The Evolution Of Product Led Growth

The Evolution Of Product Led Growth

The product-led growth model is a transformative approach placing the product at the forefront of business strategies, with the end goal of driving customer acquisition, retention, and revenue. 

In this guide, we will learn about the evolution and benefits of product-led growth and the key differences between product-led growth and sales-led growth. Let’s dive in!

A Brief Introduction to Product-Led Growth

Product Led Growth (PLG) is a business strategy that focuses on delivering value through your product to acquire, engage, and retain customers.

In the product-led growth model, the product itself becomes the ‘hero’, with a focus on delivering exceptional user experience, value, and utility. 

By prioritising the product (and its ability to solve customer problems), businesses aim to:

  • Acquire new customers through self-service product experiences
  • Encourage organic product adoption
  • Drive customer satisfaction and loyalty

Long story short, PLG emphasises a customer-centric approach, where the product’s value and effectiveness serve as the main catalysts for business growth.

A Deep Dive into the History of Product-Led Growth and How It Came of Age

#1 The Early Adoption

The onset of Product Led Growth (PLG) was when software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies were rising and their strategic shift was moving towards a user-centric approach. As traditional sales and marketing methods became less effective, businesses realised the importance of creating products that could sell themselves. Enter, PLG.

#2 The Momentum Phase

The concept gained traction in the early 2010s when companies like Slack and Dropbox disrupted the market with their product-led strategies.

These companies recognised that by offering a valuable product experience upfront, they could drive organic growth through user adoption, referrals, and word-of-mouth marketing. 

#3 PLG As We Know Today

The maturation of PLG can be attributed to users who demanded self-service capabilities and instant value from the products they used.

Consequently, companies began investing in building products that were intuitive, easy to adopt and delivered value from the very beginning. These organisations also focused on user-centric design, onboarding processes, and product-led customer journeys to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Tactics such as free trial models, freemium offerings, and product-driven growth metrics became mainstream and allowed companies to:

  • Lower barriers to entry
  • Attract a wider audience
  • Convert users into paying customers based on the value they experienced firsthand

Today, PLG is a widely recognised and adopted growth strategy across industries. Businesses are leveraging metrics such as product-qualified leads (PQLs) and user activation rates to measure and drive growth. Companies like Zoom, HubSpot, and Atlassian are prime examples of how PLG can lead to exponential growth and market dominance.

The Learning: PLG is a powerful strategy that can help businesses to align with the growing expectations of customers who seek seamless, self-serve experiences and products that deliver immediate value.

Product Led Growth Model vs Sales Led Growth Model: A Comparison

Product-Led Growth ModelSales-Led Growth Model
Primary FocusProduct experience and adoptionCreating awareness
Acquisition ApproachSelf-service and product-driven acquisitionSales team-driven acquisition
User ExperienceEmphasises user-friendly, intuitive design and onboardingRelies on sales representatives to guide users
Customer EngagementFocuses on driving product adoption and user satisfactionRelies on relationship-building and personalised interactions
Business GrowthDriven by organic growth, word-of-mouth, and viral adoptionRelies on sales teams to actively pursue and close deals
MetricsProduct-qualified leads (PQLs), user activation, and retentionMarketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
Value PropositionProvides immediate value through the product experienceEmphasises the benefits and value of the company’s offerings
ExamplesSlack, Dropbox, ZoomOracle, Salesforce, Adobe

How Product Led Growth Gives You An Edge

#1 Personalise With Privacy

Despite the increase in user privacy and limitations in data and tracking, users expect a personalised experience. PLG allows marketers to align their product with their key audiences to increase conversion rates.

#2 Maximise Acquisition Budget

Landing new customers is extremely difficult – Up to 70% of website visitors leave after viewing only one page, and around 60% of app users uninstall apps within the first month. By optimising the user experience, conversion rates improve and user value increases, leaving a wider margin for acquisition costs while remaining ROI positive.

#3 Increase Holistic Growth

User acquisition only focuses on the first phase of business growth, which is often short-lived. PLG accounts for long-term, sustainable growth throughout the customer lifecycle. By increasing retention and engagement revenue per user increases and these high value users go on to become advocates of your brand, leading to further organic growth.

Some Other Benefits of the Product-Led Growth Model

The benefits of a product-led growth model typically vary depending on the specific context and industry. That said, here are the general advantages of implementing a product-led growth model:

  • User-Centric Approach: PLG focuses on understanding–and addressing–user needs and translating them into an intuitive product design and seamless user experience.
  • Faster Time to Value: With a self-service approach, users can quickly experience the value of the product. Companies benefit from faster time to value and increased user satisfaction.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: PLG relies on critical metrics such as product-qualified leads (PQLs), user activation, and retention. This enables data-driven decision-making and continuous optimisation among the stakeholders and the team at large.
  • Scalability: With a product-led approach, businesses can scale more effectively. They can also leverage technology and automation to handle a larger user base without increasing resources proportionally.
  • Competitive Advantage: Prioritising the user experience and delivering a superior product are fundamentals of the product-led growth model and can give companies a competitive edge.

Key Takeaways

Here are some key points to remember about Product Led Growth:

  • PLG prioritises the product as the main driver of business growth.
  • It challenges the traditional sales-led model by emphasising a customer-centric approach and organic growth through user adoption, word-of-mouth, and referrals in a privacy compliant manner.
  • What makes PLG different is that it leverages self-service product experiences, intuitive design, and data-driven decision-making to arm companies with a competitive edge.
  • Today, PLG is recognised as a widely adopted growth strategy, with companies like Zoom, HubSpot, and Atlassian leading the way.

Working With M&C Saatchi Performance

At M&C Saatchi Performance, our team of experts ensures you get the best out of your customer acquisition budgets. The core focus of our product-led growth services lies in lifecycle marketing, data analytics, and design to deliver bespoke strategies and solutions for you.

We are committed to creating an ideal customer experience, one that maximises user retention, engagement, and revenue while increasing lifetime value and ROI. Reach out to us today to learn more about our product-led growth services.