October 23, 2019
Growth

How product-led growth and enterprise sales can coexist: Implementing PLG

{Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series. For the first article, read How product-led growth and enterprise sales coexist: Getting executive buy-in.}

So, after being tasked with the question of how we can scale internally using product-led growth when 100% of what we do is driven by enterprise sales, and after I was able to introduce PLG to the team and executive team to get buy in, it was time to implement the right kind of PLG for our team.

First, we looked at our culture. How could this change impact the organization for the better?

Step 1: Putting a revenue/sales head on the product team 

This was unique for me, for the product team, and for the organization. But it was critical to have this mindset sit in product, as we consider an internal agent who could speak for the customer.

Our product team had historically done an amazing job working with customers, and our CS team to gather feedback, and quickly build features they asked for. So it wasn’t that the team was siloed. However, what we realized is we needed someone who could focus on more disruptive innovations and speak for a future type of client that didn’t yet exist.   

Step 2: Organizational process and structure. 

The organization gave me the freedom to experiment, and accountability and channels to report back. We also created a small team within our team to work on this in the off hours and weekends, to make sure we could push this agenda, without letting the current enterprise customer agenda fall by the wayside.

Step 3: Providing ongoing feedback and answering questions.

I started showcasing how, from day 1, this was impacting the way we do things now (for the better!). Since I now sat on the product team, I hammered home two points:

  1. This could help us drive incremental revenue in an extremely scalable way. What if we could create product lines that helped drive incremental upsells and value for your customer without involving a salesperson, and allowed our enterprise sales people to focus on higher value deals? What if our CSMs could spend their time having more strategic conversations with our customers about their businesses, and spend less time supporting bugs, broken links, or technical issues?
  1. Even if it didn’t, and every experiment failed, the PLG mindset would be so engrained across the entire organization, that the customer would win out in the end. And that would help us reduce churn, drive stickiness, and increase customer satisfaction.

In our product: Prototypes and MVPs

Because I started by gathering executive buy-in, our CEO and Head of Sales were ready and willing to pass some prospects to me to begin on our first PLG product—full self-service. No onboarding, no CSM, and month to month rather than annual commitments.

This meant I had to do two things: build a process and build a landing page.

Driving sales leads into the self-serve funnel—create two places for prospects (self serve vs. enterprise). This helped the enterprise sales team focus their time on larger opportunities, and allowed smaller businesses to buy at a level and in a fashion they wanted to.

I created our first MVP via Squarespace commerce. Full transparency: I had no idea what I was doing here. I was completely experimenting and learning how to use Squarespace (shoutout to another great PLG company). Sure, the Add to Cart button broke sometimes, but that’s okay. The point is that it was there, and communicated the points we wanted to bring home to the prospect.

Implement the right tools

While I’d love to build things from the ground up, I needed some help to jumpstart things. Fortunately, this came in two areas: improved onboarding and improved support.

We had recently hired an amazing Customer Support Manager who helped us on our way to self-serve by setting up the Zendesk stack, working with marketing and CS to create a knowledge base, and inserting support in the product.

In addition, we wanted to create a lower-touch, more contextual onboarding and adoption process. How could we show a customer how to use Suzy in the product itself? 

For that, we turned to Appcues. This allows us to drive functional onboarding and feature adoption in the platform, and have our CSMs have conversations outside of the platform around strategy. It lets our product do the talking when it should, and our CSMs build strong, consultative relationships.

Never stop parallel path

All this being said, our business is currently run on enterprise sales, so I thought about how to simply bring the PLG mindset into our enterprise sales process, as-is, with the product we currently have. The answer: The Product-Led Growth Flywheel

PLG Flywheel for Enterprise

For us, it was critical to understand our customer journey, then fit our process and product around that. Too many times, companies dictate their own sales process, that may or may not coincide with how a customer wants to buy. 

I put together a squad of CS, marketing, sales and product, and ran through a Flywheel exercise together, until we were aligned on what the customer went through. No longer did it matter that a customer was in the marketing funnel, or the sales funnel. They were all part of one unified customer journey, then we divided responsibilities.

The Presentation I gave to our executive team as I introduced PLG

PLG Experimentation

This said, I was running some experiments in parallel. Is it scalable for our drip campaigns to really just be me sending email templates? Absolutely not.

But it was the fastest way we could experiment with onboarding new customers, driving education and ultimately adoption. So how are we creating a more scalable offering? By doing unscalable things (Paul Graham re: Airbnb).

I may be the current point of success and failure, and that’s not scalable, but it’s critical to learn how we might need to tweak our offering.

Conclusion

PLG is easy to see for a company that starts with SMB or mid-market—$99/month, start with a one-month free trial, and get them paying. 

But what about for companies with enterprise sales? 

Implementing PLG at a company like this might not look the same externally, but internally, the same things are true. Customer-centricity, lower touch, and a better buying process.

Ultimately, heading in this direction is not only better for us internally, but more importantly, better for the customer! They get to experience a faster, easier to use Suzy—even if they work in the enterprise.

I'll leave you with a couple of questions to ask yourself to see if PLG could help your organization:

  • What would happen if you got 1000 customers in 3 months? If the answer is “hire people” you aren’t set up to scale.
  • Is there any part of your product that REQUIRES a person gets involved? Is that the best experience for the customer? If not, think about how you can make your product the star for usage, and your salesperson or CSM the star for strategy behind how they can solve your customers’ business problems.

Overall, one of the biggest challenges you have to understand to implement PLG in a sales driven organization is that while some of the work is getting buy-in. Once you do, you will likely need to roll up your sleeves in order to get the momentum going and to keep it going.

In the startup setting, it can often be hard to focus on future opportunities in the face of daily challenges. Much of the work that I’ve done, along with others on the Product Team has been nights and weekends because we want to make it clear that we aren’t putting the core product in jeopardy. But we believe the juice is worth the squeeze. And we are confident that the seeds we plant today will grow into something amazing in the future.

Bryan has spent over 4 years at Suzy, currently leading business development & partnerships at Suzy, and helping lead the charge to drive product-led revenue. In his prior roles, among many hats he’s worn, he served as Chief of Staff to the CEO, and Enterprise Account Executive, working with companies like KraftHeinz, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. Overall, Bryan is leading the charge at Suzy to embody product-led growth across all parts of the organization.

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