The Best Growth Advice Of 2022
It’s been a big year for OpenView’s blog, thanks to the support of readers like you.
In 2022, we published loads of posts–guides, guest blogs, advice, and more. We gained 🔥 advice from founders and leaders at a who’s who of PLG companies like Airtable, Hotjar, Jasper, Supermetrics, Webflow, Zapier, and more. And we published three big reports—including our sixth (!?) SaaS Benchmarks Report, which is still gaining traction among readers and is proving to be a valuable resource for the new year.
As we wrap up the year, I wanted to reflect on the 22 best growth nuggets we learned in 2022. Let’s dive in.
📣 Marketing and acquisition
- Templates. Templates help you attract a wide variety of potential users by showing how you help them achieve their specific goal in their own language. (For inspiration, look at Zapier.)
- Product-related hubs. Instead of static white papers, SaaS companies are creating curated hubs around key product pillars. These product hubs get infused with product images, broad descriptive content aimed at search intent, and then much more granular content to drive engagement.
- Competitive comparisons. In competitive product categories, users search for terms like “best X platforms” or “best free Y products.” Instead of relying on third parties to chime in, why not control the narrative yourself? That way you:
- get the traffic on your website;
- define the product category on your terms; and
- position yourself as the leader.
- Free ungated tools. Lately I’ve noticed a shift towards delivering real value, no strings attached. PLG companies like Eraser and Photoroom are launching ungated free product experiences. These companies let prospective users immediately try out the product—no sign up required—and then ask for an email only if users want to save their progress. (Spoiler alert: they usually do!)
- Media acquisitions. Software companies are increasingly acquiring media assets. Why? Media companies have cracked the code on attracting a large and engaged audience for very little cost. (Look at Pendo and Mind the Product.)
- Product virality. The fastest-growing companies generate 2x as many new sign-ups from product referrals compared to everyone else. There are three steps to increasing virality, according to the former chief product officer at Calendly.
- Community. Community is an incredible multiplier on a PLG strategy. In my opinion, a community strategy can be applied to nearly every PLG business; the question is finding the right community strategy. These are some of my favorite PLG + community examples.
- Interactive demos. Introduce an on-demand interactive product demo to turn high-value website visitors into customers. (For inspiration, look at Oyster.)
📈 Activation and conversion
- Self-serve onboarding. Drop-off rates after the first day can be surprisingly high. At the average SaaS company 40-60%+ of new users never return to the product. Here are the top self-serve onboarding mistakes.
- Blank slate problem. If everything’s empty in your product, it’s hard to visualize the promised land of what’s possible. The best SaaS companies know exactly what they want new users to accomplish on their first day and get them excited to do it.
- Personalization. Segment and personalize the user journey as you scale. A large company won’t adopt your product exactly the same way as a small one. Your user might not be in a position to self-serve without help from another team. Curious about implementation? Look at Hotjar.
- Usage paywalls. Usage paywalls create a compelling event for users to graduate to the next tier after they’ve experienced value from your product. Users get to experience a taste of your premium features—which drives engagement, stickiness, and habit formation—yet still have a clear reason to pay more over time.
🤑 Pricing and monetization
- Reverse trials. Is this the buzzword of 2022? Perhaps—and with good reason. Want inspiration? Airtable gets it right.
- Give away (more) features. The name of the game is to deliver value before the paywall. When in doubt, err on the side of ungating access to your product. (Instead of monetizing based on value delivered, look at Algolia for inspiration.)
- Price testing. Get more comfortable with pricing experiments. Why? Pricing is your most powerful and most immediate growth lever. DigitalOcean for example, generated $13 million+ in extra revenue from price increases.
🤝 Sales and expansion
- Sales-assist. The best PLG companies do hire sales! The hottest role in PLG: sales-assist.
- PQLs. Leverage product usage as a signal of buying intent. The goal of product-qualified leads (PQLs)—or, as I increasingly prefer, product-qualified accounts (PQAs)—is to engage with the right accounts at the right time with the right message based on what you know about them.
- Your first GTM hire. It’s time to rethink the profile of your first GTM hire. Here’s how HubSpot did it.
- Outbound. Data from PeerSignal.org indicates that a whopping 54% of PLG companies on their B2B Tech Hiring Tracker are looking for SDRs or BDRs. But “outbound” looks different in a PLG motion. (Check out ClickUp’s strategy.)
📊 Strategy and operations
- PLG benchmarks. Let’s replace the classic B2B funnel with a new one, this time taking into account users rather than buyers and product activity rather than simply sales and marketing activity. (For benchmarks, look here.)
- Product-driven revenue (PDR). One PLG KPI to add to your dashboard: PDR, aka revenue from customers where meaningful activity was observed and recorded in the product before any sales interaction. PDR treats the product as a growth driver, moves away from fights between self-serve vs. sales, and it’s intuitive. This is how Snyk implements it.
- PLG series A. The early stage PLG fundraising market isn’t dead. But it requires a different fundraising checklist.
The Top 5 OpenView Blogs of 2022
One final countdown to end the year: your top five favorite blogs as measured by total page views. Drum roll please…
As part of our 2022 Product Benchmarks report, we took a deeper look at how users interact with products—and how PLG strategies forced businesses to rethink their overall product outreach. Here’s where we stepped in, taking the results from our report and reimagined the user journey from the moment of discovery to scaling up the relationship to keep them engaged and happy.
Our latest update to the Market Map in August included over 100 companies that excel in their vision and implementation of PLG. The map spreads out across four product categories:
- Developer and product tools: The software that enables others to build and design cutting-edge products for more users.
- Back office and operations: Offering other companies the ability to run their own admin and ops departments with less friction.
- Customer engagement: Communication, communication, communication. These tools help businesses engage and retain value-based relationships with their users.
- Productivity and collaboration: The last and broadest category, but one that is worth mentioning. These tools allow employees and employers to manage both workflow and comms across their businesses.
We also included a new addition to the map: the pack leaders of PLG innovation and growth. These businesses are paving the way for others looking to adopt successful product-led growth motions and retain, engage, and empower their users.
Another refresh to a valuable analysis! Companies that need to review their CAC payback practices can read through this guide to understand how this measurement can make or break their market strategy. OV talks about the CAC payback formula (and which one we recommend!) as a valuable metric, the ideal timeframe to recoup money, and what best practices improve efficiency and transparency.
Those curious about the driving force behind our recommendations can look at the results from our 2021 Finance & Operating Benchmarks report.
Steven Forth of Ibbaka penned this post originally in 2015, and updated it to better reflect the strategies most rewarded by the market. The choices remain the same as Steven explains, but the outcomes and context surrounding each one have shifted a bit. Pricing strategy still reflects the value you market to users, but also serves as a signal to your competitors how your product differentiates from theirs.
So it’s not necessarily that the choice itself is hard to make, but whether you can stick to it as your business evolves. It’s been nearly a year since this post was updated, but our readers keep coming back. That’s the power of price strategy.
This piece amassed a ton of page views—and there’s a good reason for that. Eleven reasons, even.
The year of 2022 definitely tested our mettle and certainly made the markets a bit murkier, but we are seeing a new direction for the future of PLG. The Age of Connected Work takes everything that we’ve learned about PLG and lays out 11 principles for companies to embrace.
As we’ve noted, gone are the days where people simply purchase and use software. Nowadays, people are layering products to fill in the gaps for their businesses to run with success. These tech stacks make it possible for people to work from anywhere but also provide the operational foundation for most businesses.
The leaders of this future PLG generation will be those who can produce products that not only meet these needs, but make it easier to scale, customize, and grow. We’re talking about truly product-led motions, from marketing to usage-based pricing. These 11 principles are unsurprisingly worth revisiting, no matter what stage your company is in.