Entering the product-led growth world can be daunting for marketers coming from a more “traditional” inbound or content-driven background. But keeping an open mind about this new approach can yield tremendous benefits.
Mark didn’t start as an evangelist for product-led growth. In fact, he was a bit skeptical about how the approach would impact his marketing efforts.
“Coming from a decade’s worth of experience of B2B marketing in which we did that kind of traditional inbound motion, the term “product-led growth” was like, ‘Where does marketing fit into this? Am I at risk here?'” Mark recalls. “Once I got over all that, I realized how much value marketing brings in this model.”
Product-Led Growth Defined
So, just what is product-led growth? In short, it’s a business strategy where the product drives all marketing and sales activities.
It’s a relatively new concept in B2B marketing, but it’s quickly gaining popularity because it can be so successful. Instead of relying on traditional marketing techniques like advertising or lead generation, you focus on making your product so great that people will want to use it and recommend it to others.
There are a few key things that make product-led growth different from other marketing strategies:
- The product is the primary driver of growth.
- The goal is to get people to use the product, not just buy it.
- The focus is on building a great product, not generating leads or selling.
One thing that makes product-led marketing both exciting and challenging is how it pushes marketers out of their comfort zone.
“This requires significant cross-functional work,” Mark says.
Rather than being siloed off from the product team, Mark’s efforts are tied directly to what that team is working on.
“Working with the product team is really not something I’d done in the past,” Mark says. “Product lived in that world; I lived in this world. And so, working within that structure is a very different thing. The way they have their tasks set up—it’s like a very structured process that I’ve never previously worked in. So, on the one hand, it’s a bit challenging, a bit daunting. On the other, it’s very exciting to be able to kind of build out this whole map.”
The benefit of this new cross-team collaborative approach is that it provides a unique platform for generative ideas. Mark can interact with the product team as he develops ways to market the product and even collaborate with product specialists to bring his ideas to life.
“For me, the execution, and then the results, that’s the exciting part,” Mark says. “The exciting part is executing, and then seeing what comes back and if it worked, and it’s very exciting.”
There are ways in which product-led growth is similar to traditional marketing.
Like traditional marketing, product-led growth is most successful when marketers and the companies they work for are willing to take risks.
New ideas are the fuel that keeps the marketing engine going, and experimentation is massively important for generating winning ideas.
Take the Right Kind of Risks
For Mark, this kind of risk-taking experimentation comes naturally. Though he quickly admits that he doesn’t get it right every time.
“I would say, given my propensity to be a kind of ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ guy, I do a lot of things that don’t work,” Mark says. “And then there’s that one thing that does work, and it’s very exciting, right? And there needs to be an appetite in the organization to be comfortable with that.”
The most important thing to remember about product-led growth applies to any marketing effort. Experiment often, fail spectacularly and capture the learnings that go along with that failure.
Now, this doesn’t mean you implement every idea that comes along. But selectively trying new ideas and, in a sense, planning for them to fail can lead to incredible results.
It’s a way, Mark says, to understand the opportunity cost for every new idea you plan to implement.
Begin with thinking through how your plan could go wrong and try to anticipate the learnings that may come out of failure. Then analyze the potential outcome to determine if the idea is worth investing in.
“As you plan something, try to think of all the ways that it could go wrong,” Mark says. “How will you learn from that? And also understand the potential and the cost of opportunity. ‘Does it make sense to invest in this, if the best-case scenario is better or worse than doing something else?'”
And, as tempting as it may be to follow the latest trends, Mark has found his methodology is effective for eliminating the “me too” factor that can sometimes cause marketers to jump on ideas that aren’t the best fit for their organization.
“Just because, you know, there’s a blog post written about how to do something doesn’t mean that it’s the way you’re supposed to do it,” Mark says.
A Better Metric
Of course, the big questions marketers have about product-led growth revolve around metrics.
We live and die by data, and having a reliable way to measure success is essential for any new marketing initiative. Mark had the same questions when he began marketing within the product-led growth paradigm.
He found that product-led growth gave him a better metric to work with. When he began to think about “product qualified leads,” he found that the data gave him a better understanding of his customer and their readiness to make a purchase.
“In the old world, kind of the traditional inbound marketing motion, there was always this idea of a ‘marketing qualified lead,'” Mark says. “But it was this vague thing. It was almost always just subjective from the marketing side.”
In contrast, product-led growth provides data that can be used to create an objective metric.
With product-led growth, you’re dealing with people who are using your product in some way, which is an actual signal of engagement that you can track. And that makes a huge difference for marketers.
Mark says you can measure product qualified leads (or PQLs) “in the same way that maybe a marketing qualified lead would be somebody that has reached some sort of threshold of points based on visits and opens and all these things that you’ve—again, kind of subjectively—decided are indicators.”
To determine if a lead is ready to move to the next stage of the sales process in a product-led growth environment, you look at their journey as a product user. So the acquisition of new trial users becomes a key metric for judging the success of marketing efforts in this paradigm.
“Overall acquisition of new trial users is the metric that I’m judged against, Mark says. “The amount of people that sign up for a webinar, or whatever—those are great, but that’s not the metric of success. Right now, that metric of success is acquisition.”
Focusing on that metric has been an excellent indicator for measuring Mark’s efforts in product-led growth.
It provides a more concrete way to gauge success, revealing a marketing path for converting trial users to paying customers.
“It’s done quite well over the last year; we’ve seen significant growth,” Mark says, “as a result of the way we’ve changed our motion, working within that context of them using the product or having signed up for the product, as that is now the indicator of how we market to them.”
You can watch the complete conversation with Mark Lerner on LeadtailTV.
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