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Technology is the cornerstone of modern business, and new technologies are being developed and adopted at an increasingly rapid pace. And as more technology companies enter the market, many are choosing to let their products speak for themselves.

Rather than relying on a traditional sales and structure, they are using a product-led growth (PLG) strategy that prioritizes the product as the primary driver of customer acquisition, retention, and expansion.

To guide users through the customer journey, PLG shifts the focus to the product experience. Some notable PLG-focused companies:

  • Slack, a team collaboration and messaging platform, gained popularity through its user-friendly interface and a bottom-up adoption approach within organizations.
  • Dropbox follows a freemium model, allowing users to sign up for free and then upgrade based on their needs; that approach has contributed to its widespread user base.
  • HubSpot, a provider of inbound marketing and sales software, has embraced a PLG approach to grow its customer base through user-friendly products.
  • Canva, a graphic design platform, has gained popularity through its user-friendly interface and freemium model, making design accessible to a broad audience.
  • Figma, a collaborative interface design tool, has grown rapidly with a user-friendly approach and collaborative features.

Blending PLG and Traditional Sales for High-Value B2B Products

A blended model for PLG in B2B companies involves combining traditional Sales-led approaches with elements of a self-service, product-centric strategy.

That blended approach recognizes that in the B2B context, especially for complex or high-value products, a purely self-service model may not be sufficient, and a more balanced or blended approach is necessary.

Here are some ways B2B companies are incorporating a blended model for PLG:

  • Freemium or free trials. B2B companies often offer freemium versions of their products or free trials, allowing users to experience the product before committing to a purchase. This self-service aspect is a PLG component that introduces the value of the product to users.
  • Sales-assisted onboarding. B2B companies may offer sales-assisted onboarding for larger or more complex implementations, even though they allow users to sign up and start using the product independently. Sales teams can guide users through the onboarding process, ensuring they maximize the value of the product.
  • Tiered pricing models. Implementing tiered pricing models allows companies to cater both to small businesses and to enterprise clients. Lower-tier plans may be suitable for self-service, whereas higher-tier plans may include more customization and support, involving sales teams in the process.
  • Education and support resources. B2B companies with a blended model often provide extensive educational resources, documentation, and customer support to empower users to use the product effectively. This self-service approach is complemented by the availability of human support when needed.
  • Customer success teams. Customer success teams play a crucial role in a blended PLG model. Teams can proactively engage with users, providing guidance and best-practices, and ensuring successful outcomes. They can also identify opportunities for upselling or expansion within the customer organization.
  • Data-driven upselling. Using data analytics and user-behavior insights, B2B companies can identify users who may benefit from additional features or higher-tier plans. Sales teams can then engage with those users to explore upselling opportunities.
  • Product-led sales. Some B2B companies integrate sales processes directly into their product, allowing users to seamlessly transition from a self-service experience to engaging with sales representatives when needed. That can be facilitated through in-app messaging, chat, or other communication channels.
  • Ongoing iteration and experimentation. B2B companies employing a blended model for PLG continuously iterate and experiment with different approaches. They monitor user behavior, gather feedback, and adjust their strategies to find the optimal balance between self-service and Sales involvement.

By combining those elements, B2B companies aim to create a customer-centric approach that maximizes the benefits of PLG while addressing the unique needs and complexities of B2B sales.

The key is to offer flexibility, cater to various customer segments, and ensure a seamless transition between self-service and sales-assisted interactions.

PLG in Action: Identifying High-Quality Product-Qualified Leads

In my previous role at a rapidly evolving database-as-a-service software company, I spearheaded the delivery of Product-qualified leads (PQLs) within a PLG framework. Collaborating with team members who generated top-funnel leads, we crafted a mid-funnel strategy focused on identifying and targeting high-quality PQLs.

We used various tools to identify lookalike audiences among our freemium user base, employing a mix of tactics across eight integrated marketing campaigns. The goal was clear: propel our message to the ideal profile users (IPUs) and motivate them to move from freemium to a paid tier or expand product use.

We learned that PLG is not just a strategy; it's a dynamic and ever-evolving way of approaching marketing. The rapid pace of change in the PLG landscape requires marketers to constantly adjust to meet their goals.

The integration of PLG strategies across the customer journey represents a shift toward a more user-centric approach. The blend of PLG with traditional sales strategies, particularly in the realm of high-value B2B products, underscores the importance of flexibility and adaptability in meeting the diverse needs of today's businesses.

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As we continue to navigate the complexities of the B2B marketplace, the lessons learned from successful PLG implementations offer invaluable insights into the power of product-centric growth.

By embracing product-centric approaches, businesses can both achieve remarkable growth and build a foundation for enduring success in an increasingly competitive and dynamic environment.

More Resources on Product-Led and B2B Growth Strategies

B2B Product Strategy: How to Market to Both Enterprise and Self-Serve Customers

The Future of SaaS Sales Lies in Interactive Demos and Product-Led Growth

Developing an Indispensable B2B Brand-Inspired Growth Strategy: Mitch Duckler on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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B2B Growth: Blend Product-Led and Traditional Strategies Across the Customer Journey

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image of Lorena Hathaway

Lorena Hathaway is VP of growth marketing at Televerde, a global revenue creation partner supporting marketing, sales, and customer success for B2B businesses around the world.

LinkedIn: Lorena Hathaway