👓 The 5 senses of successful PLG teams

Hey, it’s Ben here 👋. I’m back with another edition of The Product-Led Geek, the newsletter where I dive into the strategies and tactics that help you scale your business with Product-Led Growth and Product-Led Sales.

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Here’s what you’ll find in today’s PLGeek:

  • 📅 GEEKS OF THE WEEK: 5 links for you to bookmark

  • 🧠 GEEK OUT: The 5 senses of successful PLG teams

  • 😂 GEEK GIGGLE: 1 thing that made me laugh this week.

Total reading time: 5 minutes

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5 bookmark-worthy links:


The 5 senses of successful PLG teams

You all know that I love an analogy around these parts.

And while pondering something I’m currently working on with a client I got to thinking about how the teams behind successful PLG products have some things in common that give them just the right amount of sensitivity and responsiveness to their environment, much like how the human senses enable us to survive and thrive in a multitude of environments.

So how do these teams see, hear, taste, touch and smell their way to great outcomes?

1. Sight: Visionary Leadership

Visionary leadership is a cornerstone of any successful company, but many of the most successful and disruptive PLG companies also thrived because of the founders bet big on a bottom-up go-to-market motion to democratise access to their value.

Leaders with a clear, inspiring vision let their teams see a clear path ahead and align their work towards common goals. They can paint a vivid picture of what the future looks like, and they know exactly how to keep their teams focused on long-term objectives rather than getting lost in short-term noise.

A couple of amazing examples come to mind:

  • Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht, Cameron Adams (Canva): Their vision of making design accessible to everyone (‘to empower the world to design) led Canva to become one of the most popular design tools on the market and an absolute PLG behemoth with 185 million monthly users in over 190 countries, generating $2.3B per year. Lenny just released an episode with Cameron and it’s gold - a must watch/listen.

  • Guy Podjarny, Danny Grander, Assaf Hefet (Snyk): In the application security market where the sales motion was historically top down, existing solutions all catered to the security buyer, at the expense of developer experience leading to poor adoption and ineffective app security programs. Combine this with adjacent market shifts in DevOps, and Guy, Danny and Assaf saw the opportunity to do things differently and take a dev-first approach to improving application security posture. If you’re interested in more on this, watch my episode with Lenny:

2. Hearing: Feedback Loops

Hearing in PLG is how you continually listen to user feedback. It’s about attentively capturing users' voices through any and every means that’s appropriate for your them - inside your product, and outside wherever they hang out.

Quant. Qual. All of it.

Successful PLG teams excel at actively listening to their market and users, and they institutionalise the processes and mechanisms that allow them to capture, triage, analyse, derive insight from the multitude of signals being emitted, and then prioritise and make decisions informed by those insights.

Every successful PLG product puts users (and feedback from users) at the heart of their strategy and evolution - both in terms of what value is delivered, and how that value is delivered.

It’s this kind of listening that enables teams to refine their products continually to better serve users, leading to more customers experiencing value more often, meaning more customers willing to pay you for that value.

3. Taste: Craftsmanship and Quality

Successful PLG teams are connoisseurs, placing immense value on high-quality, meticulously crafted products. They understand that even the finest detail can mean the difference between happy, satisfied users, and frustrated users. And ultimately, whether their products succeed or fail.

Usually this taste is highly opinionated and when done exceptionally well results in design language and user experiences that are instantly recognisable (with positive sentiment) and become synonymous with the brand - think Apple, GitHub, Nintendo.

PLG teams also have the taste buds and intuition of the best chefs. They regularly sample what they’re cooking (friction logging, UX audits, dogfooding / icecreaming) and are adept at detecting the slightest off-note on their palette.

Applying meticulous attention to detail can take users beyond just engagement, and help them fall in love with your product so they become passionate advocates.

For PLG, where the product itself is the primary driver of growth, dedication to high quality UX is non-negotiable for landing, retaining and expanding customers.

4. Touch: Tailored Experiences

Touch has a much more obvious analogy in the world of physical products, but for teams building PLG software products, I see it as the ability to create tailored user (and team) experiences that better help them achieve their goals.

I remember getting kitted out for my wedding. I’d never had a fitted suit before and I recall being amazed at how the tailor rapidly worked to ‘size me up’, and astounded at how much better the end result fitted me than an off-the-shelf suit. On our big day I was still a nervous wreck, but I felt great in my garms.

PLG teams similarly use their touch to shape user journeys that feel natural and effortless. They weave in intuitive features, seamless integrations, and enjoyable interactions that naturally augment the user's workflow.

If your product fits your users like a glove, you’re winning in PLG.

5. Smell: Double-I Decision-Making

  • (I)nform by data.

  • (I)ntuit by experience.

I think of smell as the ability to make decisions that balance data with intuition. Successful PLG teams have a knack for making informed decisions that just feel right, and more often than not lead to great outcomes. They strike a balance between hard data, pattern matching and gut feelings, leveraging each in greater or lesser quantities as appropriate to the situation.

Andrew Chen just wrote a great piece on this subject that I’d encourage you all to read.

BONUS: Reaction

Your senses wouldn’t be much use if you weren’t able to react quickly to them being stimulated. If it took you 30 seconds to react to placing your hand on a hot stove, the results wouldn’t be pretty.

The most successful PLG teams have the ability and agility to be able to react quickly to their senses. They are great at distilling all of the sensory inputs, making fast decisions on how to react, and then taking action.

All of these 5 PLG senses need to be present to achieve great growth outcomes - how do you stack up?



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