Self Service and Product-Led Growth (PLG): A Budding Love Story

Self Service

There’s no two ways about it. Instant gratification is now a mandatory aspect of SaaS application usage. Users don’t want to write emails or engage with support teams anymore. They want to get onboarded smoothly and just use the software. Companies are shifting towards Product-Led Growth strategies and self-service features are making it all happen. Onboarding, user management, subscriptions – let’s take a closer look at the potent self-service and PLG combo. 

Product-Led Growth (PLG): What’s the Noise all About?

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) was a true gamechanger in the software space, but even that is changing fast with the Product-Led Growth revolution. Why is this relatively new methodology on the rise? The answer is simple. PLG is spiking largely because of market saturation (end-users now have multiple options) and rising customer acquisition process costs that are hindering growth and scalability. 

Traditional sales and marketing ops are flawed because they involve human intervention, which impacts customer experience and creates unavoidable friction. 

The problem starts with understanding the core-value of the software product you are creating. This goes beyond the operational aspect. How many non-PLG companies know how their customers want to feel or be perceived as users? Even if the aforementioned questions have been answered, how do you communicate these findings to the users on an ongoing basis for maximum engagement?

The answer is simple – Product-Led Growth. 

Related: Top 10 PLG Tools for Your SaaS Application

The SaaS Self-Service Model: Maximizing PLG-Enablement

As mentioned earlier, self-served SaaS applications are an accurate description of instant gratification, both for the developers and also for the end-user. Leading self-served SaaS applications all have features like frictionless sign-up flows, interactive widgets, tooltips, user-journey add-ons, and billing/payment options. You are essentially unleashing the power of automation on multiple levels.

Here are just three key technical, operational, and business roadblocks that Product-Led Growth is helping overcome today.

1. Eliminating the Value Gap

By adopting this methodology and letting your application do the talking, you are essentially merging your customer acquisition model with your revenue (subscriptions, billing, and more). There is no gap between the perceived value of your product and the value your customers are experiencing, which was the core of the problem before PLG hit the scene a few years ago. 

PLG - eliminating the value gap
PLG: Eliminating the Value Gap

The Self-Service Bite:

Removing the value gap is great, but value also needs to be demonstrated immediately. You literally have just a few minutes to create impact and convert a Freemium user into a paid one, not to mention upselling and upgrading processes that are also business-crucial. Just a few on-demand features can improve the end-user experience and give a sense of independence. 

Just take a look at DocuSign, which provides even end-users with free accounts to get immediate value with an onboarding experience that’s second to none.

Docusign welcome
Source: Docusign 

Self-service elements can help you create seamless onboarding with zero loopholes and optimal engagement at all important touch points in the user journey. You can use a gamified approach that keeps the end-user locked into the application and guides them through the various touch points needed to create true impact. This is how the combination of PLG and self-service is creating millions of paid customers today. 

2. Reducing In-App Friction

The traditional SaaS model has multiple friction points when it comes to application usage. This results in constant engagement with support and sales teams, something that puts them under pressure and leads to frustration. The meaning of this outdated approach is simple – less than optimal customer satisfaction levels and high churn rates, not to mention poor retention metrics. 

Where are the friction points? This can be at the sign-up stage, during user onboarding, managing accounts, or simply not knowing what to do.

The Self-Service Bite:

The best PLG-centric applications today are self-served, eliminating a wide range of problems and cumbersome tasks that hurted business performance previously. 

For example, end-users want to log in as fast as possible, perform other account-related functions like adding team members, and resolve their issues on their own. 

Just take a look at Slack, a hardcore PLG-drive SaaS application that allows users of all types to smoothly add team members to spread the core value of the application. Getting started with their Freemium version is so fast and easy. Slack reached a market valuation of $7 million in just 5 years and it’s arrow is still pointing up thanks to its self-served nature and user-centric approach.

Users today just want to grow and accelerate usage from within the app. For example:

  • Let them manage their account settings on their own without contacting support and with no need to wait for help. 
  • Social logins and or enterprise SSO empowers them to simply signup or login without any friction (who remembers passwords anyways?).
  • Usage-Based Subscriptions and One-Click Payment Functionality is easy to predict and change as per the various requirements and market conditions.

3. Feel the Pulse and Predict Usage Shifts

How does the non-PLG model work? Marketing professionals often are not connected to the latest product features, sales teams make big promises that are hard to keep, and end-users are stuck with endless loops of emails with support teams (think growing backlogs). PLG changes the entire ecosystem because the customer is experiencing the product and validating it in real-time.

The meaning of this is simple. The PLG and self-service approach is helping detect usage trends, technical issues, and business roadblocks before the “**** hits the fan”.

The Self-Service Bite:

Self-served SaaS applications are creating real-time feedback loops with the end-users, all in an automated manner with actionable insights. They are connected to all aspects of the user-journey – sign up or log in metrics, documentation access, and other strategic engagement points. Furthermore, in-app surveys and announcements help take engagement to a whole new level.

Your user journey is built all around the various end-user touchpoints, while getting tour insights directly from people using the app – pure SaaS gold. 

Related: The 8 Pillars of Self-Service in SaaS Applications

Self-served SaaS features are helping companies create tighter feedback loops and empowering the product teams to better understand end-users. But it goes beyond that. The developers are then free to invest in their core technology and focus on innovation rather than performing mundane SaaS feature-request tasks that also impacts productivity and creates cross-department tension.

Self-Service and Product-Led Growth (PLG): A Potent Combo

As mentioned earlier, self-service and PLG philosophy is a match made in SaaS heaven as it helps both the customer and it’s end-users automate a wide range of tasks and eliminates middle-men. From the developers point of view, we are talking about eliminating time-consuming tasks that are not dealing with the core technology. From the end-users’ point of view, we are talking instant gratification.

The self-service trend is gaining momentum and this is no coincidence. It not only saves valuable time and resources, it also helps improve productivity by freeing up the devs to focus on innovation and quality. Furthermore, all of this is achieved by promoting the Product-Led Growth strategy, which has now become the gold standard in the SaaS space. The time to become proactive is now. 

Self-Served SaaS Essentials At Your Fingertips.

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