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Why PLG is Becoming the Ultimate Revenue Driver

Chief Marketing Officer, UpKeep


While PLG is a lot like ABM in its early days, it differs in who shapes the strategy and who is aware of that strategy during the customer lifecycle. Dan Frohnen, CMO at UpKeep covers how PLG has changed marketing, how to manage multiple go-to-market funnels, letting people buy the way they want to buy, and being intentional about PLG.

Meet Dan

Dan Frohnen is the CMO at UpKeep. He is a data-driven revenue leader and focused team-leader skilled in consistently delivering innovation, visibility, and sales for on- and off-line marketing, demand generation and sales programs. Dan has a passion for conceptualizing and implementing marketing and sales strategy, exceeding targeted projections, and leading teams for both B2B & B2C programs. 

Top Takeaways

PLG Versus ABM

How does PLG compare to ABM? 

When ABM was at its very earliest stages, it was called Account Based Marketing. What people quickly realized is that it wasn't just marketing, it was actually marketing, sales, CS, and ultimately a business strategy. I, along with the teams I worked on, came to the conclusion that Account Based Marketing was just good marketing.

It was highly segmented, it was really knowing your audiences, it was designed to deliver at the right time and the right place to maximize your investments to hopefully scale businesses rather quickly. PLG in a lot of ways is the same thing. It's very similar in terms of where ABM was seven or eight years ago. PLG has grown in conversation and in activation. It's starting to become a bit of a buzzword for the past couple of years now. But the more it becomes known, the more people confuse it for what it actually is.

There's a lot more to PLG than just product-led growth. A lot of what needs to be talked about is who's at the table. You should really have anyone at the table who is touching the customer in the life cycle. It doesn't mean that everyone at the table should necessarily have an opinion or even chime in on the strategy, but they should be informed along the way so that they can be thinking about how a PLG motion might be impacting their team. Eventually you can get a holistic view of the customer life cycle and customer journey so that it’s as good as it can possibly be for the entire experience of the customer. 

The Impact of PLG

How has PLG changed the marketing role?

Just in general, marketing has gotten increasingly harder. Marketers are being asked to do more with less. A lot of companies are either starting their journey as a PLG and then adding maybe a sales-led motion, or companies are getting to a certain milestone from a sales-led motion, and then adding a PLG motion on to that. Every time that you add a different customer type or a different way of landing or expanding, plus the data associated with it, you're creating complexity in the customer journey.

That’s why it's important to have marketing at the table very early on: to scale your efforts. Operations is the key to everything. They're really thinking about the journey. They're managing the data and making sure that it's just not squirrely and all over the place.

From my vantage point, particularly at upkeep where 85%-90% of all of our customers at some point hit a free trial during the sales process or just self-serve themselves, there's no better qualified lead than someone who decided to try your product. That's gold. The second highest quality lead is going to be a demo request. The third highest quality lead would be just passive on your website or looking at content.

When we look at a free trial, the first thing that we're actually doing is segmenting down to the ideal customer. That's persona. That's also target account, based on industries and geo's that we do really well in where we would want to actually get a little bit more hands-on with that person in the trial to make sure that they're getting the optimum experience. So we'll look at a couple different things. One is time to actually sign in and do their first action. The first action for us is usually a work order or reoccurring sort of preventative maintenance set up, and then adding assets to the platform. Our entire free trial onboarding, where our, our SDRs are heavily involved, is really taking them down that journey and making sure that they hit those milestones over the first seven or fourteen days, and then driving them to have a larger conversation with the sales organization.

By doing that, we’ve seen that we've achieved higher win rates and then higher landing deal sizes. On the pure product side, where we know it's non ICP, that's based on vertical and on geo, where we just don't have expertise. It's much more product self-led where there's in-app messaging. We've started to pre-populate the platform with data so that they can really visualize from day one, what this thing looks like. That makes it really easy for them to actually take that data out and put their own in when the time comes. We want the experience to help us reaching certain milestones that will ultimately drive product adoption help UpKeep become sticky.

Managing Multiple Funnels

How do you manage multiple go-to-market funnels?

We have heavy inbound business but we have an outbound motion as well. First and foremost, when we're running digital, we'll experiment with a demo offer. We'll also experiment with a free trial. We've started to really go out and showcase the value of the platform, show why someone would want to use it, and then give them the choice of how they want to get exposed to it. If they prefer a demo, get the demo. If they prefer a free trial, get a free trial. Some of the best companies that I've seen grow up through PLG, like the Zendesks of the world, have really had the CTAs for either option plainly side by side so that you can get the optimal experience for you.

Then when you ingest the data into your system that's why it's so key to have a scoring mechanism in place and the data ability to be able to know who they are and what their priority is to you. Will they go down the true self-serve path, or the higher touch sales letter path? On the marketing side it's just been incumbent upon us to be able to build the content journey that gets both sides to a successful outcome.

Personalized Buying Options

How do you let people want to buy the way they want to buy?

We have a predictable conversion rate from free trial to paid customer. We have a predictable rate from free trial to sales led motion. We see different behaviors in the emerging market, mid-market, and enterprise. It goes back to that original philosophy that people are going buy the way that they want to buy.

As of now, people are not looking to do enterprise wide deployments by buying in the product. They want to talk to someone. They wan to vet the product and fit. They want to see a demo. They want to see the configuration. They want to see social proof. Personalized buying is dependent on the market and what you're selling as well.

think about the strategy of a grocery store. You walk in and you need milk, but you have to go all the way to the back of the store through all these aisles that make you think you need other things that you see when in fact all you need is milk. The second piece to that is that when you go into the grocery store, there's a reason that the products that are for kids are below your waist. They want the kids to see it, because kids are influencers.

Take that and apply it to PLG. If you truly have an open place for people to come in and try the product, you're gonna get individual users of the product. You're going to get people at manager levels. You might even get a C-level in there. Not usually, but sometimes you will. That goes back to regardless of whether you're purchasing the product in the product or through a sales motion, you need influencers. You need people who are advocating for your product. You need people saying, “I just tried this new product I've been poking around with for a week. I want to show you what I've done and what I think the value can be for the team.” The same things apply here as in the grocery store. It's building the right level stuff within the product and the right guided motion so that people can have those aha moments and be influenced to, to act. That's the beauty of PLG.

Intentional PLG

How can you be intentional about PLG?

PLG has to be intentional for sure. At my level, I have the benefit of being able to ask about the why and get down to the crux of the strategy. For people maybe a couple levels removed from that, it's incumbent upon them to still ask about the why and to really push for a holistic view of everything.

If I put myself in the seat of Marketing Operations where you're in a production meeting and someone says, “Hey, we need to develop this workflow and this nurture journey for our new PLG motion.” Ask why, and how's that related to everything else. The combination of everyone asking why and demanding that the strategy be there is a very healthy thing that will ultimately make it a lot more successful. But sometimes like you're going to be told to do something and you're gonna just have to do it. That's sometimes that's the way business goes. At the very least ask why to connect it to strategy so you can make it meaningful and as successful as you possibly can.