What is Product Led Growth (PLG) in 2023 and Why Should You Care?
What is Product Led Growth (PLG) in 2023 and Why Should You Care?
Tim Geisenheimer
Tim Geisenheimer
Product Led Revenue

What is Product Led Growth (PLG) in 2023 and Why Should You Care?

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What is Product-Led Growth in 2023?

This is an update of the blog post which was originally published in 2021.

The simplest definition of product-led growth (PLG) is a software product that allows an end user to start using the product without any restrictions. Some examples of products many of us use everyday that employ a PLG model are Slack, Zoom, Calendly, Dropbox and Expensify

By allowing users to sign up and start using great products without any friction, these companies enable end users to get value from their products immediately. This puts the power of buying software in the hands of end users.

Arguably this strategy is even more important in 2023 than ever before. With a global recession looming, it's becoming harder than ever to get buying approval for software. Products that have a sticky user base and which generate a lot of value for those users are more likely to be retained in the current economic environment.

So why is PLG an effective business model? Before we dive into the benefits, let’s first look back at how software was traditionally bought and sold.

product led growth company examples

How enterprise software used to be sold 

Historically, if you wanted to use software at work, you had to spend weeks, months, and sometimes even longer going through a purchase process that was centrally managed by a business function and usually the IT department. 

Before you could use web conferencing software, deploy an email server, share files, or do expenses, you needed to talk to a salesperson, see a demo, go through procurement, and any number of additional steps.

Control over this process was often in the hands of the central buyer (IT or the business executive running sales, marketing, HR etc) and the sales team of the vendor. The vendor could decide how to provide access to a demo or trial, controlled pricing, access to features, and had any number of other levers at their disposal during the negotiation period.

The rise of PLG

The traditional motion of buying and selling software has been upended with the advent of product-led growth. Now individual end users are able to easily adopt software that solves their problems without needing to talk to a salesperson or involve their central IT department. Let’s walk through a few of the key benefits, and new challenges, this model unlocks.

Benefits of PLG

  1. The Product Sells Itself... to an extent. One of the core business model benefits of PLG is that great products often have natural virality that leads to organic expansion. Individual users invite their teammates, they want to access more features and integrations, and the natural expansion and adoption happens. Many of these  events can be monetized automatically, meaning users pay and upgrade themselves, though it often is helpful and provides a better experience when companies involve the sales and CS teams.
  2. Lower Cost to acquire a Customer (CAC). Because of the virality that the best PLG products often have, the cost to acquire customers is lower and their lifetime value (LTV) is higher than traditional software products. (read: investors will be sending Valentines)
  3. The Power of Land and Expand. Related to the prior two bullets, but worth mentioning on its own, is the power to land customers at a low amount of revenue and expand them over time. This leads to a >100% Net Dollar Retention (NDR) metric that many of the best PLG SaaS companies like Snowflake (158% NDR), Twilio (139%) and Datadog (130%) have.

product led growth and net dollar retention
Image Credit: KellBlog & SaaStr

Challenges of PLG for Sales and Customer Success

  1. Which Customers are Ready to Convert or Expand? While it’s true that product-led growth companies see a lot of organic conversion and expansion, every PLG company also has a sales and CS team. Those teams often find it challenging to determine which customers are ready to convert from organic/self-service to sales-led and which are ready to expand to new features or a higher tier plan. Sometimes this is solves by using a PLG CRM. (*cough* *cough* This is something we help with at Correlated so if you’re having this problem, reach out!)
  2. Who Should We Speak With? At scaling PLG companies with thousands of customers and sometimes hundreds of thousands or even millions of users, it can be extremely challenging to know which users to speak with in a Sales or Customer Success context. Finding your champion is often the best way to expand and upsell within an organization.
  3. Alignment Across Business Teams Product, marketing, sales, and customer success teams all play a crucial role in successfully launching and maintaining a product-led growth strategy. Because of this, one of the biggest challenges at any PLG company is making sure each respective business team is aligned on which metrics are most important for the company, and each team’s role in achieving those goals.

Learn & share with other product-led leaders

Join our bi-weekly Product Led Revenue call that features experts from leading PLG companies. See you there!

Where is PLG going?

One of the biggest trends to happen since we published this blog post is the rise of hybrid sales + PLG GTM motions. In 2021 many companies were still figuring out how to marry their self-serve product that appealed to end users with an enterprise sales motion of >$25-50k deals led by sales teams. In 2023, with the help of tools like Correlated, that is becoming an easier problem to solve.

Ultimately, it seems clear that the PLG genie can’t be put back in the bottle. The business and dev tools of today need to be immediately accessible to end users. The success of large PLG software companies that have IPO’d in the last two years like Zoom, Slack, Datadog and MongoDB is a testament to the effectiveness of the business model. In fact, according to OpenView, all of the top IPOs in 2019 were PLG companies.

Talk to our team

If you’d like to learn more about how we’re helping companies be more proactive in expansion and upsell conversations using Slack, reach out and let us know!

Interested in learning about how Correlated can help your PLG company uncover expansion and upsell opportunities?

Sales and revenue leaders at PLG companies, like yourself, are faced with unique challenges. Using tools like Correlated can help sales and marketing teams identify new accounts that are ready to convert, or can help to notify your team for expansion and upsell opportunities.

Schedule a Demo