2. Product Led Growth is a cultural challenge

2. Product Led Growth is a cultural challenge

A few months ago, I went for a walk with an executive at a large software company. He owned all self-service growth. But he seemed a bit down, and I could tell that he wasn't having a great day. I asked why.

He explained to me that just earlier that they had a contentious executive meeting between himself, the VP of Sales, and the CEO. There was a surge in signups, and they couldn't agree on whose team drove that surge. The Sales Exec wanted the commission for their team; he wanted recognition that they drove that traffic.

The challenge, he explained, was that there was a lack of clarity about who owned what. It wasn't clear who owned the magic number — increased revenue. This conflict brought out one of the most common challenges with PLG companies: who owns which numbers — sales or marketing?

"Accountability is a tricky topic. Who 'owns' the number in a product-led growth business? I've seen that either not defined at all, defined poorly, or defined a kajillion different ways. But I know it's something companies struggle with." — Jay Simons, former President of Atlassian

It's deeper than just numbers, though — being a product-led growth company means changing expectations and responsibilities across marketing and sales teams, changing systems, and evolving the thinking around measuring success.

We're hearing that a lot of companies want to invest in product-led growth — about 70% of the companies we talk to have it as a major strategic priority.

It's not easy to go "PLG" overnight. It requires major investments in core processes, culture, and tools to enable that vision.

We will go deeper into how to do it here, but here are some quick clues to see if your company is really investing in product-led growth:

  • Do the CEO and the entire executive team agree that it's a strategic priority?
  • Are the marketing, sales, and product teams integrated across goals, processes, and tooling? Do they talk to each other?
  • On the simplest level: does your website or marketing materials have product screenshots or even abstract representations of the product?

It is absolutely possible to evolve this culture. Zoom is an example of a company that did it successfully — they added a self-service component to their product in 2015, after starting in 2011. It's not easy, but this enabled their "Zoom Boom" through Covid.

Next: Read more about how sales and marketing fit in.
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