Product-Led Growth (PLG) CRM:    Everything You Need to Know

by Frederic Melanson in , ,

Doesn't it feel like you need 1000 software products to run your SaaS business?

It does.

One of the main reasons why is we keep adding solutions "on top" of our CRMs to support the changing ways to attract, close and keep customers.

PLG is making the situation even worse.

The fastest-growing companies in the software industry are product-led.

People are waking up to the fact that CRMs aren't built to support bottom-up acquisition models.

PLG CRMs are coming to the rescue!

And the hype is real.

BUUUUT, there's no detailed content on PLG CRMs.

So I'll do my best to give you EVERYTHING you need to know when it comes to the differences between a CRM and a PLG CRM!

Let's dive in 🪂, shall we? 👇

What is a PLG CRM?

A Product-led growth (plg) CRM is a customer records system where product marketing, sales and customer success teams at product-led companies can manage relationships with prospects, users and customers.

The main traits are:

A system of record -> Not an add-on to old CRMs

Most PLG companies use an old CRM and then throw a bunch of add-ons on top of it to support the product-led growth model.

This creates siloes.

Siloes create errors, missed opportunities and kill productivity.

A PLG CRM aggregates the data necessary for revenue teams to get the full picture of the customers:

  • Account/User information (Website, LinkedIn profile, Industry, Company size).
  • Product actions (Where the account is in the product, recent actions taken)
  • Subscription data (Is the account on a free plan? If on paid plan, how much MRR?)
  • Marketing engagement (web pages visited, social posts engaged by users, ebooks downloaded, etc.)
  • Business interactions (meetings, emails, DMs).

Subscription First

A SaaS CRM supports tracking and reporting of the SaaS customer billing models, especially subscription models.

Since PLG companies have lots of leads coming into the product, sales teams need to easily know where the account stands when it comes to payments (card declined? Switched plans? MRR is stalling?).

All about product data

Frictionless integration with product data rolled out through a customer data platform (CDP) or cloud data warehouse (Snowflake) is essential for a PLG CRM.

Understanding how people are using the product, where accounts are in the funnel and which users are most active or inactive is a NEED TO HAVE for go-to-market teams.

Why?

They need to know which accounts to focus efforts on, and how to engage. When key signals emerge, sales reps understand how to best support users through the customer journey. 🚀 💰

Automation-Driven

PLG SaaS businesses, as mentioned above, have higher velocity and need to support leads of all sorts. So smart automation is key to scalable workflows.

A PLG CRM has automation built-in and supports much smarter workflows based on product usage data and conversation analysis.

Smoothly Integrated

The goal of a PLG CRM is to help revenue teams visualize where accounts/users are in the funnel, then take the best actions to close more deals/customers.

Doing so requires built-in integrations with other platforms you use to deliver a great customer experience.

It goes without saying that a PLG CRM has native integrations to most go-to-market solutions, especially customer engagement ones.

Fit for all revenue teams.

For plg companies, the user journey isn't a straight line anymore.

There needs to be more collaboration between customer-facing teams to maximize revenue growth. Those teams include sales, customer success, marketing and growth (new kid on the block).

A PLG CRM brings CS and marketing-related features like intent behaviour, marketing qualified leads, product qualified leads and renewal management together to ensure stronger collaboration between go-to-market teams.

Traditional CRM vs PLG CRM

What's broken with traditional CRMs 😠 👇

  1. It can become timely/expensive to maintain the CRM. The data entry problem is a big one for many companies.
  2. Salesforce's data hierarchy is not built for SaaS products.
  3. Adding new components to Salesforce required a specialist or consulting firm. I repeat, a specialist or consulting firm!
  4. Too many CRM systems are perceived by sales teams as a place they have to go to fill out mandatory fields, rather than a system of action that points them in the right direction.

Esben at Userflow describes it well:

"Salesforce and its competitors still use traditional things like products instead of subscriptions, and calculating a simple thing like ARR requires workflows or add-ons. This gap becomes even more apparent with the big product-led movement, as Salesforce is definitely not built to support a self-service PQL (Product qualified lead) sales process."

What are the benefits of PLG CRM?

1.No more silos

Since every data source relating to customer awareness, acquisition and retention is connected, teams don't need to jump through a bunch of tools to get a complete picture.

2.Higher paid conversions from sign ups

With a PLG CRM, reps know which users need an extra push to convert to paid customers.

This hyper-focus for reps skyrockets paid conversions because they send the right message at the right time to users who need more help/info.

3.Bigger deals closed by reps

Tracking the right data (product, marketing, firmographics) means working with Product Qualified Leads & Accounts.

It helps reps focus on the biggest opportunities, and let ignore smaller opportunities that would have converted by themselves anyway.

4.Alignment across business functions

PLG CRMs track the WHOLE funnel, not just the traditional sales part.

So marketing teams can track key product events to know which users engage with content, customer success teams can understand which accounts are sending expansion signals, or churn signals, etc.

5.Less churn and more expansion revenue

By tracking customer milestones past the "Closed won" stage, sales and CS teams can gain visibility on accounts that show churn behaviour or send expansion intent signals.

This way, they can coordinate an engagement plan that drastically increases net revenue retention.

Who is PLG CRM for?

SaaS companies of all sizes who have a bottom-up acquisition strategy.

Meaning companies who have lots of inbound leads coming in from their marketing content or through the product itself.

Companies who need to sort out revenue opportunities from all of their sign-ups.

Size doesn't really matter, because PLG CRMs are built to support high volumes of data, complex workflows and provide immediate value.

How can you use PLG CRM?

Sales reps use a product-led growth CRM the same way they'd use a regular CRM, except now it's way more adapted to the SaaS reality, much more automated and less complex.

It can be split into 4 categories: Connect, Track, Visualize & Act.

Connect customer data

Connect sources of data to your PLG customer relationship management platform so that every part of your SaaS revenue engine is integrated.

This include:

  • Sales conversations (Email, LinkedIn, Zoom, Intercom)
  • Billing (Stripe)
  • Product usage (Segment, Mixpanel, Amplitude)
  • Marketing engagement (Segment, LinkedIn, GA)
  • Firmographics and demographics (Clearbit, Zoominfo)

Track

A pipeline in a modern PLG focused CRM is like a regular sales pipeline, instead, it's backed by data and tracks accounts and users. It's often called a "funnel" instead of a "pipeline", because it can have stages relating to marketing or CS.

Accounts will often move by themselves through the funnel, and reps take actions on the ones that recently moved or that haven't moved in a while.

For example, you might have a milestone in your funnel called "Product Qualified Accounts".

Accounts under that milestone need to be engaged by sales because they represent a high potential of generating revenue.

The "Product Qualified Accounts" milestone might look something like this 👇

Visualize

Once everything is set up, your sales team needs to be able to easily visualize where accounts/users are in the funnel.

That's where the data-backed pipeline comes in.

IMPORTANT DETAIL 🚨👇

As a PLG company, you need to know which accounts to ignore, because they'll convert by themselves, and which accounts to engage.

That's the beauty of having data-backed milestones. You can set specific triggers to know which accounts need to be actioned and which accounts are on the fully self-serve path. 🎯

Act

Once you know who needs to hear from you to close that next big customer, you need to take actions.

PLG CRMs make it super easy to take the next steps in your sales process.

Some of the main actions are:

  • Reach out manually to a prospect via email or LinkedIn.
  • Trigger in-app notifications through tools like Intercom.
  • Add to engagement campaigns on platforms like Hubspot, Lemlist or Outreach.
  • Update your existing CRM, if you still have one ;).

Recap

Letting prospects use your product (or experience value in some way) before they buy is the most efficient way to scale software companies.

Companies like Slack, Miro, Loom & Snowflake are living proof of that.

However, traditional CRMs aren't built for plg companies 👇

That's why PLG CRMs are slowly coming to market.

They're:

  • Actionable systems of records.
  • Subscription-first.
  • All about product and marketing data.
  • Automation-driven.
  • Play nicely with your company's tools (pre-sales tool, sales tooling, cloud data warehouses, existing CRMs, reverse ETL tool, etc.)
  • And bring all revenue teams together to better serve customers.
  • They have volume-based pricing to grow with you.

They help revenue teams:

  • Break down silos. No data team needed.
  • Drive more customer acquisition.
  • Close bigger deals.
  • Align business functions.
  • Reduce churn and drive expansion revenue.

Convinced? 🤩

Book a demo with me so we can set up in minutes your own PLG CRM and start turning more users into lifelong paid customers 🚀

✌️out,

Fred, founder & CEO of Bliinx

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