In today’s rapidly evolving tech landscape, product-led growth (PLG) has emerged as a compelling strategy to scale products. Companies like Notion and Figma have reaped significant benefits from focusing on the product as the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion and expansion.
However, relying solely on PLG can be a double-edged sword, as it might not address all facets of business scalability. In this article, we will delve into why product-led growth, although essential, might not be the silver bullet for scaling, and explore alternative strategies that complement PLG, using Notion and Figma as case studies.
The rise of product-led growth
Product-led growth is a go-to-market strategy that relies on product features, usability, and value to drive customer acquisition and retention. The rise of SaaS companies has propelled PLG to the forefront, with businesses leveraging freemium models, virality, and network effects to scale rapidly. Notion and Figma are exemplary models, having built robust platforms that foster collaboration and enhance productivity, thereby attracting a vast user base.
Notion: The great beginning
Notion, a collaboration and note-taking app, has effectively used PLG to establish a strong market presence. The intuitive interface, customizable templates, and seamless collaboration have made it a favorite among individual users and teams alike. The freemium model allowed users to experience the product’s value before committing financially, contributing to a significant user base expansion.
However, Notion’s journey also highlights the limitations of relying solely on PLG. The company faced challenges in customer education and engagement, which are crucial for converting free users to paid subscribers. Furthermore, as the competition intensified, Notion had to diversify its strategies to include customer success initiatives and partnerships to maintain its growth trajectory.
Notion: Beyond PLG
As we delve into the strategic initiatives and approaches Notion has adopted to solidify its market presence, it becomes evident that the company is not just another Product-Led Growth (PLG) entity. Notion’s multifaceted strategy extends beyond traditional growth mechanisms, focusing on community engagement, seamless integrations, educational outreach, and customer-centric initiatives.
Community engagement: Notion has invested significantly in building a vibrant community of users. The company hosts webinars, workshops, and Q&A sessions to foster engagement and facilitate knowledge sharing among users. This community-centric approach has helped Notion gather valuable feedback, iterate on its features, and create a sense of belonging among its users.
Partnerships and integrations: Recognizing the importance of a well-integrated ecosystem, Notion has formed strategic partnerships and developed integrations with a variety of apps and platforms. These integrations enhance Notion’s functionality, allowing users to seamlessly connect with other tools and services, thereby increasing the stickiness of the product.
Educational content and customer support: Notion has been active in creating educational content, including tutorials, guides, and blogs, to help users maximize their use of the platform. The company has also invested in responsive customer support to address user queries and issues promptly, thereby reducing churn and improving user satisfaction.
Content marketing: Notion has effectively leveraged content marketing, producing a wide range of content such as blogs, guides, and tutorials. This content not only educates users about the platform’s features but also provides valuable insights into productivity and collaboration, establishing Notion as a thought leader in the industry.
Social media engagement: Notion maintains an active presence on social media platforms, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Through regular updates, engaging content, and prompt responses to user queries, Notion fosters a sense of community and keeps the audience informed about the latest developments and features.
Referral programs: Notion has implemented referral programs that encourage existing users to invite others to the platform. These programs often provide incentives such as additional storage or premium features, motivating users to spread the word and contributing to organic growth.
User testimonials and case studies: Notion showcases user testimonials and case studies on its website and marketing materials. Highlighting how different individuals and teams use the platform helps in building trust and demonstrating the versatility of the product.
Figma: The fresh design choice
Figma, a cloud-based design tool, leveraged PLG by offering real-time collaboration and accessibility, which set it apart from competitors. The tool’s ease of use and innovative features attracted designers globally, creating a strong community and fostering organic growth. One of Figma’s standout features is its ability to facilitate real-time collaboration. Multiple users can work on a design simultaneously, viewing changes and updates in real-time. This feature significantly enhances team synergy and efficiency, reducing the time spent on feedback loops and revisions
However, Figma’s success is not solely attributed to PLG. The company invested heavily in community-building and educational content, enabling users to unlock the full potential of the platform.
Figma: Steps beyond PLG
Figma has strategically stepped beyond the conventional bounds of Product-Led Growth (PLG) by fostering a robust designer community and investing in user education and platform versatility. Here’s a closer look at Figma’s multifaceted approach:
Building a designer community: Figma has placed a strong emphasis on nurturing a global community of designers. The company has initiated various community events, design competitions, and forums, where users can showcase their work, exchange ideas, and learn from one another. This sense of community has not only increased user engagement but also turned users into advocates for the platform.
API and third-party integrations: Figma has developed a robust API, enabling third-party developers to build integrations and plugins that extend the platform’s capabilities. This openness has led to the creation of a rich ecosystem of add-ons and integrations, making Figma more versatile and appealing to a broader audience.
Educational initiatives: Figma has launched a myriad of educational initiatives, including Figma University, which offers courses, tutorials, and resources to help users hone their design skills and make the most of the platform. These initiatives have helped in reducing the learning curve and attracting a diverse user base.
Community events and webinars: Figma organizes and sponsors various community events, webinars, and design challenges. These events serve as a platform for users to learn, network, and share their experiences, thereby fostering a sense of community and promoting the Figma brand.
Influencer collaborations: Figma collaborates with design influencers and thought leaders to create content and host sessions. These collaborations help in reaching a wider audience, building credibility, and positioning Figma as a go-to tool for designers.
SEO and SEM: Figma invests in search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) to enhance its online visibility. By optimizing for relevant keywords and running targeted ad campaigns, Figma attracts potential users actively looking for design tools.
Educational content: Figma produces a wealth of educational content, including tutorials, blog posts, and courses, to help users master the tool. This content not only supports user onboarding and retention but also establishes Figma as an authority in the design space.
Key takeaways for product managers
Diversify growth strategies: While PLG is a powerful strategy, it’s imperative to complement it with other growth levers such as partnerships, community-building, and customer education.
Customer engagement and education: Invest in resources to educate and engage customers, ensuring they realize the full value of the product, which in turn drives conversion and retention.
Build a strong ecosystem: Develop integrations and partnerships to enhance the product’s value proposition and expand the ecosystem, thereby attracting a broader user base.
Stay competitive: Continuously innovate and adapt to stay ahead of the competition, as relying solely on the product might not be sustainable in the long run.
Marketing: By combining content marketing, social media engagement, community events, referral programs, and more, build a strong brand equity, and foster a loyal community.
Product-led growth has proven to be a vital strategy for scaling products, with Notion and Figma exemplifying its strengths. However, as these case studies illustrate, PLG alone might not be enough. Diversifying growth strategies, investing in customer engagement, building a strong ecosystem, and staying competitive are equally crucial. By adopting a multifaceted approach, product managers can navigate the complexities of scaling and lead their products to sustained success.