with B2B products promising and fulfilling almost every need. Exceptional product experiences have become expected over the time.
We are observing a major shift in consumer demand and market supply and how we distribute software product and make them reach user’s hands. The tech-savvy users are driving the transition towards consumerization – consumer level UX in B2B SaaS products. These users demand intuitive, easy to use and affordable tools to get their job done. Have a look at the evolution of software distribution.
And the distribution approach driven by end users has naturally impacted the evolution of GTM strategy from sales led to product led.
Nearly 75% of B2B buyers would rather buy via an app or website, rather than a salesperson, reports Forrestor. Product-led businesses gets valued at least 30% higher than the public-market SaaS index fund. In a sales-led organization, the customer acquisition model has a big leak. According to SiriusDecisions, 98% of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) never result in closed business due to the flaw of not applying organic approach of hitting MQL goals and creating friction in buying process.
Product led approach during early stage can be strategized and applied keeping in mind these three phases.
Design-Build-Test & Iterate
PHASE 1 - Design, Build, Test and Iterate with End Users.
First, Understand the difference between users and buyers
Users take interest on product, its features, usage, and functionality, while buyers focus on business ROI/value and cost. It makes more impact when users are encouraged to activate and explore the product and its features, while buyers could invite other team members (users) to the product.
Easy way to understand the difference between users and buyers is to ask for people’s job titles or roles when they take interest or sign up for your product. This may seem to add friction, but it is worth it if it enables you to create a relevant onboarding and better experience overall. Users typically have roles like managers, analysts and designers and work in a Team environment, and users are more likely to activate (get first value from the product) and buyers are mainly upper-level management and c level executives – CEO, CPO, CMO, COO etc., and the buyers are more likely to convert (buy the product).
Do a statistical analysis per role to understand how different personas are more likely to activate versus more likely to convert and marketing intelligence tools to better understand users’ and buyers’ complete profiles.
Software products can possibly have two personas: Buyers/executives and end users. Both the personas can think about the need and pain very differently.
Design for end users
Designing for end users by understanding their pain points would attract them the most, meaning your product should ideally solve end user pain points to attract end users.
Use design thinking or similar human/user centric methodologies and relevant tools to discover problem, understand pain points and build insights.
Iterate using lean and agile methods to understand the value and problem space at deeper level to design the Minimum Viable Product.
Build MVP and beta Test with end users and Iterate to understand value proposition
Goal: Idea validation
Audience: Small scale (10 to 50)
Focus: Laser focused
Learning: Qualitative data
Build the MVP (minimum viable product), the minimum complete version the product
Then measure your customer’s reaction to the product.
Finally, learn and iterate based on feedback
Example of some products having taken product led approach
Apply these fundamentals while building the product for product led growth approach
Build clarity and understand the major outcomes that motivates product purchase
Understand core jobs to be done by the end users to succeed in their role – functional outcome.
How customers want to experience or avoid experiencing because of executing jobs to be done – emotional outcome.
How customers take pride or want to be perceived by others by using your product – social outcome.
Build your product around virality
Well-conceived viral strategy has high potential to deliver great results. Because when people tell others about a product, they do more than just inspiring new customers to try it out, and this happens without any cost. Virality is not an after thought rather part of early business design. So, embed virality deeply and integrate it into your overall user experience.
Make onboarding as simple as possible
Set transparent pricing – could be per usage per user basis
Apply a paywall
Build an easy and fast user feedback channel
Take lean and iterative approach to product development
PHASE 2 – Pre-launch
Goal: Market validation
Audience: Large scale (1000 +)
Learning: Quantitative data
While you are being ready with your launchable version of the product, in the meantime you could prepare and approach the pre-launch with a planned strategy.
Communicate the perceived value of your product
Try delivering on promise by minimizing the value gap between perceived value and experienced value, as much as possible.
Understand and minimize product friction
Build alignment amongst Marketing, Sales, Customer success and Product for best results and growth.
PHASE 3 – GROWTH
Phase 2 and 3 are beyond scope of this post.
Thanks for taking time to read and learn about this topic which can be applied to your start-up or organization !
A well thought out business design and strategy including product led strategy can help so many products and business across the globe. In case you would like to discuss business, design and strategy or product led growth further or seek help on this topic reach out to me on LinkedIn
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