An Inside Look at Snyk’s Product Led Growth Strategy

January 13, 2021

At first glance, using a product led growth (PLG) strategy to sell a solution with a relatively small, high-level audience might not seem like the most effective plan. But first impressions can be deceiving.

Take security tools, for instance. Most are sold with a top-down approach that focuses on enterprise security teams. The problem: There’s a relatively small number of these teams to target.

Snyk, however, found a way to expand their audience exponentially. Snyk puts developers first not only in terms of their cloud native application security product, but also in terms of how they market and sell that product.

In a recent episode of the OV BUILD podcast, OpenView Partner Blake Bartlett spoke with Francesca Krihely, Senior Director, Developer Experience and Growth at Snyk, about how her company uses a freemium model to find new points of entry into enterprise organizations.

Listen to the episode below or scroll down to read the rest of this story.

Creating a competitive advantage with a PLG strategy

“It seems like PLG is moving into every industry, but security has been a little bit slower to adopt,” said Francesca. “Despite having a large scope within an organization, security teams are quite small. So very few security products offer a freemium or trial version of their product.” This is, as Francesca pointed out, a mistake.

“Most security companies assume that the market is confined to the limited number of folks in security team roles,” she explained. “But the market is actually huge if you think about it in a different way. Security isn’t just for the security teams. It’s for the developers, the DevOps teams, and the architects within the organization.”

Related read: The Future of Product Led Growth Might Be Hiding Where You Least Expect It

By looking at the whole addressable market, Snyk is able to gain a very different perspective and identify bottom-up, product-led opportunities. As an aside, Francesca notes that, contrary to popular belief, executives—including CSOs—will also often try free products.

“They were once developers or security engineers themselves,” she said. “They are curious. If you have a free product, they may try it and then visit your docs as well.”

There are two keys to making the most of a freemium product or free trial. First, make it really easy to get into. Second, ensure that the user experiences value in the first five minutes. Snyk has mastered both of these.

Screenshot of Snyk's signup

“As long as you have code on your desktop or a project in a GitHub account, you can get started with Snyk and see the value almost immediately,” said Francesca. “This is a game-changing experience in the security world. It’s instrumental in helping us move faster and acquire customers at a much lower cost.”

The competitive advantage this approach gives Snyk is huge. “While a future customer is waiting to hear back on a demo request they left for our competitor, they’re actually taking Snyk for a test run,” Francesca explained. “Prospects are literally seeing the value of our product before our competitor has even had a chance to respond.”

Empowering product led growth with a strong SEO strategy

Before a prospect can get into Snyk and experience that real-time value, they first need to become aware of the product. The Snyk team uses content and a strong SEO game to help make sure that their product gets in front of the right people at the right time.

“A big piece of our PLG growth mindset is starting with a developer mindset,” Francesca said. “Our developer-first approach gives us an advantage by keeping us focused on things like how we can help developers be more successful and which technical resources they need, but can’t find.”

The combination of content and SEO are a core part of the brand’s growth strategy. As Francesca explained, “Being able to answer developer questions is key. Developers are constantly online looking for solutions to their problems. They ask friends, social media, and Google. We use content and strong SEO to insert Snyk into the developer’s workflow as they search for answers.”

Related read: The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Developers

Because dev tools and SDKs change quickly and frequently, Snyk maintains a massive (and always growing) vulnerability database. This database powers the security recommendations in their product, but it is also an open and searchable resource that drives tons of organic traffic.

“You need to always be thinking about SEO,” Francesca said. “And one of the big growth levers for Snyk is programmatic SEO, which helps us build our search reputation not only by producing new content, but by programmatically adding to the huge collection of content that already exists.”

She cites Quora as an example of programmatic SEO—a place where people are constantly creating new content by asking questions and providing answers.

Quora screenshot

Another concept that makes the most of programmatic SEO is something Snyk calls The Open Source Advisor. This content asset is a dynamically updated repository of open source packages that is designed to be a data-driven resource that helps developers select the best package for their next project. “This project is building awesome awareness for us, and driving free conversions in the long term,” Francesca said.

Using product qualified leads to drive account-based marketing

Snyk’s PLG strategy also enables them to drive growth through product qualified leads (PQLs). PQLs are similar to marketing qualified leads except they represent users who have completed enough activities in your product to demonstrate a level of engagement that’s deep enough to warrant moving them to the next level of monetization. Snyk uses PQLs to inform their account based marketing efforts.

“We have a lot of PQLs coming in, and we pass them to our sales organization,” Francesca said. “As part of this process, we identify which PQLS are part of the same organization. This makes it possible for us to add an account-based marketing layer to the strategy.”

Combining this bottom-up, user-focused PQL approach with the traditional top-down, CIO-focused selling strategy, Snyk gets to have the best of both worlds in what is sometimes referred to as a “pincher” strategy.

“We can identify which accounts show a lot of existing activity with our product, and then we use a plugin to generate a list of five senior decision makers at that account,” Francesca said. “This is the easiest way for a sales rep to sell because the organization is already—through existing developer users—seeing value from Snyk.”

Using this model, the sales reps have a much easier job. Instead of cold calling or other types of outreach, they can connect with a relevant buyer contact whose team is already on board. At that stage, it’s less about selling the product than it is about simply formalizing the relationship to expand the use.

Bucking the status quo to unlock growth opportunities

Snyk’s success proves that it pays to take a different approach. By redefining their audience and rethinking how they reach and engage that audience—using a freemium model—Snyk has opened the door to a world of opportunity that might have gone unnoticed by a less creative brand.

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Jamie is a writer, mom, and nature lover based in Ipswich, MA.