I started using most of the platforms and products I use daily because they were suggested to me, they were necessary, or they had a fantastic reputation. Notice I didn’t say a word about advertising. That’s because with product-led companies, it is the product itself that attracts users, not an ad campaign.
What is Product-Led?
Wes Bush, the founder and CEO of ProductLed, a “Community For Product-Led Growth Professionals,” writes,
Unlike sales-led companies where the whole goal is to take a buyer from Point A to Point B in a sales cycle, product-led companies… [give] the buyer the “keys” to use the product.
Giving the user the “keys” to the product allows them to experience it for themselves. Hopefully, after seeing the value in the product, they will think that the product is worth continuing to use. Whether this means upgrading to a paid plan or not canceling a free trial. Product-led growth focuses on making sure the product attracts and retains users.
In an interview, Wes Bush used a bowling analogy to describe product-led growth. A user first trying out a company’s product is like a first-time bowler–they roll a lot of gutter balls. These gutter balls are a result of hiccups in the onboarding process or the product itself. For the user to strike out or continue using the product, the goal of companies should be to put up bumpers to prevent the ball from going into the gutter.
These bumpers include streamlining, onboarding, tips, and user guides. One hiccup a user might face is verifying their email address when setting up an account. When a user goes to their email to activate their account, they may see another email, get distracted, and never finish signing up. To avoid this hiccup, he suggests delaying email verification. This helps keep the user, or (sticking with the bowling analogy) the ball, on the right track.
My Product-Led Company Picks
Calendly is a scheduling platform. I started using it because my academic advisors and professors used it. And I can see why they use it. It simplifies the scheduling process. It takes the hassle out of scheduling a meeting. No more going back and forth, picking a time, and having to add that meeting to your calendar. Calendly handles this for you.
Like Calendly, Slack also has clear value as a communication platform. However, they also attract users with their free trial. This allows potential users to experience Slack’s usefulness for themselves.
Slack has easily accessible user guides. On their homepage, they have videos that help users engage with their platforms. But they don’t stop there. If the user has a question they can begin a chat and talk to the “Slack Assistant.”
Canva allows users to use their design tools without creating an account. From the homepage, they can immediately begin creating.
When you click to create an Instagram post, there is help along the way. Below is a screenshot of a pop-up with a help video.
Dropbox allows users to store, share, and collaborate on files. They know why they are valuable and hope that users see this value too. They are confident in their ability to add value to their users’ lives so they offer a free trial.
Dropbox also provides help along a user’s journey. As I was looking at the plans Dropbox offers, a chat box popped open offering help.
How could I not mention FROGED? While it isn’t as front-facing as the companies mentioned above (I’m still a student, so I very much live in a B2C world), I’ve found product-led growth is the driving force behind the evolution of customer success—making FROGED more of a product success SaaS platform.
It is in essence a product-led company designed to achieve product success for like-minded businesses. It allows SMBs to tackle the challenges of onboarding, retention, and proactive customer support in one place. (The magic here is that FROGED uses their product every day with their own clients!) It doesn’t get more product-led than their business model.
Product-Led Company Commonalities
Since this article is about being PRODUCT-led, I believe all of these companies have good products. They add value to their users’ lives and are standouts among their competitors. In addition to their product focus, they are all very customer-centric. They pay attention to what will make for a good user experience, such as chat features and knowledge bases.
They also offer proactive customer support with the chats and guides automatically popping up. They understand that easy onboarding helps them keep in contact with their customers so that they can later send them behavioral marketing emails. Overall, these companies focus on creating a start to finish positive experience for their users that keeps them coming back.