Jesus Requena (Figma): Building a PLG Data & Product Analytics Stack at Unity

April 6, 2022

Moving to a product-led growth (PLG) model changes the customer journey from a sales-driven approach to one driven by the product itself. A customer advances by taking actions directly in the product, which means product analytics are paramount to PLG success.

Jesus Requena, VP of Growth Marketing at Figma, tells the story of how he built the PLG analytics stack at Unity, and the unexpected insights it uncovered. He shares how embracing product analytics enabled Unity to use data and personalization to drive more than $40M in annual recurring revenue.

Defining obstacles

In 2016, Jesus joined Unity, a real-time development platform for 3D, 2D, virtual reality, and alternative reality games. At the time, Unity had nearly one million active users a month.

Jesus’s goal was to convert as many of them as possible into paying subscribers.

Only, there was a problem. They didn’t know much about these users.

“We were lacking visibility on two sides. Who are these people?…And then the second one is, what kind of things were they doing with the product?”— Jesus Requena

Jesus and his team set out to find answers.

Gaining greater visibility

The team had access to basic user data, like login information, a name, and domain. But it wasn’t enough. They lacked demographic data.

Obtaining this information was tricky. With incognito sessions and gmail signups, they were staring at a sea of anonymized user data.

They started with data enrichment. They used tools like Clearbit and ZoomInfo. And what they found surprised them:

  1. They learned that a good portion of users belonged to large gaming studios. Think: expansion potential.
  2. They found that 30% of the users were not gamers. These included media agencies tapping into VR or AR, or industrial applications.
  3. They identified about 60,000-80,000 studios were incorrectly using the free version of the product, violating their EULA Terms of Service.

Jesus saw a huge untapped opportunity for monetization. His team set to work building campaigns.

Learning from mistakes

Jesus and his team were initially running a classic campaign for their product. Users would activate a freemium version of the product, then Unity would send emails to these users as part of a growth marketing campaign to convert them into paid subscribers.

And this was working, for a while. Their product analytics showed anywhere from 15 to 20% of users converted into a subscription.

However, there was the issue of the 60,000 to 80,000 users who were violating the EULA terms of service.

So they got a little creative and sent these users an email, something along the lines of:

“We’ve noticed you may not be using the product correctly, here’s a path to convert to a subscription.”

And it blew up on Twitter.

Developers took to the social platform to air their frustrations with the accusatory tenor of the messaging. But Jesus and his team turned those negative reactions into a learning opportunity.

“We became smarter in understanding who truly was not just violating the terms of service but how to take that opportunity and expand.” — Jesus Requena

It was clear that Unity needed a different approach.

Doubling down on data

Jesus recognized they needed to get to the next level of product visibility. They needed to answer questions like: How many users did each account have on the product? How many users could Unity be missing out on?

They hired data scientists to leverage product analytics and pull together other data points—things like what they were using the software to build, the size of the studio using the product, and the revenue of the end user’s organization.

“All of this, at the beginning, was a lot of spreadsheets,” Jesus said.

Offering value instead

Jesus fueled inside sales teams with this information to create more personalized campaigns. The data helped customer success improve their onboarding flows, too.

They started by simply highlighting all of the benefits and bonuses of a subscription.

Then, they used this data to put a case together for the end user that illustrated the unique value a paid subscription would offer their organization.

“Marketing became smarter, the success team became more personalized, and the sales team became more ready to talk to the right [person] at the right time with the right personalized message. Those three things happened pretty much in parallel.” — Jesus Requena

Framing the outreach around value still helped address the terms of service violations, while, ultimately, also increasing revenue.

A true success story

In the first two years, they generated over $30 million in annual recurring revenue.

They monitored conversion rates across chat and sales sequences. After some tweaks and realignment, open rates for their onboarding sequences increased to between 50-60%.

And sales outreaches were as high as 70%.

The trick? Personalized communication. They put examples in the subject lines that showed the end-user they understood how they were using the product.

PLG isn’t built in a day

For companies looking to emulate Unity’s success, Jesus offers some advice.

First, recognize that building a PLG analytics engine takes time. It took Unity 18-24 months, Jesus notes.

Product analytics tools help speed up the process. Jesus mentioned Segment, HeadsUp, and Endgame, which allow companies to more easily aggregate product data.

“It takes time to get your data right on defining what that journey is from the product point of view.”— Jesus Requena

Then, there’s enablement. Jesus invested heavily in training customer success and sales teams on how users use the product.

“To me, everything starts with the product,” Jesus said. “Understand your product. What is the behavior, what is the journey of the user, what does it mean to be successful? Value perception, value adoption, “aha!” moments, activation points, expansion points. Write it down. Test it internally. Talk to sales… And then go and experiment. Every company’s going to be different. It’s not going to be a copy and paste solution.”

Managing Editor

Rohma is the Managing Editor at OpenView. She works closely with OV's contributing writers, freelancers, and internal experts to help them find just the right words to tell their story and provide the best possible reader experience to OV's audiences.