Product-led growth (PLG) means you grow your business by getting users, making them happy with your product, and turning them into paying customers. The important part is that the product itself is doing the work, not salespeople or marketing.
It might sound a little obvious, but this is not usually the case for businesses selling to other businesses (B2B). In that world, the norm has been for marketing and sales teams to target executives and management (the people with the power to write checks), not the people actually using the product. That’s a top-down approach.
Product-led growth focuses on providing a great product to users first, and then getting them to pay later. This is a bottom-up approach.
Instead of spending lots of resources on marketing, product-led growth companies get exposure when happy users of the product spread the word and gain referrals.
Instead of first involving salespeople and meetings and demos, product-led growth companies let users experience the value of their product early on. This usually happens with a free plan or a free trial.
Companies with a PLG strategy—think Slack, Calendly, and Dropbox—are able to grow faster and more efficiently by leveraging their products to create a pipeline of active users who are then converted into paying customers.
I went to my first re:Invent this year. Most of my time was spent at the ShiftLeft booth but I went to a couple of sessions and talked to lots of other vendors. Here are some of my takeaways/highlights from the week.
I usually don’t get to see demos from other vendors. Being around the sponsor booths was was a great opportunity to see a lot of demos in a short period of time. It was surprising how huge the difference was between good and bad demos. The Datadog folks are really good at demos, and they have to be because they were doing like 10 demos simultaneously, repeating every 5 mins.
Database companies are becoming data platforms. When I talked to the MongoDB folks, I was surprised by how much more they have to offer than just a database. They’re an “application data platform” now too with Realm.
I think this will continue to be a trend. Once you have an open source database, you have to have a hosted option, and from there you will probably expand to other things.
Open source database -> database as a service (DBaaS) -> data platforms
Even VoltDB has changed their messaging:
While VoltDB does have its roots as an in-memory database, since we do a lot more than just store and provide access to data, we consider ourselves to be a lot more than just a database: we consider ourselves to be a data platform.
Lots of VC activity. The vendor hall is a great place for investors to get an idea of what’s out there and get an overview of trends. A colleague and I took a made a round through all of the vendors too. It’s good to get a view of the forest sometimes to understand the bigger picture.
In general there weren’t that many security companies (will probably be at re:Inforce instead). Most security companies were focused on runtime security. Things that interested me were StackHawk’s dynamic application security testing (DAST) and Anjuna’s enclave technology.
A few months ago I was browsing through LinkedIn and saw a post in my university alumni group. A career coach was hosting free Zoom sessions about various personal development topics. The sessions were scheduled for weekday evenings, and I had some free time so I signed up.
When I joined the first Zoom session, it was just me and the presenter. They had a whole slide deck prepared. Given that it was just me, I thought they would make things less formal and have more of a discussion than a presentation. That’s what I do when I have to give talks that few people attend.
That’s not what they did. They went through the whole presentation as if they were speaking to a large group.
I don’t remember the content of that presentation, but I do remember how much energy this person had presenting to an audience of just me. They did all the work and delivered, regardless of who was in the audience. I’m not sure if this was the first time they did that presentation, or if they regularly give these talks.
This was my takeaway: don’t let the size of the audience affect how you create and deliver content. Don’t get discouraged if no one’s there, and don’t get anxious when there’s a huge audience.
The interesting thing about blog posts compared to talks is that they’re much more discoverable and last a long time. Several of my posts got little attention when I first published and shared them, but over time have been discovered by various people that have linked to them. Now I regularly get new visitors to this blog to posts that are years old.
I recently started writing a newsletter. I wrote several weeks of issues privately without sharing them just to practice creating content and starting the habit of writing a weekly issue. That was a great decision because the first few issues weren’t that good, and now I think I have a format that’s more interesting.
I had to work on a task recently that involved filtering two CSVs and joining them in different ways. I have some Excel formula knowledge but I am much better at SQL, and this was a great problem for SQL to solve. So I decided to use my favorite SQL database: SQLite.
Recently at work we looked at a couple of vendor products to help our growth effort. Once I saw the pricing quotes I started thinking about the value we would get. The products do different things so it was hard to compare the prices and values.
The first product helps us with our BI effort; it helps us understand the analytics data we have. That information could help us improve our product for our users. We already use another product from this vendor so the implementation would be trivial.
The second product adds features within our product UI. It helps us improve certain parts of our product experience, and that would help our users get more engaged with our product. This would be a brand new tool for us so it would take more time to implement.
Both products provide value for us. But as soon as I started thinking about how our users would benefit from the products, the comparison became much more clear. The first product would be easier for us to implement, but it would require a lot more work to convert the information we get out of it to actual changes in our UI for our users. The second product takes more work initially, but results in immediate changes in the UI that directly help our users.
Thinking in these terms, I prefer going for whatever helps our users directly.
Morning pages are a tool invented by Julia Cameron and introduced to me through a Tim Ferriss video. From Cameron’s website:
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. _There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages_– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
I started writing morning pages a couple of months ago. They’re a fantastic way of getting thoughts out of your head with very little friction. I don’t meditate (even though I should) but I think morning pages may have similar or complementary benefits.
The only requirement is to write 3 pages so you could write out your schedule for the day or your shopping list, but that’s a waste of the opportunity. It’s most helpful to really think about what’s been bouncing around in your head and write it down on paper so you can make sense of it. Writing is thought on paper. Morning pages can help you gain clarity.
I don’t keep my morning pages. They either go in the trash or deleted from my iPad. At most I keep them around until the next morning so I can reflect (mostly about how dumb I was the day before).
The habit of writing morning pages is also a great way of creating content. I’m working on being a net creator, and there’s nothing better than starting off the day by creating 3 pages of content. Some of that content is already turning into blog posts (after lots of editing 🙂).