How to Build PLG Motion (+ Why You Still Need Sales)

Long gone are the days of selling to C-suite executives. 

Or is it?

Today, the PLG motion involves a bottom-up approach where your product speaks directly to the needs of your end users. 

In this guide, we’ll show you how to build your PLG motion from the ground up, and explain why, despite using your product as a main acquisition vehicle, you still need a sales-assisted model. 

What is PLG Motion?

Product-led growth (PLG) motion is a go-to-market strategy where the product is the primary vehicle for acquisition, activation, and expansion.

Unlike sales-led motion, where customers interact with a salesperson, product-led growth operates on a self-service model: 

Customer signs up for a freemium or free trial > explores the features > upgrades to paid plan

With PLG motion, trial users convert to paid customers with no action on your part. 🙂   

But wait, not so fast!

Your PLG motion will evolve into a product-led sales model at some point.

As you move upmarket to acquire enterprise customers, you’ll realize these bigger companies require more one-on-one guidance and customized development.

Beekast, for example, sells a meeting management platform to businesses of all sizes. It offers smaller companies a self-served plan, and assigns a sales team and dedicated customer success manager for enterprises.

How Do I Start PLG Motion? 

Try these tactics, sorted according to the AARRR framework, to target end users—all the way from acquisition to referral. 

1. Acquisition (A)

Metrics

- Site traffic
- Customer acquisition cost 
- Conversion rate
- Average revenue per customer
- Revenue per channel

Acquisition is the process where companies attract customers. It comprises the following stages: awareness, consideration, evaluation, and conversion. 

It sounds straightforward, but companies waste billions of dollars globally chasing after the wrong ideal customer profile (ICP). If you don’t know who your best-fit customers are, your marketing efforts are dead in the water before you even begin.

Consider using Breadcrumbs to identify your best customers today.

Automatically grab your entire marketing, sales, and product data into one place, and pinpoint the specific attributes and actions that impact your company’s revenue.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Connect all your data sources with Breadcrumbs
  2. Choose the customer segment that defines success (e.g., all customers on Pro plan)
  3. Reveal your results

You’ll end up with a report similar to the one below. Here, you can spot the industries and job titles of your most profitable customers today.

Breadcrumbs-Reveal-Profitable-Customers

Update your ICP accordingly. 

For best results, reach out to these customers for an interview. Gather your new customer insights into a buyer persona, and narrow down the relevant channels, content, and conversations that speak to these prospective buyers.

Tactics to acquire customers

1. Rank for high-intent keywords 

High-intent keywords boast higher conversions, as they’re usually performed by sales-ready prospects lower in the funnel. 

It also doesn’t hurt that these keywords have lower competition, which makes it easier for newer sites to rank on the SERPs. 

Explore alternatives + competitors keywords and weave in your product as an irreplaceable solution. Rumor has it these queries have the highest average conversion rate (8.43%).

2. Offer sponsorships

Sponsor a non-competing brand that shares your audience. All-in-one writing app ButterDocs, for example, sponsored an issue of Superpath’s newsletter. 

Plg-Motion-Acquisition-Example-Butterdocs-Sponsor-Superpath-Newsletter

A fitting collaboration, considering the Superpath community boasts 14,000+ content professionals.

3. Add an interactive product demo

Customers rarely use a product the way it’s shown in demos.

This is particularly true if you run a horizontal SaaS startup with diverse customers across industries. 

One solution to this problem? 

Adding an interactive product demo—especially if your product’s UI, according to Ashley Lewin, is the “aha” moment itself.

“The interactivity really helps to grab someone while they’re in the research phase,” says the senior director of demand generation at Refine Labs.

Note how Guru onboard first-time users through an interactive demo. 

Known for its enterprise AI search, intranet, and wiki—all terrific features that require an in-depth tour to fully experience the value—it lets them navigate around the platform without filling in a lengthy “Request a Demo” form.

Plg-Motion-Ungate-Product-Example-Getguru

Build these interactive demos with tools like Navattic, Demoboost, and Storylane.

By adding them to your PLG motion efforts, you start the onboarding process right from the get-go.

2. Activation (A)

Metrics

- Visitor-to-sign-up rate
- Time to value
- Activation rate
- Feature adoption rate
- Number of daily active users
- Trial-to-customer conversion rate

Activation is the process where visitors experience meaningful value from your product (a.k.a. “aha” moment). 

Tactics to activate users

1. Set up product-led onboarding

Collect zero-party data during onboarding to personalize every user’s experience. Note how Causal, a modern business planning platform, prompts new users for their job profile, goal, and the finance tools they used in its product-led onboarding. It uses these attributes to create unique experiences tailored to individual customers.

Plg-Motion-Activation-Causal-Example

Include contextual tooltips and in-app messages to highlight valuable features and guide users to the next step. Track friction points and implement surveys to gather feedback to further optimize the user journey.

Use a tool like Breadcrumbs to nurture these users from activation to adoption (note: this is the stage where users experience repeated value from your product and is using it consistently). 

Here’s how you can identify these product qualified leads (PQLs) automatically:

  1. Connect Breadcrumbs with the CRM and product analytics tool (e.g., Pendo)
  2. Determine what makes a PQL (e.g., creates 3 documents in a week, invites a user, and imports data from a third-party app)
  3. Set the scoring model live

Breadcrumbs will then display a detailed view of your users’ product usage and engagement data, and send all scoring information back to your CRM.

Breadcrumbs-Contact-Scoring-Models-With-Product-Analytics

Here, you can trigger your automated onboarding email sequence and convert your PQLs to paid customers.   

2. Offer integrations

By integrating your product within a new user’s tech stack, you streamline and improve their workflow, eventually boosting adoption and conversions. 

Suppose a sales manager struggles to identify upsell opportunities and churn risks on HubSpot. 

They might integrate it with Breadcrumbs, a third-party contact scoring system, to extend their CRM functionality. 

It won’t be long before they outgrow Breadcrumbs’ free plan and upgrade to a paid account. 

3. Retention (R)

Metrics
- Customer churn
- Retention rate
- Customer health score
- Customer satisfaction score

Retention is the process where paid customers continue using your product and come back for more. 

Tactics to retain customers

1. Retain customers with content

U.S. companies could save over $35.3 billion per year if they focus on keeping their existing customers happy.

You already know retaining customers is far more profitable than acquiring new ones—but where does one even begin?

Take a leaf from Clearscope’s book. It frequently runs webinars to teach users SEO from the industry’s best and educate them on how to make the most of its keyword optimization tool.

Plg-Motion-Retention-Clearscope-Example

Co-partner with experts in your field (tip: ask customers who they want to learn from). 

Run an office hour to connect with them. 

Share upcoming product updates and learn more about their challenges in Q&As. 

Learn more about customer retention in this guide.

4. Revenue (R)

Metrics
- Net new monthly/annual recurring revenue
- Expansion monthly/annual recurring revenue
- Revenue churn
- Customer lifetime value

(Expansion) revenue refers to the additional revenue from cross- and upselling existing customers. 

Tactics to expand revenue

1. Cross-sell and upsell customers

According to 72% of sales professionals, 1-30% of their company’s revenue comes from upselling

Looking at this figure, there’s untapped potential for generating more revenue from existing customers.

So, where do you start?

Automatically identify cross- and upsell opportunities on Breadcrumbs.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Connect Breadcrumbs with your data sources
  2. Determine what makes a customer with cross- or upsell potential (e.g., invites more than 5 users, uploads 3 documents every month)
  3. Set the scoring model live

Breadcrumbs will send all scoring information back to your primary data source, notifying your customer success reps whenever a client hits the scoring threshold. 

Breadcrumbs-Contact-Scoring-Models

Pitch them a higher tier plan accordingly.

2. Hire a sales team to scale

If you’re seeing your:

  • Customers churning once they reached a certain size or maturity, 
  • Company hitting a threshold in your annual recurring revenue (ARR), or
  • Product limitations that can only be addressed with customized development and monetized with pricing and packaging… 

..then, says Gary Amaral, co-founder and CMO of Breadcrumbs, it’s time to add product-led sales into your PLG motion. While you’re at it, consider hiring a C-suite sales leader (e.g., chief revenue officer) to oversee your sales expansion efforts.

Earlier on, we showed you how to connect your CRM and product analytics tools with Breadcrumbs to identify PQLs. 

With this newly product-led sales motion, you’ll want to identify your high-value recurring revenue SQLs automatically. 

Here’s how it works on Breadcrumbs:

  1. Determine who makes an SQL in the Fit model (e.g., “CMO” in job title, “>$50 million” in ARR)
  2. Include the buying signals of an SQL in the Activity model (e.g., visits the pricing page 3 times over the past week)
  3. Set the scoring model live

Breadcrumbs will send all scoring information back to your CRM. Instead of going through the SQLs’ emails in your CRM in one tab and product usage data in another, you can now access all high-touch customers’ data at every touchpoint in a single source of truth.

Breadcrumbs-Compare-Contact-Scoring-Models

Not only does this help the sales team align their shared PLG metrics with marketing and product on one platform, but it also helps them quickly identify these high-stake accounts in the shortest possible time.

Book a demo with Breadcrumbs to identify high-value SQLs and close bigger deals today.

3. Conduct competitive intelligence

Whether you’re in the early days of setting up PLG motion or moving upmarket to pursue bigger clients, conduct competitive intelligence to gain an advantage in your industry.

This can look like in a myriad of ways.

Like conducting a pricing page analysis to understand where you stand among competitors and optimize your pricing plans to stay profitable.

Or researching what competitors are ranking and not ranking on the SERPs… and going after the latter.

Determines what gives you an edge in your competitors’ research. Accelerate revenue and protect your market share.

5. Referral (R) 

Metrics
- Net Promoter Score
- Affiliate commissions 
- Percentage of active affiliates
- Online reviews and ratings
- Social media engagement

Referral is the last process of the AARRR framework in PLG motion. Here, customers become advocates and recommend your product to other users. 

Tactics to attract loyal customers

1. Set up an affiliate program  

Let your best customers do the work for you.

Affiliate, referral, partnership, or call-it-whatever-you-want, these programs reward existing clients for referring new customers.

DashThis awards customers with a 20% recurring commission every month. In order for commissions to be approved, referees need to sign up within 90 days once they clicked on the referral link and stay as clients.

Plg-Motion-Referral-Program-Dashthis

Not all SaaS startups are suitable for affiliate programs, however.

Ahrefs shut down its affiliate program after only a few years, citing the grueling work for then a one-person marketing team and conflicts of interest with big-name affiliates, amongst others. 

If you run a small startup with a lean marketing team, you’re better off with the tactic below.

2. Obsess over word-of-mouth marketing

This is the referral tactic that grew Ahrefs’ customer base:

Reputation > Commission

By focusing on building an irresistible product “as opposed to just paying [customers], when there’s really nothing interesting to be said in the first place,” Ahrefs won hearts and minds, and eventually climbed the ranks to become one of the biggest SEO tools in the market.

PLG motion with a dose of sales assist

No successful company is truly “product-centric.” 

You need both sales and PLG motion to accelerate revenue.

At some point in the growth stage, you will require a sales team to scale your business—whether it’s upselling a customer or closing a high-value enterprise client.

Breadcrumbs is a fully featured contact scoring platform that uncovers hidden revenue opportunities across the entire funnel. Book a demo with Breadcrumbs to start your PLG motion and close bigger deals today.

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