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Optimizing growth product management to scale your B2B motion with PLG

Andrea Wang (Growth at Amplitude) on how to drive a product-led growth (PLG) motion from a product perspective, all while collaborating closely with sales, marketing, and the rest of the go-to-market function.

Andrea Wang
May 22, 2023
Optimizing growth product management to scale your B2B motion with PLG

Alexa, CEO of Pocus, hosts Product-Led Sales (PLS) “Ask Me Anything” sessions with PLS experts to share best practices, frameworks, and insights on this emerging category. These AMAs are an opportunity to ask PLS leaders any question — ranging from hiring to sales compensation to tech stack — in a low-key, casual environment.

The PLS AMAs are for members of the Product-Led Sales community, the place to learn, discuss, and connect with go-to-market (GTM) leaders at product-led companies. The goal of the community is to bring together the most thoughtful and innovative GTM leaders to build the next generation of sales together.

Interested in joining? Request an invite here.

Now, keep reading for a recap of what we discussed in our latest AMA chat.

Meet Andrea Wang, Principal Product Manager of Growth @ Amplitude 👋

Former investment and banking management consultant Andrea Wang made the jump to the product space when she joined scooter- and bike-sharing startup Lime, where she took on all of the go-to-market functions plus product management. 

Since joining Amplitude over three years ago, Andrea has built and scaled a best-in-class product growth team from the ground up in her journey from Growth Product Manager to Principal Product Manager of Growth.

Andrea is also an angel investor investing in pre-seed, seed consumer, and enterprise software startups — including Pocus.

In this AMA, we were excited to talk to Andrea about how to drive a product-led growth (PLG) motion from a product perspective, all while collaborating closely with sales, marketing, and the rest of the go-to-market function.

Read on for the highlights from our conversation, including:

  • What the growth product management function does (and how it differs from growth marketing)
  • Strategies for winning PLG buy-in
  • How to introduce a PLG motion into a sales-led company
  • Tips for building a robust growth feedback loop
  • Amplitude’s 6-step experimentation process

The role of the growth product team

Traditionally, the goal of a growth team is to drive what Andrea calls “distribution” — connecting as many people as possible to the existing value of your product. 

At Amplitude, the growth product team focuses on new user activation and free-to-paid monetization.

As for activation, Amplitude’s growth product team uses product levers to make it easy for anyone to set up and use Amplitude to reach their "aha moment.” Once that happens, they shift to helping free users engage, retain them over time, help them discover the value of their paid features, and upgrade either through a self-serve or sales-led motion. 

Growth product vs. growth marketing

Growth product and growth marketing collaborate closely to drive the same metrics, but growth marketing focuses on customer acquisition and using marketing levers (versus product levers) to drive activation, retention, and monetization. At Amplitude, growth marketing owns the Product-Led Sales pipeline on top of the free plan, while growth product owns free-to-paid conversions.

Growth marketing may be responsible for the user acquisition component of the Product-Led Sales motion and the OKRs (objectives and key results) associated with it, but PLS is still an extremely cross-functional responsibility at Amplitude that's touched by various GTM functions.

Where the growth function differs in B2C vs. B2B

While some elements of the growth organization are the same whether you’re in a B2C or B2B environment, Andrea shared some key ways in which it’s different for growth leaders who may be looking to make a switch.

Operationalizing experimentation  

In a consumer-facing company, if you have a large enough user base and traffic volume, you can usually figure out the results of an experiment within a day or two. 

But in a B2B SaaS company targeting enterprises, especially with experiments on the account or organization level, you don’t have the sample size to reach statistical significance within a short amount of time. For that reason, at Amplitude, it’s common for them to ship experiments that take a full quarter to turn out trustworthy outcomes. 

Instead of A/B tests that take time and come at a high opportunity cost for their company, they lean on before-and-after experiments — shipping experiments with high-conviction hypotheses based on deep research and customer understanding, then watching how growth metrics evolve at each stage of the user journey.

Cross-functional alignment

In B2B organizations, there tends to be a lot more interdependence within GTM teams. Much of what the growth team does will touch sales and marketing, so there’s additional work around GTM alignment, dependency management, and change management. 

For example, for Amplitude to launch a trial of a paid feature with free customers, have sales create a campaign around the trial, and get reps to follow up with people who are really engaged with the trial — requires a lot of enablement work to get both teams on the same page before the trial can begin. 

User research

User research is of course important to growth initiatives in both B2C and B2B contexts, but for Andrea it seems like even more of a priority in the B2B space. When it comes to B2B product development, effective product managers are usually spending time every single week talking to customers and poring over usage data to better understand user behavior.

Growth teams working with a product-led growth strategy need to be extremely data-driven. Data-driven growth product managers clearly understand personas, their pain points in the onboarding process, and overall customer needs. They can tie all of these insights to business metrics across the lifecycle: reasons users do or don’t convert, what drives referrals and customer retention, and more critical pieces to unlock value in the user experience.

3 strategies for winning PLG buy-in 🫱‍🫲

Amplitude has both an enterprise-focused sales motion in which they’ve invested heavily over the last few years as well as a long-standing PLG motion. So naturally, their culture and leadership team are bought into PLG and recognize the importance of balancing both product-led and sales-led growth motions. 

However, there are plenty of organizations with a foundation and culture built on traditional sales, which quite understandably focuses them on one specific goal: hitting revenue and pipeline targets for next quarter.

With this mindset, it’s easy to pour every last resource into landing big deals. But, to ensure longer-term growth, businesses also need things like distribution and even free users who have the potential to be converted to paying, long-term customers. That’s where the PLG motion comes in. 

Here are strategies from Andrea on getting leadership buy-in for a PLG motion: 

Use examples 

Create a compelling argument by using examples of successful PLG companies in a similar category. Study the playbooks and go-to-market strategies these companies use to showcase that there is a clear, repeatable path to value by balancing both sales-led and product-led motions.

Quantify impact to your business goals 🧮

As a growth leader you’re already experienced at articulating business cases through quantitative data — apply that same skill set here.  

Use growth modeling to prove that, through your PLG initiatives, your company will be able to drive growth from its free customer base X amount and generate X amount of revenue 1, 5, and 10 years down the line. Clearly outlining expected outcomes to key business goals will help you secure buy-in to adopt a product-led approach.

Experiment

What minor experiments can help prove that a PLG motion will have business benefits?

When Andrea first joined Amplitude, she was part of scaling the company’s self-serve scholarship program for SMBs — essentially a one-year trial for their paid growth plan for eligible startups. 

At first, they had no idea whether this program would result in revenue or positive business impact. But they launched it and worked on growing it. A few years in, the first cohort of SMBs who graduated from the program started converting from free to paid. That was proof of their hypothesis that targeting customers early in their journey could lead to powerful monetization later on and an improved product experience for the end-user. 

While it seemed like an intuitive concept, being able to prove the assumption even on a smaller scale inspired confidence and started shifting mindsets around what self-serve could do.

How to: Introducing a PLG motion in a sales-led company

With buy-in under your belt, follow Andrea’s steps to start the process of integrating a PLG motion. 

🌱 Early stage

In the Seed and Series A stages, Andrea doesn’t recommend investing the time and money to layer in a new sales motion. Rather, companies should begin with the motion that makes the most sense for the nature of their product. 

For example, a dev tool company where an individual engineer can sign up and get value very quickly is a natural fit for a product-led growth motion. 

However, a product that is more difficult to implement as an individual because of cost, security, legal, etc. will likely require some level of hands-on support — meaning a pure-play PLG approach may not make as much sense in the beginning when you’re trying to grow as quickly as possible.

🌴 Established 

Now fast forward to several funding rounds later when you’re working with more bandwidth and resources and can focus on layering a product-led motion into your sales-first organization. 

Andrea shares her advice to pulling off both strategies well, side by side: 

1. It all begins at buy-in

You know the drill — buy-in and support from executive leadership is a must for a major initiative such as this. 

If you can’t get at least one passionate, vocal supporter on your side, that does not bode well for your company equally investing in and supporting a new sales method.

2. Align PLG and company goals 

Get clear on the strategic goals behind the PLG motion, what the company's trying to accomplish, and how they align or differ.

For example, a leadership team that’s wholly focused on revenue is going to feel let down by a PLG motion where you’re only focusing on market penetration for the foreseeable future. 

By aligning around the same desired outcomes, planning initiatives and success criteria also becomes a much less mysterious process.  

3. Pilot projects 

Where can you roll out smaller product-led initiatives to experiment with self-serve and begin to show the business benefits? These incremental “pilot projects” for a full-fledged PLG motion can not only help to prove its value but can mitigate risks and help people get comfortable with a new approach.

4. Understand the full GTM undertaking

The truth is you will need to undergo a lot of go-to-market changes as your company adopts PLG. It’s not just about simply tweaking a few pricing elements or slapping self-guided onboarding onto your product.

Think of sales for example. You will likely need to do some decent team restructuring. What's the process for following up with PQLs? How will you handle sales compensation when the product sells itself to a degree? There are a lot of things that happen outside of just product, pricing, and packaging, and they all need to be planned for in order to pursue multiple motions successfully.

For tips on PLS compensation check out David Barron’s (Head of Global Sales at HubSpot) article in the Product-Led Sales Playbook Vol. 2.

4 Tips for building the growth-customer success feedback loop ➰

Usually at B2B companies, customer success is heavily focused on paying customers. 

However, they can still touch every stage of the customer journey — especially post-purchase — from implementation to onboarding, retention, and even expansion in some cases. These responsibilities overlap with growth teams, which is why it’s important that CS and growth have a tight feedback loop.

While the success and structure of a growth-customer success feedback loop will be largely impacted by your company culture, here are some ways to lay down the foundation for a robust loop in a PLG organization:

Set up recurring meetings

At Amplitude, growth regularly meets with points of contact on the CS side who have aggregate insights into health and activity across accounts in a market segment. For example, for the growth team to get insight into converting SMBs, they may connect regularly with the corporate CS team that works with SMB customers who have upgraded from the free plan. 

Consult on new features

Amplitude’s product team also takes new feature plans to customer success managers (CSMs) across different market segments to gauge if there are accounts that have questions related to the new feature, or that would be interested in engaging with the new feature.

Include CS in the success trifecta 🔺

For growth strategy brainstorming and roadmap planning, Amplitude makes sure customer success leadership is included alongside growth so they can align on the vision, goals, and OKRs from both sides. 

And when it comes to implementing actual change, Andrea recommends first figuring out what the best-in-class experience looks like for customers. From there, work backward to define how product, marketing, and CS each play into that vision. 

Product, marketing, and CS should function as equal parts of a success trifecta driving activation, retention, and monetization — even though they’ll likely each use different channels or levers to get it done.

Ultimately, the goal from a growth perspective should be establishing trust and a deep connection with key CS stakeholders, so when initiatives arise that have CS dependencies not only will you find yourself unblocked but even receiving resourcing and support from CS.

Remove the free vs. paid focus

Forget about the dichotomy of CS serving paying customers and growth serving free customers.

At Amplitude, there are certainly differences between the free customer base and paying customer base, but when it comes to adoption everyone’s pain points and use cases are similar. 

Originally, they had CS run scalable automated programs to engage with paying customers in the activation journey, adoption journey, etc. Eventually, they realized the same program would benefit their free customer base. This was the beginning of breaking down the free vs. paid barriers. 

When they did this, they found they could more widely apply best practices and playbooks across CS and growth — preventing siloed efforts with a more holistic approach.

Amplitude’s 6-step experimentation process 🧪

Noticing a theme here? A lot of Amplitude’s growth is the result of experimentation. 

Here’s the high-level process their growth product team follows to get experiments off the ground and insights rolling in: 

1. Set goals 

First, determine your goals for the quarter. Amplitude tends to measure similar metrics each quarter, but also plans around variable business-wide goals as well. 

2. Brainstorm experiments

Get product, marketing, and sales stakeholders together to ideate on the most impactful, most confidence-inspiring, and even most risky experiments you can make this quarter to move the needle on your goals. Getting out of your product-focused bubble provides perspective on all the levers you may need to pull to reach your objectives. 

3. Prioritize based on impact and resources

Which of the experiments on your list will make the biggest positive impact? Which will lead to the most ROI? Which do you actually have the resources for this quarter? What can you do this quarter to set up another experiment for success next quarter?

Don’t just think about impact when it comes to prioritizing quarterly experiments — having the right timing and resources to pull them off to the best of your ability is just as important. 

4. Plan the roll out 

For the experiments you’ve chosen to tackle, you need to think about the best methodology for your timeframe, goals, and company culture. Would A/B testing be best suited to your needs — or is this a case where you ship it and watch the impact unfold?

5. Execute 

Every experiment needs to have a clear owner who doesn’t just participate in the hypothesizing process but also manages end-to-end execution and results. It’s time for that person to step in and begin the roll out.

What's unique about the Amplitude team is their bottom-up, engineering-driven experimentation culture. Where you would typically always see a product manager handling an experiment, Amplitude sometimes has engineering step into that role. For example, an IC engineer may be in charge of creating the experiment design documentation and building and monitoring a dashboard to analyze and report back on learnings. 

6. Follow up

Of course, this whole process is for naught if you don’t devote time and resources to reviewing the data your experiments are putting out, to see how they hold up against initial assumptions and are impacting quarterly goals. 

At Amplitude, alongside quantitative data, the team also digs deep into qualitative data to see if they need to follow up with any user research for further insights.

Join our next Pocus AMA 🔮

Want an opportunity to connect with a product-led pro and get your questions answered in a live AMA discussion? 

Then click right here to request to join the Pocus community. 

Our Product-Led Sales community is committed to creating connections in the PLS space and  sharing the actionable knowledge you need to modernize and scale your go-to-market motion. 

Andrea Wang
Principal Product Manager of Growth, Amplitude
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