Why B2B struggles with PLG
Applying B2C concepts to B2B markets
When I started digging my heels into a more formalized version of what I’ve been doing in product for over 10 years and learned about product-led growth I was fascinated at first.
While product-led growth is starting to have its moment in the limelight and everyone seems to talk about it, only a few are getting it right though.
I noticed some common problems that kept repeating themselves with almost every B2B account post-Series-A:
Contrary to what I expected I almost always had to reach deep into my scaling experience from building organizations and product management rather than just classical PLG frameworks alone.
The visible parts of B2C PLG
There is a ton of content nowadays around product-led growth, heavily skewed towards B2C and the visible parts of it:
Acquisition, activation funnels
And it makes sense, after all, we’re calling product-led growth a “growth” motion, aka a distribution model. How to distribute your product. This presumes that you have a product to distribute.
And yes, every running company post-series-A (hopefully) has an actual product to distribute on.
The above 3 points are “visible” parts of the market and are visible to everyone and therefore easy to create content around.
We all have some kind of pricing page. We all have some kind of do’s and dont’s around acquisition funnels. It’s a learnable framework and copyable to some degree.
The problem is, all these topics are extremely acquisition heavy and you can’t implement PLG from that side alone in B2B.
Lots around acquisition, little around retention
We have all these amazing artifacts around sign-up flows, activation, and growth hacks. Why are so many B2B companies struggling with it?
Because it’s not as easy as your average Linkedinfluencer makes it out to be. If we follow most tips on the web all we are creating is a leaky funnel of a B2C model that cannibalizes business from your sales pipeline.
In December last year, I knew that I’m going all in on PLG, I saw it work at Smallpdf’s upmarket efforts in B2B and other companies.
But I struggled though to find my angle to it. I’m not a traditional growth person. Most of them come from Marketing and then learn how to do product on top.
I’m coming from a deep UX research background with heavy innovation product management behind it and then slowly learned the growth part afterward.
“Product” comes very naturally to me. I structure all my product teams like growth teams and conversely teach growth teams how to focus on product retention.
And this approach works. It works really well. You cannot separate PLG from great product management.
It became abundantly clear with time what B2B in fact is missing to run PLG successfully:
Low-hanging B2B fruits
The majority of my mandates focus first in some way on their trial / freemium offering and the associated activation flows they have. Once we start to do a deep dive it’s not uncommon to see some other interesting opportunities:
A quantitative approach to your users by measuring their “success” objectively without having to resort to revenue
Outcome-driven goal setting for their teams
Collaborative environments that thrive with A/B experimentation setups to move success metrics from customers
Products designed for individual users instead of teams and collaborative efforts
Quantitative analysis on the account level and surfacing simple learnings to non-data functions like Sales easily
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