Today’s most successful software companies are fueled by product-led growth. Otherwise known as PLG, this fundamental shift in how software companies grow starts with a community of users who adopt a product on their own, often at low or no-cost, and then later convince their companies to roll out the paid enterprise version across the organization. Slack, Zoom, Calendly, Dropbox, and Figma are a few examples of awesome PLG companies. We recently sat down with Badrul Farooqi, who served as Figma’s first product manager from 2016 to 2021, to learn some of the secrets of PLG, including how to foster a fervent community and how to structure sales and marketing to support a bottoms-up PLG function. Check out some top insights from the masterclass below or watch the replay here.
In the early days, put all of your focus on creating a great product.
- There is only one way to win at PLG, and that is to make sure every person in the company is focused on one goal: to create an absolutely amazing product. At Figma, the mission was to create an incredible product that would make designers happy, productive, and excited to use it. The C-suite, product, engineering, marketing, sales, HR, customer success – literally every team – should be focused on delivering the best possible product.
- As you grow, if you want to improve your PLG function, spend time with the customer support and customer success teams. They spend all day long listening and responding to customers, so they are at the forefront of customer needs, concerns, and feedback.
Be authentic when building and supporting your user community.
- The goal of creating a user community is not about acquiring customers and driving sales; that is simply the end-result of building a real, authentic community. To make sure your user community feels heard, engaged, and supported, don’t think about them as “customers” but instead as your close allies. Create lots of great content for them, host conferences and meet-ups, listen to their feedback, ask them what they need, apologize when you mess up, and always engage with them in a transparent way. People are intuitive; they know when you’re just trying to sell them something vs. actually listening to their needs and wants.
- Once the community reaches critical mass, institute some more formal frameworks around it. At Figma, they launched a community platform where members could share their work, design files, and plug-ins, as a way to support each other and to get inspiration themselves. The Figma community now includes tons of ideas and templates that help users tackle the biggest challenge of being a designer: the blank page.
Listen to your community and incorporate their feedback.
- Work with your users to co-create the product. Ask for their honest feedback and actually incorporate their suggestions. In the beginning, this might mean implementing lots of small fixes and changes, and it’s time consuming. Building trust among your user community by really listening to them takes time, but it’s an investment that pays off.
- When the community grows too big to incorporate every valuable suggestion right away, don’t just ignore requests for changes. Instead, thank every contributor for their suggestions and let them know you’ll be investigating the feasibility of adding a feature. For example, at Figma, there was a lot of feedback to create a left-to-right text feature, since many users speak languages other than English. Making that change was quite challenging technically but the team at Figma communicated with users that they were working on it, were transparent with the timeline and ultimately were able to launch the feature.
Build a product that will take off through PLG.
- Not every software product will work with a PLG strategy. To create a product that users will want to adopt, it must have several attributes. First, it must be easy to download or use online; the signup process must be totally frictionless (Zoom is a great example of this). Second, the onboarding process has to be fast and simple, free of long sign-up forms. Third, the product must be super easy and intuitive to use, without the need for involved tutorials or product guides. The goal is to get people using and obtaining value from the product really fast.
Sales and marketing should be partners with the community.
- When you hire your first sales leader, this person should be a boots-on-the-ground person with a deep understanding of the core user. For a PLG model to work, the sales team must be deeply connected to the community. In the beginning, sales people will be working directly with end-users to help convince them to “sponsor” the enterprise version of the product in their companies.
- When transitioning to enterprise sales, be mindful of the impact on your community. Ask them for feedback on what they’d like to see in an enterprise version of your product and incorporate that feedback.
- Once larger companies take note of your product, you’ll need an enterprise sales team that is used to selling into big accounts. Some large companies will never convert through PLG, but having sales people who can educate them on why users need and love the product will be critical to getting them to sign a contract. PLG and sales are not mutually exclusive.