What is a PMM’s role in a pure PLG company?


What is a PMM’s role in a   pure PLG company?

A year ago, I was given the opportunity to work as a Product Marketing Manager (PMM) for a purely product-led growth (PLG) company. As exciting as working for a company whose product basically “sold itself” sounded, it also raised some questions. 

My previous experience had been mainly with mid-to-large sales-led companies where my universe revolved around enabling the Sales team (and creating oh so many decks!). So naturally, I asked myself: “If there’s no salesforce to enable, what does a PMM actually do in a PLG company?”

The PLG takeover

Product-led growth is reshaping the way companies approach their business strategy. This model allows software products to “sell themselves,” aka without the direct support of a sales team.

How? By delivering a product experience so intuitive and valuable, users naturally gravitate towards it.

Success stories like Dropbox, Slack, and Canva are a testament to PLG’s potential to accelerate growth, capture market share, and enhance valuation, making it one of the most popular business models in SaaS B2B. 

Yet, the pervasiveness of PLG does not render sales teams obsolete. As PLG companies scale and target larger enterprise customers, they tend to evolve into a hybrid model – combining PLG’s bottom-up approach with traditional top-down sales efforts. This facilitates their expansion into new market segments and helps them cater to various buyer personas

The hybrid approach leverages the product as a primary driver of demand generation while incorporating traditional sales efforts to support customer acquisition and expansion. Product marketing efforts in this type of setting are more or less the same as in a sales-led motion.

In a “pure” PLG motion, however, the PMM is bereft of a sales team altogether. Instead, they need to act as a linchpin across various facets of the product and customer journey. As the product drives user growth, the PMM’s responsibilities gravitate towards ensuring its messaging resonates deeply with its target audience across all touchpoints. But what does this mean in a real-life setting?

From SLG to PLG: A personal journey

Not too long ago, my career was deeply rooted in the traditional corporate landscape, where a robust Sales team was the norm. The dynamic was straightforward: product marketers handed out props while the sales teams performed their magic.

The product team was somewhere backstage, detached from our often over-the-top performance, preoccupied with building the stuff we were so keen to get off the shelf.

In a PLG company, I danced to a different groove altogether. It felt like going from being part of a large road crew to actually performing in a band – I was part of a smaller group, yes, but each member played a more visible and decisive role. 

As the sole PMM in a company without a sales force, my responsibilities pivoted in new directions. The focus shifted from setting up the sales team for success to ensuring that the customer’s journey – from awareness through adoption to renewal – is abundant with the right messaging delivered at the right time. 

My role morphed into that of a storyteller, a strategist, and a user advocate, all rolled into one. I swapped the Sales team for the product team and dropped the heavy marketing jargon for a more toned-down approach to product messaging. So what exactly do PMMs do in a pure PLG company?

PMMs in a PLG company: role and responsibilities

Delving deeper into the day-to-day life of a PMM in a PLG organization, the role is diverse and dynamic. Daily tasks range from acting as a subject matter expert (SME) for marketing deliverables, such as blog posts and eBooks, to spearheading review-gathering campaigns on platforms like G2 and Capterra. 

Creating video scripts for Google or social media ads that showcase the product and A/B testing marketing campaigns can also fall under a PMM’s purview in this type of setting. But let’s take a look at some of the key activities owned by PMMs in a PLG motion.

Bridging product development & market needs

In a PLG environment, PMMs are tasked with making sure that every feature launch resonates deeply with the audience’s needs and desires. To accomplish this, they must maintain a close relationship with the product development team and build a solid customer feedback loop

This collaboration allows PMMs to transform customer feedback into actionable insights that feed into product development, ensuring that every new feature directly addresses the audience’s expectations and pain points.

Leveraging data to influence marketing strategy

Data becomes a PMM’s compass for navigating the PLG terrain. Product metrics and customer satisfaction scores impact product positioning and marketing strategies, helping PMMs craft messages that not only speak to users but also help the product stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Here are some examples of valuable data points that PMMs can use:

  • User engagement metrics: Understanding the way users interact with the product can help PMMs highlight the most valued features in marketing campaigns.
  • Conversion rates: Tracking the conversion rate from trial to paid users helps PMMs identify what marketing activities convince users to convert.
  • Churn rate: Analyzing when and why users stop using the product can inform retention strategies.
  • Customer lifetime value (CLTV): Estimating the total revenue a business can expect from a single customer account helps PMMs focus marketing efforts on segments that offer the highest potential value over time.
  • Feature adoption rate: Understanding how quickly and widely new features are adopted by users can guide PMMs in creating feature-specific promotional materials and educational content to increase awareness and usage.
  • NPS (Net Promoter Score): Measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty gives PMMs insights into how likely users are to recommend the product to others. PMMs can use this type of knowledge to attract new users through testimonials and case studies.

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What is a PMM’s role in a   pure PLG company?

Crafting a cohesive product narrative

Ensuring cohesive product messaging across all marketing content is a key focus – whether it’s on landing pages, email campaigns, or social media channels. Clear and well-articulated messaging helps PMMs differentiate products and services in a way that resonates with the ideal customers. 

The product messaging in PLG companies is usually the result of:

Marketing new features from release to adoption

The go-to-market (GTM) strategy for new products or features is another critical area of influence. It involves meticulous planning, coordination, and execution to ensure a successful launch, from producing marketing collateral to ensuring easy feature adoption through onboarding emails and in-product announcements. 

Collaborating closely with the product team, the PMM needs to write compelling and instructional copy showcasing new product features. Because there’s little direct interaction with customers, PMMs also need to ensure the support section is up to date and explain new features to customers in a simple way through video tutorials or showcases.

For major product launches, like venturing into a new line of business, PMMs will need to engage in discovery calls to explore product-market fit

KPIs and Metrics: Measuring impact in PLG

All these responsibilities sound great on paper, but how do they translate into quantifiable KPIs? Measuring the impact of a PMM’s work is a tricky business. Unlike the clear-cut metrics of sales or the analytics of digital marketing, much of what PMMs do sits in the realm of the intangible. 

Crafting compelling narratives, understanding the nuanced needs of the market, and influencing product strategy are critical in a PLG setting. Still, you can’t attach metrics to them most of the time. 

Nevertheless, some product marketing KPIs can and should be measured.

Boosting trials, demos, and conversions

At the heart of a PLG strategy is the race to get more hands on the product via free trials or demos. A win in this area means ramping up trial sign-ups. The benchmark against which you measure this and the amount by which trials should increase is particular to each company and each PMM. 

But it’s not just about getting users in the door; it’s also about converting them into paying customers. For those efforts spearheaded by a PMM, achieving a conversion rate higher than the norm spells success.

Engaging new users with the product

Once new users are aboard, the real challenge is to keep them engaged. To achieve this, PMMs can encourage users to try out new features (feature adoption), try to curb the rate at which they churn (churn rate), and boost the overall value they bring throughout their journey with the product (CLV), making sure they stick around (retention rate). A positive change in any or all these categories means they are doing something right. 

Making the most of marketing materials

Here, the spotlight is on how well the marketing content – the how-to articles, the landing pages, the video showcases, and the social media posts – is pulling in views, shares, and downloads. A high interaction rate with these materials signals that the PMM’s content game is on point.

Gathering feedback and fostering engagement

In the realm of building connections, a healthy Net Promoter Score (NPS) signals that customers are not just satisfied but are also enthusiastic advocates of the product. Furthermore, collecting favorable reviews on platforms like G2, Capterra, or SourceForge paints a nice picture of customer sentiment and reinforces the product’s standing in the market.

The bottom line

A PMM’s role in a PLG setting demands constant learning, flexibility, and a deep commitment to understanding the product and the people it serves. The leap from a structured corporate environment to a PLG-centric approach has taught me the value of agility, the power of a great product, and the importance of genuinely listening to your users.

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