Becoming product led means reimagining the playing field of your business. It requires teams across the organization to lean into the possibilities of the product to drive awareness, sales, and growth. It also requires a mindset shift—from seeing the product as the thing your company sells to the platform through which all customer and user engagement takes place.
For marketing teams specifically, being product led expands the boundaries of how “marketing” has historically been defined. With a product-led approach, customer growth opportunities that were once confined to email nurtures, paid media awareness campaigns, and customer success (CS)-driven 1:1 programs can be brought inside the product and tailored for each customer’s unique situation—making them more effective and resonant.
What does product-led growth mean for marketing teams?
Product-led growth is a business strategy that places a company’s software at the center of the buying journey, relying on the product itself to do much of the “selling.”
The best product-led marketing teams don’t abandon their existing marketing programs completely in lieu of product-led mechanisms. Rather, they see the product as another channel through which to reach—and grow—their target audiences. Bringing product-led strategies into their campaigns allows marketers to further penetrate customer accounts, deliver more personalized and targeted messaging, help sell the value of the product through resonant storytelling strategies, and reach users when they’re most receptive: as they’re using the product.
Shifting some of the work marketers have historically done using external platforms into the product increases operational efficiency, creates a clear and streamlined path to paid conversions, and frees up groups across the marketing organization to focus on building more robust and multifaceted campaigns.
How marketing teams can leverage product-led strategies to drive growth
Oversight of the various stages of the customer journey is often divided amongst different teams within the marketing organization, particularly in large enterprise organizations. For example, teams focused on demand marketing might be responsible for communicating with prospects during the pre-sales stages of the journey, while customer marketing might focus on helping established customers improve adoption or grow into new offerings.
Here are a few examples of how specialized groups within any given marketing organization might leverage product-led approaches to best engage with their respective audiences and encourage growth.
Product marketing teams focus on generating demand, interest, and utilization of the product. They focus on demonstrating the value of the product’s various features and functions to inspire prospects to buy (and customers to use) the product. The campaigns and programs product marketers generate often center around these core goals:
- Building awareness for the product
- Highlighting use cases the product was created to address
- Positioning and explaining the value of various product features
- Building a clear narrative around how product features drive successful outcomes
- Differentiating the product from the competition
Product marketing teams often work closely with product and sales teams to help tell a clear product story, get prospects excited for the product’s capabilities, and help existing customers effectively leverage all the features available to them. They’re also responsible for helping the product team communicate important updates to users, and play a key role in bringing new features or products to market—all of which contribute to long-term organizational growth.
As experts in the product, product marketing teams are perfectly suited to bring a product-led approach to their growth campaigns. For example, they could use product analytics to see how customers are engaging with the product, identify those whose behaviors indicate they might benefit from a new or premium feature, and then target them with an in-app guide inviting them to an upcoming webinar or encouraging them to take a self-guided product tour. They could also collaborate with the sales team to identify cohorts of free or freemium users, create messaging explaining the benefits of the features available in the paid version of the product, then deploy in-app guides highlighting this value messaging—and inviting users to request a demo—as they’re engaging with the product.
The Citrix ShareFile team used analytics and in-app guides to personalize onboarding for free users, increase engagement, and boost trial conversions.See how ->
Customer marketing teams focus on nurturing relationships with existing customers. Their campaigns are typically designed to increase retention, foster customer loyalty and advocacy, and encourage customers to participate in the company’s product or user community. Customer marketers also frequently partner with customer success (CS) teams to improve product or feature adoption and help users leverage more of the product’s capabilities.
Because users are more likely to engage with and be more receptive to growth-focused product messaging as they’re using the product, in-app guides are a powerful tool to help customer marketers reach users when it matters most. Here are a few examples of how customer marketing can leverage in-app guides to drive growth:
- Show customers the limitations of their existing subscriptions by using in-app guides or tooltips to highlight the capabilities of more advanced (read: paid) features.
- Target customers with low product or feature adoption with a call to action (CTA) encouraging them to attend an upcoming training webinar. This lets those customers know you’re invested in their success and gives them an easy way to get the support and enablement they need to improve their product utilization—and achieve ROI.
- Send in-app surveys or polls (or requests for testimonials) to top-performing or high-adopting customers to leverage them as brand champions. Other customers who see positive reviews from businesses similar to theirs are generally more receptive to these kinds of referrals, as opposed to marketing messaging delivered from the brand.
Event marketing teams focus on producing branded events to increase awareness and give prospects and customers the opportunity to engage with the company (and see the product) in real-time. Events are a great chance for companies to explain and demonstrate the value of the product to prospects, inspire users to engage with the broader community, and encourage customers to get excited about (and ultimately expand into) new products and features.
Product-led strategies are critical for helping event marketers boost awareness and drive attendance for their events—particularly in-app guides. They’re a powerful way to bypass prospective attendees’ cluttered inboxes and mitigate the risk of invitations getting lost in spam folders. Because in-app guides are delivered within the context of the product itself, customers are more likely to see the invitation and entertain the idea of attending—particularly if the event messaging speaks to their specific use cases, problems they’re using the product to solve, or enablement gaps they’re hoping to close.
In-app guides are also highly effective for event marketing teams because they allow marketers to tailor invitations for specific personas or ideal audiences. For example, an event marketer might launch a very general guide that announces the details of their customer and user conference and encourages early registration. Once the full agenda goes live, they might deploy a series of targeted guides to various persona groups—for example, product managers, IT admins, and customer success leaders—encouraging each cohort to sign up for tracks or sessions aligned to their specific functions. Then a little closer to the event, they could send a quick poll to each segment, asking registrants if they have specific questions or topics they’d like to see covered during the sessions they signed up for.
Using product-qualified leads (PQLs) to fuel growth
Most performance marketers are familiar with the term “marketing-qualified leads,” or MQLs. This is a label marketing teams give to leads that they deem to be adequately qualified, or primed, for the sales cycle. In other words, these leads have consumed enough marketing material that they are ready to be handed over to sales.
While MQLs are a good indicator of buyer intent, product-led marketing teams go a step further to qualify leads based not just on their interactions at the brand level, but also their activity within the product itself. Product-qualified leads (PQLs) are users or businesses who are not yet committed customers, but who have experienced value from the product—often through unpaid channels like trials, free or freemium products, or self-guided tours. PQLs leverage user behaviors and product analytics to determine whether leads are ready to make a purchase or grow their entitlements.
The beauty of PQLs is that these users get to feel the product out for themselves, on their own terms, before ever talking to sales. This means that PQLs are warmer and more receptive to being sold to, vs. MQLs who have yet to interact with the product in any way. Using PQLs as the standard for qualifying deals also helps create efficiencies in other areas of the business. It’s an assurance that the leads being shared with sales and sales operations teams have a demonstrated intent to purchase. And it makes life easier for the teams responsible for onboarding new customers, since customers who start as PQLs have a slight head start—thanks to their basic understanding of the product’s capabilities and how it can help them achieve their goals.
Marketing teams can influence PQLs by focusing their messaging on product value and using CTAs to drive prospects to trials, freemium offerings, self-guided tours, and demos. From there, marketers can help accelerate and grow these deals—or even expand deals with existing customers—through programs that nurture non-paying users into paying customers.