The SaaS space has evolved. Apps are now expected to provide a frictionless onboarding experience, with high doses of in-app freedom. Product-Led Growth (PLG) is spearheading this consumption shift. Despina Exadaktylou is one of the top PLG experts today, with her Product-Led Growth Hub inspiring thousands of product, growth and engineering professionals globally. We sat down with her for an exclusive talk about PLG in 2022 and beyond.
Besides managing her world-renowned PLG academy, Despina is very active on social media and also runs a Slack community. She sees Frontegg and it’s end-to-end user management platform as a major player in the Product-Led era.
Let’s dive into the Q&A.
1. How did it all start for you? Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey.
I got into SaaS ten years ago. Having extensive experience in B2B marketing for SaaS and having extensive experience in putting together numerous funnels and campaigns, I always found something missing across the customer journey.
Being a user onboarding geek, I decided to research 40+ organizations like Hubspot, Drift, Intercom, Segment, and more. It helped me learn how they optimized their product experience. I also had the pleasure to meet my mentor and friend Nick Bonfiglio, the author of the 1st book on PLG, “Mastering Product Experience in SaaS, With a PLG go-to-market Approach”.
My research paper was downloaded by thousands of SaaS practitioners (developers and product experts alike) and business executives across the globe. This was essentially my official entry into the PLG industry.
Following the research’s success, the first thoughts of putting together a solid foundation for the community to turn to when undergoing a product-led transformation process came into mind. This is how I put together Product-Led Growth Hub, World’s #1 PLG academy – which is growing by the minute to become an end to end training & career acceleration platform for all things PLG.
2. Talk about the evolution of Product-Led Growth.
The various marketing and automation tools a few years ago were not able to deliver insights in regards to how the user would behave inside the product. The insights and experimentation would end upon sign up. So, no matter the A/B testing or the top of the funnel data at disposal, there was always something missing from the equation in regards to when and why accounts would convert.
Also, the product experience (not a keyword at the time) was significantly neglected. User onboarding for the majority of the companies did not entail a systemic process which would educate and activate users from activation down to expansion. PLG, also a very new term at the time, entailed everything that I put into practice for many SaaS organizations struggling with scalability, regardless of their growth stage.
3. Please share one or two core problems you are seeing with companies that are not prioritizing PLG today. How can PLG help solve them?
I think that the problems can multiply depending on the product and its use case(s). I would say that the majority of issues come down to not acknowledging user behavior and investing in old sales infrastructure instead of a core product growth team. Investing in the latter can accelerate revenue in the long term by pushing new features and value propositions into the spotlight.
Now that digital transformation affects many different industries, it is imperative to have a PLG process to systematically assess data, customer feedback and adopt a blend of business and product KPIs for sustainable results. Product usage, PQLs, and alignment with business KPIs need to be integrated within the daily workflows of product, engineering, and revenue teams.
“SaaS businesses need to shift to a proactive approach, analyze data, experiment and repeat, to successfully find the patterns related to activation and churn. It’s now imperative to constantly track activation, adoption and the ROI both can deliver.“Despina Exadaktylou
4. While the main benefits of embracing PLG are known to most product professionals and business executives, what tips do you have for companies that are already making the shift? How can they gain the edge?
Unlike what many people believe, growth is not a mechanism you can hack and accelerate. If PLG proves something is exactly that. An organization needs to design and enforce processes to align and make the product its cornerstone, all as smoothly as possible with minimal friction in pretty much every aspect, from sales, packaging and pricing, all the way down to growth assessment and expansion.
While there’s no surefire recipe, you should set a North Star metric across product, engineering and revenue teams will certainly help create a point of reference when it comes to product delivery. For example, the activation point of your product could enrich product development decisions, improve your onboarding process, and help revenue teams to invest in customer feedback aligned around that.
At the same time your PQLs – or any product KPI per se – can help assess the success of those efforts by taking into account the exact steps users need to implement to get there. If I have to summarize this, metrics, experimentation and making this a team effort will considerably help into any effort businesses make internally to become truly Product-Led.
5. What elements of PLG do you feel are neglected or underestimated?
User management plays a big role in the big PLG picture because it has an enormous impact on customer satisfaction and business growth. Giving autonomy to users is perhaps the foundation pillar following PLG.
Users need to be able to seamlessly access the product, activate features, and convert, while at the same time being able to manage every aspect of their account seamlessly. All of this should happen without drowning in ticket management and replying to multiple emails from support teams. Companies tend to forget that frictionless user experience should be an integral part of every PLG process.
User management is perceived as authentication only, but is now transitioning to an end-to-end approach. For users to be fully in-app independent, their identities have to be managed. User management capabilities such as sign-up, sign-in, inviting users, removing users, assigning roles and permissions, managing billing and subscriptions are an essential part of the user’s experience and independence.
6. Your thoughts on Frontegg’s end-to-end user management solution that allows devs to work on core technologies?
Frontegg’s “front and back” coverage means that you get strong authentication flows and other user management features, but also provide the UI component via the admin portal layer by Frontegg. The Admin Portal layer is a customizable UI component with an interactive Login Box builder, allowing end-users to control their accounts on their own and enjoy a zero friction experience.
All of the aforementioned advantages allow development teams to focus on what matters most – innovation. With self-served user management features implemented with just a few clicks, they can focus on their core technology.
7. What does the future hold for PLG? Is it here to stay? Where do you see this going in the future?
I personally believe that PLG is here to stay. During the last 4 years many companies have become aware of how radically it revolutionizes the customer journey and are now willing to invest in what we call product experience. Despite the fact that aligning your whole organization around the product is easier said than done, Product-Led organizations will exceed their growth goals for the long run.
That being said, I think that the transition to a product led mindset still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to enterprise organizations with complicated processes – which are not flexible in transitioning like SMBs or startups. PLG transformation may seem difficult, but in the end it is all about shifting to a mindset that puts the product front and center – by creating growth processes around it.
For starters (pun intended), product-led organizations can start off by just creating a freemium offering for a specific flavor of the product and progressively apply them to every tier. On the other hand, engineering can be nurtured down the product-led mindset by coming closer to their subordinate teams, acknowledging customer feedback and complementing product decisions.
Revenue teams can progressively adopt new and more proactive tactics by taking advantage of product usage, even while talking to enterprise customers who by default are more demanding on the team adoption and workflow optimization fronts.
8. Please share some information about upcoming Product-Led Hub events and your plans for 2022.
At Product-Led Growth Hub, we are currently planning multiple dedicated events on PLG and beyond. After the successful launch of PLG Disrupt 2021, we now plan to expand and launch more events dedicated to all PLG aspects. Bootcamps will evangelize its pillars across the board. That being said, our number one focus for 2022 is our Slack community and helping members come closer to PLG notions.
Knowledge is power. We’ve also shortlisted the Top 11 PLG Tools to Consider in 2022 for you. Also, do check out our list of Top 11 PLG Experts to Follow in 2022 to gain additional insights into the rapidly-evolving Product-Led Growth space.