PLG tools for each step of the customer journey
You may have heard the old tales of Product-led Growth. Stories about a magical model in which the product is not just the main star 🌟, but it sells itself! And even though nothing is as simple as that, Product-led Growth or PLG gets close.
It’s not magic, though! For a product-led growth strategy to work, you’ll need to track the customer journey and automate things that would normally get done by sales and marketing teams. In this article, we’ll explain the basics of what Product-led Growth is, and also help you to gather a set of tools to implement this strategy effectively for each step of the customer journey. Let us guide you on your visit to the shop. Pick up your toolbox and get ready to start filling it up! 🛠️
Here are our recommended PLG tools for each step of the customer journey
What is Product-led Growth?
Product-led Growth or PLG is a model that relies on the product as the engine for company growth. Simply put, in every stage of the customer journey, the product is the main focus. Instead of spending more on aggressive sales and marketing campaigns, you improve your product and incorporate mechanisms to grow organically with less human involvement.
But how can a product lead by itself? Well, that rests on two keywords: automation and tracking. To start preparing your PLG toolbox you need to understand first what those tools are for.
- Effortless value. Your product needs to communicate value as soon as possible. New users should understand not only how to use your product at first contact, but also what actual benefits your product provides. You may call this –as we have done before– an “Aha!” moment. The idea is to remove all possible friction between the moment of awareness and the discovery of product value and reinforce those moments of sudden realization.
- Users attract users. Your product needs to grow with less involvement on your part. Leave that to your users! Viral growth is done by incentivizing users to invite other users and work as ambassadors of your product. That means not just giving the option to share your product but actually encouraging those behaviors as an integral part of the customer experience.
- Hands-off sales. Your product needs to depend less on humans and more on automated processes. You can incorporate a self-service model to handle sales (including upselling and cross-selling) directly without the involvement of a dedicated sales team. That doesn’t mean eliminating one-on-one sales but allows your team to focus on targeted and larger customers, leaving the day-to-day sales operations to the users themselves. Just as they sign up on their own, let them check out on their own too.
- Data-driven decisions. Even though Product-led Growth reduces the need for human intermediaries, it doesn’t just happen by itself. It requires fine-tuning, supervision, and optimization. Data tracking how your users interact with your product is vital to refine the tools and strategies you are employing. That way, you can identify blind spots and find new growth opportunities.
Tools for each step of the customer journey
So you already know what you want to achieve, but your toolbox is still empty 🧰. Let’s travel the customer journey step by step while we pick the appropriate tools for each one. For that, we have divided it into four main stages: Awareness / Research, Acquisition, Engagement, and Loyalty.
As you’ll see in the diagram, even though each stage has its own specialized tools, some of them cross over, so keep in mind that tools can have more than a single specific use at different points of the customer journey.
A. Awareness / Research.
At this stage of the customer journey, potential customers are looking for potential solutions for their current problem: and some of them may not even be aware there’s something they need to fix! You’ll need to catch their attention generating content that appeals to the right buyer personas. If your Product-led Growth strategy is to succeed, you need to create targeted content that will interest users that fit profiles that can be used for the self-sustaining nature of PLG. Vital tools at this stage are:
You need to understand how your users are arriving at your product. Where are they coming from? What are they looking for? Use analytics to track what paths are your leads taking to get to you and what terms are they searching for. Tools like Google Analytics and Amplitude are not just to understand how things are but also allow you to set goals and refine your marketing strategies and your customer personas.
You can combine analytics tools too. At Beamer, we provide a robust analytics toolkit for tracking user behavior, segment, target, and even integrating data directly with Google Analytics.
Once you understand how your users arrive, it’s time to optimize those paths. SEO tools help you to analyze keywords, optimize your content for specific audiences and get a better rank in search engines. As PLG is focused on users finding your product and interacting with it organically, SEO is vital to promote that interaction. Instead of you looking for new users, you need to provide a frictionless path for them to find you.
A great example of this sort of tool is Moz, that provides keyword research, rank tracking, and content optimization. Another example is Ahrefs, an all-in-one SEO kit with a very pedagogic approach that includes free tutorials, guides, learning materials and an involved community.
Social media automation
We don’t have to tell you that having a social media presence is a must these days. It’s a way to reinforce your brand and boosting awareness. Building a recognizable and trustworthy brand makes PLG easier but just being on the social media sphere is not enough. Sustaining that presence requires regular content outputs, interactions with users and that’s a lot of human work!
Less human involvement is both a goal and a method in Product-led Growth! You can use social media scheduling and tracking tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and Later to make the job of publishing content across multiple platforms easier. That will allow your marketing and community management teams to spend less time posting and more time optimizing the reach of the content they produce.
Retargeting / Remarketing tools
From all the potential customers that arrive at your product, only a fraction stays and converts. Retargeting and remarketing tools allow you to identify leads that haven’t signed up and reignite their interest in your product. 💌
Retargeting tools let you show targeted ads to people that already interacted with your product at some past touchpoint. That way, you can boost awareness and position your brand in front of an audience that has already shown interest in your product. Google Ads and AdRoll are popular options for retargeting.
If a lead has subscribed to your newsletter or has created a new account without finishing the onboarding process, you can re-engage them with targeted email marketing and newsletters. Think of tools like Mailchimp, Sendgrid, or ActiveCampaign.
You have attracted your potential customers and they are signing up! What tools can lead them to conversion? Many companies that have implemented PLG strategies try to remove initial cost barriers to allow users to experience the value of their product first-hand before taking the next step.
This can be achieved with demos, trials, and the freemium model. Allowing your potential customers to use the product can not only communicate its value without much guidance but also help you track potential pain points with real user data. To communicate value, guide users, and gather data, you can trust the following tools:
Testing and analyzing conversions
As you may have noticed along the way, fine-tuning your processes is key to successful Product-led Growth. Even the smallest changes in a landing page (like a headline or even the color of a button) can have an enormous impact on conversion levels. That’s why you need to test, measure and go with the options that convert the most. Any tool that allows you to test your strategies is fundamental for your toolbox.
A/B testing is a research methodology in which you produce different versions of a landing page or user interface to measure users’ interactions and conversion levels, and then implement the most effective approach. You can use tools like Unbounce, AB Tasty or FreshMarketer to quickly and easily produce landing pages for A/B testing, those different versions of the same page will be shown randomly to users and –guided by their behavior and conversion rates– you’ll be able to pick the winning strategies.
Multiple landing pages are not just for testing, though. You can have several landing pages, each one of them focused on a search term, audience, keyword, or benefit. For example, if your product has multiple key features you can create a landing page for each one of them. That way, whatever potential customers are searching for, they’ll land in a personalized space that caters to that need specifically.
A/B Testing and multiple landing pages are complementary strategies. One allows you to have a broad scope of search-specific entry points, and the other allows you to test different versions of those entry points to see what sticks.
You can also use tools like Hotjar to get an accurate picture of what your users really do, with heatmaps of user activity and recordings. For example, you can visualize how users spend their time on your app, in what specific parts of your site they stop the most, how far down they scroll, or where they click the most.
The onboarding process is central to converting users. There are different tools that can make that process more effective like walkthroughs and product tours.
The main goal should be to craft a frictionless onboarding process where users can learn how to use your product while they discover its value and the benefits provided by the main features. A popular and effective way to do so is with onboarding checklists that track the steps taken and invite the user to start using the product with clear and engaging prompts and calls to action.
Email marketing tools
Email marketing can be complementary to your onboarding process. Email marketing strategies with tools like Mailchimp, and ActiveCampaign can help you:
- Remind users to complete the onboarding process if they have left it unfinished.
- Communicate product value, feature discovery and specific benefits, with targeted emails to promote activation.
- Guide users to support channels (e.g. support chats, tutorials, educational videos) to solve the issues that can arise during onboarding and early usage.
The key to a successful PLG email marketing campaign –especially at the acquisition stage– is based on respect of users’ times and rhythms: not overwhelming them with emails but not waiting too long to contact them again ⚖️.
These days users are accustomed to quick responses and direct communication. That’s why in-app chats are vital. Tools like Drift can help you to easily embed a chat on your product.
These kinds of chats are useful for different steps in the customer journey:
- At the acquisition stage, users can solve their initial concerns and get help starting to use your product. You can smooth the onboarding process allowing them to get answers to their specific issues and helpful recommendations.
- At the engagement stage (and beyond), chats are a powerful support tool and can boost your users’ confidence in your product by sustaining direct communication.
PLG requires the coordination of multiple teams –not just development, sales, or product marketing. Even though customer relationship management tools (or CRMs) can be considered sales-led tools, they can also be used to coordinate PLG strategies.
- For self-service clients, a CRM serves as an aggregator or repository of interactions with users and leads (e.g. communications, feedback, tracked data, bug reports, ticketing). You can use that history as fuel for your other PLG tools.
- For corporate and larger customers –that usually need more one-to-one interaction or tailor-made customizations– the CRM history can help to coordinate your team and keep all on the same page.
These two approaches aren’t mutually exclusive, you can have a self-service model, while you focus the efforts of sales and marketing teams in a one-on-one relationship with selected Enterprise customers. Some very well-know examples of CRM tools can be Hubspot, FreshSales, Salesforce, etc.
This far in the customer journey you need to retain converted users, avoid churning and lead them to upgrade. For that customer success tools like onboarding, in-app chats, and personalized messages (that we tackled in the previous section) are still useful. But the core of this stage is the combo of changelog, feedback, and roadmap.
Product-led Growth demands an ever-evolving product. As you launch new features, fix bugs, and improve your product, you’ll need a way to keep users updated and engaged while promoting feature discovery. Unlike other communication channels (like social media or blogs), changelogs allow you to update users in-context. Changelogs are far more effective than other methods, because users can read about improvements in your app or site, without leaving said app or site; the message and the experience live side-by-side.
Hearing what your users have to say is not only vital for a good relationship with them but also can give you valuable information to improve your Product-led Growth strategy. Any sort of feedback from bug reports to reviews, can be used to further product development and user experience (UX).
As feedback can include a broad range of data gathering methods, you should open as many channels as possible, while having a centralized system to filter, prioritize and translate those inputs into useful metrics.
- Bug reports, reviews, and tickets direct you to specific issues that need to be taken care of.
- Comments and surveys can inform you about problems but also things that users would like to see next.
- Reactions, and user activity can also be considered feedback, and its crucial data to other tools already described in this article.
Roadmaps are lists or “maps” 🗺️ of features, projects, and ideas that your team is proposing, considering, or working on. They give your users a big picture of your product’s long-term vision and keep them informed about updates, ongoing and future.
A public roadmap organizes and adds transparency to the development process. With a roadmap, your users can follow exactly how your product is improving and what you’re planning to do next.
Some roadmaps include feedback opportunities too, like upvotes and features request, transforming users from passive observers of the evolution of your product into active and involved participants in its success.
By combining these three approaches (changelog + feedback + roadmap) you can close the feedback loop. That means, gathering user feedback, analyzing it in a centralized system, making the necessary improvements, and communicating those changes to fuel the cycle again. You don’t need to worry about crafting your own tools to do so. Beamer is a powerful suite of tools that includes an easy-to-use changelog that you can embed directly on your app or site to keep users up to date on every change.
It also provides feedback gathering through comments and reactions, that combined with analytics can help you make smarter decisions and user-focused improvements. You can also answer your users directly creating a new channel of communication with your audience and user base. And to complete the trio, Beamer also has a roadmap feature that will allow you to share your development plans with your users in an organized manner. Your users can vote for what improvements interest them the mosts and even suggest features on their own.
At the final stage of the customer journey, you need to take the strong relationship you built with your customers in the previous stage to the next level: turning them into advocates and ambassadors. For Product-led Growth, this step is crucial as one of the motors of organic growth depends on users sharing and promoting your product. To achieve this sort of relationship you’ll need the following tools:
Net Promoter Score®
Net Promoter Score® or NPS® is a way to measure user satisfaction and loyalty. With a simple survey, you can identify your product’s promoters and detractors. NPS is very versatile. Combined with a changelog it can be a very powerful engagement tool. And on its own, it’s a whole different way to collect feedback, that allows you to know when a client is inclined to recommend your product but –more importantly– why.
By tapping into your promoters, you can turn them into brand ambassadors, ask them to invite new users, share your product with their own contacts, networks, and audiences. Identifying your promoters can help you create specific campaigns for them to bring new customers and help the virality of PLG expand.
By following up on your detractors you can track what needs to get fixed. This kind of feedback can be very useful to improve your product, and again you have another opportunity to close the loop by implementing those updates and announce them accordingly.
Beamer has an easy-to-use and easy-to-implement NPS feature, that will allow you to set up surveys in a matter of minutes, and start to identify promoters right away!
Loyal customers will usually be glad to leave positive reviews and promote your product, but you can incentivize those behaviors with referral programs. A referral program rewards users’ promotion efforts economically, with discounts, early-access, or in-app benefits. You can manage referral campaigns and automate rewards with tools like Talon.One or Viral Loops to organically grow your network of vocal ambassadors.
There are different kinds of referral programs like affiliate links or invite rewards. An example of this method is Dropbox rewarding users that invite others by expanding their storage capacity. This strategy not only promotes referrals, but also by using storage as the reward currency it highlights the value of the product itself.
Product-led Growth may seem both simple and complex depending on how you look at it, but the benefits are undeniable. You can try some or all of the tools in this article and begin building a toolbox that will fit your product’s needs. But better yet, you’ll now be able to understand what tool is best for each step in the customer journey! With automation and tracking, you’ll be able to spend less time micromanaging growth and more time developing a product that everybody loves. And that’s what will bring growth home! 😉
If you want to implement a changelog, a roadmap, get useful feedback, or start using NPS, think of Beamer. Beamer is a toolbox of its own, providing not only an easy-to-use embeddable changelog and roadmap but also powerful analytics, thousands of third-party integrations, and a whole set of features to take your Product-led Growth strategy to the next level. Try Beamer for free today!