This post has been updated with even more tools for 2023!
It seems like everyone wants to be product-led in the world of SaaS, but if you’ve been on the journey - it’s not easy.
Product led-growth simply means using your product as the primary means to grow and retain a customer base.
However, most of the tools that sales, marketing, and growth teams use today are not purpose built for product-led growth. We’ve shoehorned, manipulated, and frankenstein’d our way into something that works for a modern self-serve go-to-market motion and sales-assisted or sales-led.
Why do we need a PLG tech stack?
In the product led-growth (PLG) world, companies rely on their products as their main source of customer acquisition and retention.
In this motion, customers get the pleasure of interacting with — and finding value in — products before they ever come in contact with sales folks.
That means there’s a lot of customer and product usage data that is never accurately captured or acted upon when using a traditional sales-led tech stack.
You’ve got the most talented product, growth, sales, and marketing talent at your disposal, but they aren’t reaching their potential because they can't access the right data to inform their go-to-market strategy.
The traditional enterprise SaaS tech stack does not work for product-led growth.
Take the poor sales operations soul who has to harmonize data between Salesforce, Hubspot, and product data via Segment. Instead of enabling outcomes, your talent is spending hours trying to turn that swamp of data into something actionable for your GTM teams.
The new PLG tech stack focuses on enabling more product interactions earlier in the sales cycle and enables better access to product data for non-technical GTM teams.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through a massive list of tools across various categories so you can start mixing and matching the best solutions for your ultimate PLG stack.
Product-led experts' favorite PLG tools
If you’re on the path to product-led, or maybe you’re a PLG company ready to add a sales team, it’s time to revisit and level up the tools you use. We polled our product-led experts on their current PLG tech stack favorites and future wishlist items to compile this list.
*Disclaimer: If you’re moving from sales-led to product-led, or maybe you’re an early stage (seed or series A) company, you probably don’t need everything we list below. At the end of this post I’ll summarize the MVP stack you need to be successful at PLG.
Data warehouse tools
In the modern world of SaaS, you can’t get by without having a data warehouse to store your raw customer data.
As your warehouse stores more and more data over time, it creates a record that can be very helpful for data scientists and/or business analysts who are looking at overarching company and industry trends.
The downside with many data warehouses? They are hard to use for non-technical teams (sales, etc.) who are becoming more data-informed by the day.
Learn more about data warehouses and our thoughts on their future: Is The Data Warehouse The New System of Record?
While CRMs (Salesforce, Hubspot) may still be the source of truth for your sales data, the source of truth for PLG companies has shifted to the data warehouse.
The data warehouse is the overall system of record for product, customer, and marketing data. However, a system of record is only half the story: making that data useful should be the responsibility of another tool or set of tools, which we’ll talk about below.
Snowflake is a technology company with extremely robust data management options. Snowflake’s data warehouse in particular is well known for the multicloud infrastructure that gives users extreme flexibility and scalability.
2. Amazon Redshift
Amazon Redshift is also a cloud-hosted data warehouse. It boasts real-time analytics and machine learning (ML) capabilities, taking data warehouse infrastructure management off your hands so your team can focus on the more strategic tasks that require human skill.
3. Google BigQuery
BigQuery from Google is a multicloud data warehouse aimed at enterprise users. What sets it apart is its focus on ease of use and its claim that its three-year cost of ownership is almost 30% lower than its direct competitors.
ETL and Reverse ETL tools
ETL (extract, transform, and load) tools are critical in cleaning up, preparing, and moving data from various sources into a single data warehouse where it can all work together.
Reverse ETL platforms integrate with your many business systems (CRMs, marketing automation tools, etc.) to help you disperse all that data from your warehouse into those systems where it can be put to use.
Learn more about ETL tools and some of our faves — one that’s also on this list! — from our blog 3 Best ETL Tools to Own Your PLG Tech Stack.
Hightouch is a reverse ETL platform that can sync your customer data with many of your favorite SaaS tools. It works with over 125+ destinations including Salesforce, Asana, Google, Amazon, Qualtrics, and more.
Fivetran is an ETL tool that helps “hyper-growth” businesses centralize data across all areas: marketing, finance, ops, sales, support, and data management.
Census is a reverse ETL tool that promises to deliver trustworthy data from your warehouse to your tools — no APIs, no CSVs — to upgrade sales productivity, marketing personalization, customer support response times, and beyond.
Customer Data Platform (CDP) tools
A CDP enables your teams to work smarter not harder. Since all of your data can be piped into a CDP it helps standardize what events are utilized across tools and makes distribution of that data seamless.
CDPs can be used alone or layered with data warehouses.
Want to dive deeper into the CDP vs. data warehouse convo? Check out our article CDP Definition & How It’s Different From a Data Warehouse.
Segment from Twilio uses data from business websites and apps to provide data that marketing, product, and engineering can rely on to provide the best customer experience.
RudderStack is an open-source CDP for the enterprise space, making it easy to deploy data across the modern tech stack.
With Blueshift, users can take fast action on their first-party customer data: building dynamic customer profiles that update in real-time, crafting segments that also update automatically, and personalizing content and recommendations based on in-the-moment behaviors.
Product analytics tools
You can’t be a PLG company without understanding how users behave within your product and luckily there are a number of very mature and newer tools to help you learn your users' habits inside and out.
A common theme with the best product-led companies is a culture of constant iteration and improvement. If product is your primary channel for user acquisition, you can’t just build it once and hope users will love your product. Your product, growth and marketing teams need to make decisions based on how your users actually utilize the product, what channels do your best users come from, and how quickly they activate within the product. You can’t learn any of this without a range of product analytics tools.
Most PLG companies have either Heap or Amplitude, some have Mixpanel, and then there is a diverse array of secondary analytics tools that some teams love.
Amplitude prioritizes identifying value-driving customer behaviors, automatically adapting to provide the best experience in that moment and giving you insight into which areas to optimize for maximum outcomes.
Hotjar takes a unique approach to product analytics by enabling you to observe customer interactions via heat maps and recordings, gather direct user feedback from on-page widgets, and even automate moderated user interviews.
Mixpanel is all about getting your data integrated and manageable so its platform can help you run robust reports, create segments from deep trends, set up alerts around key customer metrics, and more.
With FullStory, users can take advantage of the platform’s proprietary “autocapture” tech to identify areas of the user journey where people are struggling, use deep data to understand the impact of every element of the digital experience, and rely on robust reporting to make sure all fixes have the intended outcome.
Product Adoption Tools
Like product analytics, product adoption is a large category. A variety of tools exist in this space, all of which focus on converting visitors into users through thoughtful onboarding flows, product demos and tours, and so on.
Learn more about product adoption, as well as one of the tools we feature in this section, in our article Onboarding: A Crucial Piece of the PLG Puzzle.
In this PLG stack guide, we’re highlighting tools with a no-code focus.
Appcues is a cutting-edge no-code solution that helps GTM teams own and optimize their app’s onboarding experience.
We actually had the chance to chat with Appcues Content Director Ramli John about the pain points Appcues solves — read that installment of our PLS Vendor Spotlight series here.
Comparing their building process to using LEGO blocks, Userflow is all about enabling non-technical teams to quickly and easily craft flows from app tours to surveys and more — no coding required.
Navattic is another no-code-needed platform for building interactive product demonstrations.
Check out Navattic's playbook for improving website conversions with their easy to build interactive demos here.
Every mature PLG company in the Product-Led Sales community has either Looker, Tableau or Mode as their preferred Business Intelligence (BI) tool. A BI tool is a no-code way to slice, analyze, and visualize your data in one place. However, most of the teams we speak to are trying to build a lot more than just data analytics within these tools.
If you’re new to PLG you might be wondering, why does a PLG company need both a product analytics tool and a BI tool? It comes down to use cases. The product analytics tools are highly specialized for tracking typical SaaS product metrics, but it is quite challenging (and expensive) to also analyze and visualize marketing or sales data in those tools.
The BI tool within these companies in many ways is a bit of a stop gap, a band aid solution for a tool that can help identify the best users, prioritize accounts, and help GTM teams make the best decisions when it comes to sales or marketing strategy.
Mode is “modern BI” that aims to make fast connections between data and insights, powering data and business teams to work together on actions that really drive the company forward.
Looker partners with Google Cloud data analytics platform for a truly detailed view of company metrics, as well as customer insight.
Tableau, owned by Salesforce, specializes in making BI visual and intuitive so anyone can use data to make better business strategies, decisions, and forecasts.
Data enrichment tools
A third-party firmographic data tool, like ZoomInfo or Clearbit, helps sales teams understand who their prospects / customers are by providing data like industry, geography, company size, role, and more. Pairing this firmographic data with your product usage metrics is the one-two punch sales reps need to know what PQLs are worth chasing and where the best bet expansion efforts exist.
Clearbit provides a reliable dataset that gives users insight across more than 100 B2B attributes including revenue, important contact info, the technologies they already use, and so on.
Dive into Clearbit’s inner workings in our Product-Led Sales AMA session: Product-Led Sales (PLS) AMA: Clearbit's Lead Qualification Engine.
Speaking of ZoomInfo, we certainly couldn’t forget to mention this OG in the data space. Today, ZoomInfo claims to have the “leading worldwide data intelligence platform” which users can tap into via any one of their four main offerings: SalesOS, MarketingOS, TalentOS, and OperationsOS.
If you don't need something lightweight to jump start your outbound programs, Hunter is a great option. Hunter lets you find professional email addresses in seconds and connect with the people that matter for your business
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
If you’ve worked in sales or marketing you probably have a love/hate relationship with the CRM. It’s the de facto system of record for your teams, but, the most popular CRMs on the market have not been able to adapt to the ways your GTM has changed.
PLG companies that have also layered in sales have unfortunately created two system of records: the CRM that contains sales or account profile data and the data warehouse which contains rich product usage data.
Across the board we’ve seen PLG teams struggle to adapt Salesforce or Hubspot to their needs. But the solution isn’t just a CRM built for the product-led GTM, it’s time for a new platform to empower the entire GTM team - The PLS Platform (more on this below.)
The most common (not loved) CRMs our experts recommend are:
23. HubSpot CRM
HubSpot Sales Hub is a popular CRM platform with tons of tools that span marketing, sales, operations, support, and even content management. Fun fact - Hubspot's CRM started out as an experiment in PLG for the company, you can use many of its features for free and upgrade if you eventually need more robust functionality. Hubspot Sales Hub is a great option for earlier stage companies looking to get started with a light weight option. According to our community of experts, Hubspot is a more approachable option when getting started compared to Salesforce's very robust but overwhelming set of features.
Salesforce really doesn't need an introduction, it's the undisputed leader in the CRM category and has a ton of features built up over the last decade. However, In talking to reps in the PLS community, it's clear that for many, Salesforce is just a database and their sales workflows happen primarily in other tools. CRMs like Salesforce are increasingly difficult to customize to your specific go-to-market motion.
Learn more about our thoughts on the role of CRMs for PLG companies here.
Pipedrive is a CRM with a hyper-focus on sales folks. With Pipedrive, sales pros can visualize the pipeline, set up automations, pull reports, track communications, and so on. According to our community of experts, Pipedrive is best for earlier stage companies or SMBs.
Product-Led Sales platform
Once you have your self-serve growth flywheel locked in, you’ll want to add a sales team to capitalize on revenue expansion opportunities. But how do you know what accounts to prioritize for this new sales team? How do you equip them with the right data and insights about users within that account?
The answer today for many PLG companies is a DIY solution: an assortment of the tools mentioned above connected together with the technology equivalent of masking tape.
A Product-Led Sales platform combines sales and product data to equip your sales team with the insights and automations they need to effectively convert your self-serve users into high lifetime value accounts. A product-led sales platform is a must for product-led companies who want to leverage sales to close bigger deals, faster.
Pocus is specifically designed to help non-technical GTM teams create the dashboards and workflows they need to identify and act on hot opportunities without coding anything.
Here are the Pocus features that turn product data into revenue like 🪄:
Magic playbooks: Speaking of playbooks, this feature enables you to operationalize your PLS strategies with customizable playbooks complete with goals, ICPs, teams, and actions.
Intelligent scoring: Rapidly experiment on Pocus’ suggested scores and create multiple scores to match up with each of your PLS playbooks.
Prioritized inbox: When a high-potential opportunity hits your inbox, get notified via Slack and don’t miss a beat.
No-code: With Pocus, RevOps finally gets to own all things PLS — integrations, dashboards, workflows, and more.
Who needs a crystal ball when they have Pocus at their fingertips? Start exploring now. 🔮
Or you can check out some of the other tools in this category: Calixa, Headsup, Correlated, Endgame, and Toplyne.
Marketing & sales automation tools
Now that you have a single source of truth for actionable product, sales, and marketing data insights, how do you utilize it? Use this data to power your automated sales outreach or marketing campaigns. Create data-driven marketing emails, trigger campaigns based on product usage and more.
This is another category where many tools fall under the same umbrella. In this section, we’ve leaned into the automated and personalized messaging side of things.
27. Marketing automation - Hubspot
Thanks to its robust functionality, HubSpot gets another mention on this list, this time for its marketing automation.
With HubSpot, marketers can build customized workflows for every user journey, setting up a whole host of automated actions along the way that align with customer behavior — lead scoring, email sending, notifying the marketing team about specific actions, and more.
28. Email tools (best for product data-driven campaigns) - Customer.io
With Customer.io, marketers can automatically send emails, notifications, texts, and other messages that are informed by the customer journey — whether they’re in the onboarding flow, just meeting your product for the first time, shopping around, ripe for an upsell, and so on.
Other tools our community recommends: Braze, Autopilot, and Inflection.
29. Sales engagement - Outreach.io
Outreach is a staple for your Product-Led Sales team. Outreach helps reps scale their sales outreach playbooks to engage prospects with the right messaging efficiently.
Other tools to consider if you're layering Outbound on top of your PLS motion: Salesloft, Apollo, MixMax, Gmass.
30. In App Messaging - Intercom
Intercom’s unique solution enables companies to connect with their customers while they’re actively using the product via automated messaging — providing support or engagement when it’ll be most effective.
The MVP tech stack
The above list can be daunting if you’re a new PLG company just starting out with your self-serve flywheel.
Fear not. In our experience, when you’re starting out it’s important to focus your tooling around your near-term goals and not overcomplicate things.
If you are focused on getting your self-serve motion up and running, prioritize the following categories:
- Data warehouse (best to get the source of truth set up correctly from the beginning)
- CDP (save engineers time building data pipelines)
- Onboarding/In App Guidance tools (before you build onboarding into your app, rapidly experiment with these easy to setup tools)
- Marketing automation (figure out how you want to connect with users through non-product channels)
It can feel like there is a tool for everything these days and it’s not always clear what tools and use cases to prioritize first.
If you take away just one thing from this article: start with your northstar and work backwards to the use cases and tooling required. If you’ve perfected your self-serve flywheel and are ready to start focusing your teams on revenue growth, then prioritize tools like a product-led sales platform (ahem, shameless plug - get in touch with Pocus).
Or maybe your priority is figuring out your data infrastructure and source of truth, then you should prioritize the data warehouse & ETL tooling.
Hot tip🌶 Most of the vendors listed have gone through the daunting process of building this PLG tech stack themselves, don’t be shy, ask your vendors for advice and what tools they use themselves.