How Guru Layers Human Touchpoints Onto a Strong Self-Service Model

It might seem surprising for someone with a background in sales engineering who is also the author of the bestseller Just F*ing Demo!: Tactics for Leading Kickass Product Demos to be a passionate advocate for product-led growth, but Rob Falcone definitely is.

In his role as Senior Director of Sales Engineering and Strategy at knowledge base software company Guru, Rob constantly looks for ways to enhance Guru’s product-led customer journey with the most valuable components of a traditional pre-sales experience.

Guru’s transition to product-led growth

As many fans of Guru can empathize, migrating to a new company knowledge base can seem like a daunting task, since a successful deployment is predicated on multiple users contributing valuable information.

Related read: What is product-led growth?

For this reason, the company utilized an exclusively high-touch, sales-led approach for many years.

“Initially, we were building custom demos for each prospect, tailoring everything to look and feel exactly like their environment,” Rob said.

The Guru team found a ton of success with this approach when it came to converting and retaining early customers. But as the company stared down its next phase of growth, they recognized that a few key attributes made product-led growth an attractive go-to-market option:

  1. The product had built-in network effects (the more new users and information, the more useful the system is for everyone)
  2. Integrations with critical systems people use for work (web browser, Slack, Microsoft Teams) make the product very sticky and drive regular engagement

Guru’s transition to a product-led go-to-market model started with changing the website’s call to action from “Get a demo” to “Try the product.” The team found that some users still needed a little bit of help getting started, but they weren’t ready to engage with sales. So they created a new role: product specialist.

The initial team pulled top performers from Technical Support, Account Management, and Sales Development—an intentionally diverse cross section. Whether the user prefers to engage via live chat or consultation call, product specialists operate with the same guiding principles known internally as “The Core Four”:

  1. Confirm the use case
  2. Uncover the friction
  3. Remove the friction
  4. Guide next steps

The product specialist role at Guru is unique because it’s proactive about addressing really specific user needs, but it still requires a human touch—and that can be expensive. It’s important to note that a lot of companies have their version of the product specialist team (HubSpot Inbound Success Coaches, Airtable Onboarding Specialists, Asana User Ops, Dropbox Self Services).

Scaling human touchpoints

Guru aligned their go-to-market teams with their customers based on a few factors:

Size:

  • Bigger companies had a high-touch model—dedicated account managers and CSM access to tech support
  • Smaller companies were low-touch—product specialist team

Place in the funnel:

  • Pre-conversion for larger accounts. The team is all about helping customers use the product so they activate and adopt long term.
  • Post-conversion for smaller accounts that raise their hands and need an extra touchpoint can do so at this stage.

Setting up these programs is a huge job, but it’s only half of what’s required from an operational point of view. Since Rob was spinning up and leading these teams, he was eventually going to need to show whether they were successful.

Rob mentioned that he didn’t want the team to feel too commercially motivated—they weren’t salespeople, after all. Rob ultimately landed on leveraging new logo acquisition as the primary KPI for the team. “This KPI measured a few things. It was about getting people started, adopting the product, and converting to a paid plan,” he explained.

Rob counterbalances this primary KPI with diagnostics such as CSAT and customer comments.

What’s next?

Product-led models certainly aren’t “set it and forget it.” When I asked Rob about the priorities on the horizon for the Guru team, this is what he laid out:

  • Using PQL scoring to inform when the product specialists proactively reach out to customers who may need help. (I’d be remiss if I missed a plug for my PQL work.)
  • Expanding the team and supporting roles to support scaling the PLG efforts. (Check out the job openings at Guru.)
  • Creating more one-to-many programs that develop more opportunities for users to raise their hand and engage with the team.
  • Developing personalization throughout the customer journey.

As product-led business models become more mainstream, I predict we’ll see more and more established companies transition to that model. Rob and his team have done an exceptional job of bridging the gap between what a product can offer end users at any time and any place, while also enabling a human touch and a tailored experience where and when it’s desired.

Keep reading about product-led growth

Sam Richard
Sam Richard
Director of Growth
OpenView

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