Today, your customers take every marketing attempt with a grain of salt. They won't trust you off the back of an ad or give in to your borrowed thought leadership on LinkedIn. They expect more focused marketing efforts that show them you can solve their specific problems.
How do you drop the facade of mainstream marketing to build customers’ trust in your SaaS? By knowing their needs before they do. This is where the product-led growth model comes in.
Enter: product-led marketing.
Product-led marketing is exactly what you think it is—a marketing strategy led by your product’s value and capabilities. Unlike traditional marketing tactics, PLG marketing leans entirely on your product to create interest, drive demand, and boost conversions for your company. It is what the leading product-led companies are leveraging to continuously grow.
This article will dive deeper into product-led growth marketing and how to apply it to your product.
Product-led marketing puts the complete emphasis of your marketing strategy on your product, bringing new sign-ups by letting users experience the product benefits firsthand
PLG marketing requires a collaborative effort from your product, sales, and marketing teams
Creating educational content and in-product resources are essential tactics to help users discover your product organically
What is product-led marketing? #
Product-led marketing is an approach to marketing where prospective customers try your product and realize its value to then become paying customers.
Once they become paying customers, your product remains the key lever for growth through in-product upsell and cross-sell prompts that help you drive more engagement, retention, and revenue.
Even if they don't become paying customers, it creates product-qualified leads that make it easier for sales teams to target and convert.
This approach applies the principles of product-led growth to your marketing campaigns. Instead of pushing users to sign up for your product through ads and marketing campaigns, PLG marketing places your product in users' hands to show how it can resolve their pain points.
It’s a direct, user-centric, and ROI-driven marketing strategy for SaaS companies to deliver real value without empty promises that are notorious with ads.
Let’s explore how product-led marketing works with some actionable steps you can start using today.
How to apply product-led marketing to your SaaS #
Here’s a four-step framework to design a product-led marketing strategy and let your product do the talking, walking, and everything in between.
Interact with your customers to identify their pain points #
Most product marketers drop the ball by relying solely on quantitative data to drive their acquisition strategies. PLG marketing focuses almost exclusively on your customers.
You need to invest your efforts in interacting with users, understanding their needs, identifying their challenges, and using this research to shape your in-product customer experience.
Survey your prospective customers and host interviews with existing users to ask questions like these:
What’s pushing them away from their current way of doing things?
What are their biggest problems with [your domain]?
How have they tried to resolve these problems?
What do they expect from a product like yours?
How has your product changed their lives?
What does their ideal solution look like?
For this, you can use in-app product surveys to ask feature-specific questions within your product and get more granular information. All this information can help your product team enhance the user experience and allow your sales team to sell to potential customers in their own words.
Let your users solve their problems on the fly #
Once you know your users’ problems, create educational resources to help them discover your product organically and try it.
Ideally, users would turn to search engines to find feasible solutions for their pain points. Tap into this opportunity with a robust and SEO-driven content strategy.
Turn your customers’ questions, challenges, and jobs to be done into product-led resources like blog posts, video tutorials, and eBooks covering the entire content funnel.
Jakub Rudnik's playbook with examples from Scribe
Another way to educate users about your product’s capabilities is through in-app marketing campaigns and self-serve support. These in-app guides and tips can help users on freemium plans or free trials navigate your tool and reach their “aha!” moments, convincing them to become paying customers.
Here are a few ideas for in-app messaging to educate customers.
Welcome users with a seamless onboarding flow that acquaints them with the basic product features and use cases–it could look like this one created with Chameleon.
An example of an onboarding checklist built with Chameleon
Tooltips and guides
Deliver contextual support wherever possible to help users get the best out of the product functionality, especially the premium features, like this one by Evernote.
Design multi-step interactive product tours and feature walkthroughs to give new users a hang of your product from the start, like this one by Waldo.
Empower users to troubleshoot their problems independently and quickly with an exhaustive knowledge base, like this example by Airmeet.
Remember: Creating educational resources helps you target potential customers with empathy rather than pushy marketing tactics. It puts them on the wheel to discover your product’s value and become power users and keeps the power and choice in their hands.
Start identifying PQLs and double down on them #
Product-led marketing tactics prioritize product-qualified leads (PQLs) over sales and marketing leads.
Every product-led company has its definition of a PQL based on its features. For example, a lead becomes a product-qualified lead for Slack when they cross the limit of 2,000 messages.
Essentially, a lead should experience the product value and be in line with your ideal customer profile to become a product-qualified lead. They shouldn’t need any further convincing from marketing or sales.
Start by establishing your criteria for a product-qualified lead to ramp up your organic growth through PLG marketing and reduce your customer acquisition cost (CAC).
Once you have these criteria, map the customer lifecycle funnel to find opportunities to optimize their user experience and nudge them to activation faster.
Since PQLs have already discovered your product’s core value proposition, they’re more likely to convert to paying customers quicker—helping you achieve your key business outcomes faster.
Bring marketing and product teams together #
With your product taking center stage for all marketing campaigns, your PLG marketing success depends on your product marketing and product teams’ collaborative effort.
Product marketers are the voice of your customers. They have to constantly interact with your target buyers and think from their perspectives to help your team hit their sales goals.
They act as a bridge between your developers and end-users to take your customers' pulse and relay needs to the team. They're the facilitators of constructive communication, ensuring your product achieves what it's designed for, or what’s expected of it.
As a final step in your PLG growth strategy, create cross-functional workflows and product marketing team structures to ensure your marketing and product teams work as a cohesive unit and are able to do so easily.
Once you bring teams on the same page, follow these four product-led marketing tactics to boost user success and maximize customer retention of your new users.
4 proven product-led marketing tactics to try #
Shifting to product-led marketing can seem overwhelming—if you don’t have a clear plan. We’ve done the legwork to create a list of the four proven SaaS growth marketing tactics you can try.
1. Demonstrate your value proposition #
This one's a no-brainer. You need users to believe your product positioning messages to drive demand through your marketing efforts. This can happen only when you help them experience these value props in action.
Use in-app guides, tutorials, product demos, and various formats of proactive support to nudge users toward your product's value. Show exactly how your product can create customer success.
For example, here’s how Hotjar uses in-app product tours to highlight its core features.
2. Design upsell and cross-sell opportunities #
Leverage in-app messaging to inform existing users about new features and product upgrades, and new users about the benefits of becoming a paid user.
Use your customer journey and behavioral data to find the most convincing reasons for effectively upselling your new and existing customers, maximizing your average customer lifetime value.
Case in point: Later uses in-app messaging to nudge free users towards a 14-day free trial. The message is clear and compelling with an emphasis on how Later can help users succeed.
3. Create campaigns to boost free trial conversions #
Strategize for micro-conversions within your product—like completing the onboarding process—to increase the free trial conversion rate. The key to driving these micro-conversions is making life easier for your users.
For this purpose, you can create an email sequence welcoming new users and showing them around. Cover different product features in a series of emails and tell users how to leverage these features to their benefit. You can also create a series of in-app banners or modal popups to nudge free trial users toward a subscription.
Here’s an example from ConvertKit’s email campaign for free trial users. It covers two main features, Broadcast and Sequences, with a short blurb on what you get in each feature.
4. Track and optimize the user experience with product analytics #
Be on top of your customer sentiment and monitor their behavior to find potential power users. This will give you a clear insight into your customer journey—helping you identify points of friction, define valid activation points, and create more opportunities for optimization.
Plus, you can focus more on potential power users to boost their in-app engagement and turn them into product champions. Empower these champions to promote your SaaS effortlessly. Give them the right resources, create reward systems, and referral codes, and design a positive feedback loop to spread the word about your product.
Product-led marketing tools to help resonate with your buyers #
An essential part of outlining your product-led marketing framework is creating a robust tech stack to consistently implement, measure, and iterate your strategy. Here are four must-try PLG marketing tools to add to your stack.
Chameleon is designed to help you run in-app messaging and gather feedback. It lets you build product tours and interactive feature walkthroughs to help users navigate your product better.
Plus, you can create in-product upsell and cross-sell nudges to expand product usage when customers are ready for it. And you can also deliver proactive support with in-app messaging through tooltips, banners, and contextual in-app widgets.
Put simply, Chameleon lives inside your product to engage your users and help them realize the product value. For the best results, integrate it with your product analytics tools to measure the impact of your PLG marketing strategy using the right metrics.
The best part? It doesn’t need a lick of code. You can quickly create and customize user segments to send targeted in-app campaigns, as shown below.
You can quickly build up custom audiences for your in-app campaigns with Chameleon
Heap is a product analytics platform that gives you a complete picture of your customer journey. You can see how free users navigate your product and what prevents them from converting to paid users.
Heap’s behavioral data will also tell you which features build product stickiness and bring users back to your product. Focus your PLG marketing campaigns on these features to increase conversions and boost retention.
Segment is a customer data platform with robust capabilities to map your user journey, derive insights for meaningful marketing, and multiply your ROI.
Segment lets you personalize your product marketing campaigns with real-time customer data without hectic workflows. Deliver consistent messaging across multiple checkpoints and boost customer delight.
Pocus is a product-led sales platform that can level up your marketing strategy. It tells you how customers engage with your product, revealing gaps you can fill and opportunities you can maximize.
The tool uses a configurable scoring model to understand every user’s conversion potential. So, you can get the best of your product usage data to design result-driven marketing campaigns and increase your conversion rate.
Let your product do the (marketing) talking #
Product-led marketing is a cross-functional marketing framework that uses your product as the primary driver of success. PLG marketing creates a more organic and less intrusive customer experience by placing your product at the center of all marketing campaigns. It is an essential part of a product-led growth strategy.
Keep in mind that product-led marketing is not just the domain of marketing teams. Every part of your company should be involved, whether it's your customer success team encouraging upsells, your sales team converting trial users, or even your engineering team putting out feature releases. Product-led organizations take a holistic approach to make the product shine to your users.
Remember, when outlining our own product marketing strategy, focus on solving users’ problems more than anything. Your product should be an unsung hero in that process, but not the only hero to your story. Let your potential users make the decisions here.