By Marie Gassée, Confluent
Every company wants to do "Product-Led Growth" right now, but it's easier said than done. An important step is hiring a leader for this motion, which is something I’ve thought about a lot. The main attributes I look for in a PLG leader are the following:
- Data-Driven / Analytical / Quantitative: Whatever word you want to use here, the point is this person has to be great with numbers. Tracking and improving a number of metrics throughout the user journey is a huge (the most important?) part of building a PLG motion, and this necessitates a maniacal focus on measurement and analysis. There are many questions a PLG leader has to face that require thoughtful analysis and “being in the numbers”. How do they want to set up certain experiments and measure success? What downstream metrics must be taken into account when making up-funnel changes? How do they want to forecast revenue for the business? What is the Customer Lifetime Value of self-serve customers? What ROI is needed for Paid Marketing programs in order to generate the required CLTV? And so on.
- User Centric: Ultimately, Product-Led Growth is about the person using the product, gaining value from it early in the customer journey. Hence, ensuring a strong focus on the user’s journey and their experience with the company and its product(s) is key. Without a focus on the user’s experience, a PLG leader will rely on countless iterations and experiments to improve key metrics, making it a far lengthier and more disruptive road to success. Someone who thinks about the journey and attempts to “do right by the user / customer” will shortcut the path to success.
- Cross Functional: We always want a leader, in any role, to be collaborative and cross functional. BUT the very nature of Product-Led Growth is that it spans many functions, which I’ve found is often what makes it hard to get off the ground. A PLG leader needs to be able to work with (and in some cases manage) people or teams in : Marketing, Product, Design, Engineering, Analytics, SDR, Business Systems and more… Additionally, a PLG leader needs to be “Sales-friendly”. They often need to be able to sit alongside their Sales Leadership colleagues in owning and forecasting a revenue number. They also need to position the PLG motion as a way to feed the sales team, not one that competes with them.
- Sense of Urgency: This is a bit of an intangible but an ideal PLG leader has some scrappiness and a smidge of impatience. A hyper cross functional motion can be messy and a leader who can get sh*t done in the midst of ambiguity is very impactful. This type of person will prioritize iteration over a prolonged and super academic approach, allowing them to move fast and gain signal before investing resources into more complex and lengthy projects.
These characteristics may seem hard to find (let’s be real, they are) but some backgrounds lend themselves well. For example, I’ve noted that folks with Product Management experience tend to be analytical, thoughtful about their audience and cross functional in nature. An Analytics (or Data Science, etc) background can also be incredibly useful, as I’ve found the quantitative characteristic is often a missing piece. Having said this, some of the most impactful team members I’ve worked with in the PLG space have had unexpected backgrounds, so don’t count anyone out.