Why Everyone Is Talking About Product-Led Growth

Why Everyone Is Talking About Product-Led Growth

Jenny Farver

September 29, 2022

Sunshine? An outdoor conference? The opportunity to keep pulse on the biggest innovators in B2B software? Yep, I went to SaaStr Annual this month and it didn’t disappoint. While I was there, a topic that particularly got my attention is the way companies are learning to adapt and reach new, younger buyers, including by harnessing product-led growth.

As millennials and zoomers, buyers today have deeper experience with technology than previous generations and different expectations. During one lunch session on what they called the “self-serve buyer,” Kady Srinivasan, SVP of Marketing at Klaviyo, and Kathie Johnson, CMO at Talkdesk, expanded on the different behaviors they’ve observed from today’s younger buyers. They don’t require as many touch points along the buyer journey, and they want to stay anonymous for as long as possible. At the same time, organizational cultures have shifted and there are now as many as 20 people involved in a purchasing decision, and 10-17 individual touches between awareness and conversion for each of them. Users expect to try before they buy, and buyers are less loyal to vendors who aren’t meeting their needs or expectations.

As a result of this changing landscape, many technology businesses, including SaaS companies, are increasingly using product-led growth to align their teams and expand their impact. In this article, I’ll share some of my main takeaways from SaaStr Annual, and I encourage you to reach out on Linkedin to chat about how the product-led conversation is impacting your business.

Becoming Product-Led Begins with Your Customers

Younger buyers are attracted to authenticity and they notice when a product isn’t providing the experience the sales team promised. Enter product-led growth: authentic products built when organizations function around one heartbeat — the user’s.

And what could be more authentic than a product that sells and markets itself? One that stands on its own without awkward frictions in the adoption curve? One whose new features are based on user behavior rather than shaky market research?

Product-led growth refers to the practice of transforming your product to prioritize user engagement and transforming your organization to rely on your product for all of your inputs. Product-led growth allows sales, marketing, operations, and technology teams to all use insights and entryways from the product itself to structure their funnels, prioritize their workflows, and draw in revenue.

Product-led growth is an exciting vision, but if you’re on a product team, you might thinking: “Yikes! That’s a lot of pressure for my fledgling product!” True, so if you’re going to do it, don’t go it alone. Companies that are serious about product-led growth need company-wide passion and alignment around your users and how they interact with your product.

When done well, this methodology creates alignment from the business' go-to market strategy down to each department’s plans and staffing. Teams are small enough to act quickly, and include the cross-functional skills to collect, analyze, and incorporate feedback directly. Through iterative design feedback loops with customers to inspire and inform desired experiences coupled with specialized methods to optimize features, every department is empowered to use the product’s interaction with its users to guide their strategy, prioritize roadmaps, and tether their efforts to the broader organization’s push for user satisfaction.

Human-centered design provides a powerful way to incorporate your customers by including them from the beginning. Regardless of where your product is in its life cycle, design thinking offers numerous techniques to ideate and arrive at creative solutions, while remaining grounded in the actual needs and desires of your customers.

Technical choices matter too. Products must be wired for change: user interfaces, workflows, back-end APIs, and data models will need to be adaptable on your journey, but the dangers of “over-engineering” remain. Early versions no longer need to just work, they must produce useful data to guide their evolution. Elegant integrations are essential, whether built or bought since each feature of your product is likely to have a critical relationship to another in your product-led strategy. You and your teams should be thinking about small, composable systems that are easily extensible.

Leading Products to Growth

Product led growth is essentially a challenge to adapt strategies and tactics that have been popular in B2C products to the B2B market. That’s an exciting recognition that B2B buyers are humans too! They want to love the products they use, they allocate their budget as if it’s their own money and they want the purchase to feel more like a card swipe than a mortgage.

The wave of excitement for product-led growth is energizing for us at 8th Light because we specialize in developing teams and software influenced by user feedback. We are passionate about building cross-functional teams that give and receive continual feedback, and we mentor organizations, big and small, to do the same. We conduct user research that informs product design, and we help advise on technical choices that will serve products and teams for the long term. And through a number of strategic engagements, we help businesses set up new monitoring systems to extract insightful data points and train teams to work in an agile, iterative way that enables them to move quickly and change direction along with their users.

Up to talk about your team’s readiness? Get in touch!

Jenny Farver

Chief Executive Officer

Jenny Farver is 8th Light’s CEO. She joined 8th Light as co-CEO alongside founder Paul Pagel in 2020. Prior to that she served on 8th Light’s Board of Directors and has been a CTO or VP of Engineering at several Chicago tech startups.