Product-led growth (PLG) started out as primarily an acquisition tactic. Now, it’s starting to gain popularity for retention and expansion too.
“Basically, the idea is that rather than putting a ton of calories into marketing, sales and customer service, you lower the barrier of entry to reduce the friction of acquisition and use the product itself as the main lever of retention and expansion,” says New Breed’s Product Strategy Manager Guido Bartolacci.
Lowering the barrier of entry to your solution typically involves leveraging a freemium model, where you have a limited version of your product available for free and then users can pay to expand to upgraded versions.
When you use a product-led strategy, there is an onus for the product itself to do the heavy lifting of creating a positive customer experience. You can’t just bank on people to love the product and fully adopt it without any assistance on your end. You need to find a way to encourage users to explore the product and incorporate it into their daily routines.
An onboarding process that sets users up for success
Because there’s a low barrier to entry, it’s very easy for people to start using your product. But, you’re still competing for their time and attention, so it’s essential to get users up and running as quickly as possible if you want them to stick with your solution.
“The signup flow and onboarding should be incredibly intuitive and user-friendly, meaning someone is able to do a valuable action as quickly as possible,” Guido says.
Most products start with a guided tutorial that helps the user gain an understanding of how to use the product. According to Guido, the onboarding process should end with the user taking an action that correlates with the core value metric that dictates your pricing tier. For example, in a CRM, it might be to create a contact.
How to Use Gamification to Enhance PLG
According to Oxford Languages, Gamification is “the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service.”
It’s a strategy that aims to make tedious or mundane tasks more enjoyable for people by adding a sense of competition or a reward system.
The goal of PLG is to create such an outstanding product usage experience that users keep using the solution, expand the scope of their usage and recommend the product to others. Gamification can help products create that type of experience.
Here are two ways you can integrate gamification into your product to enhance a PLG strategy:
1. Competition and value recognition for continued usage
Providing users with achievements, usage stats, user rankings and/or benchmarks can encourage them to keep using the product over time. Those elements enable users to compete with themselves and other users for the best possible leveraging of the product. In order to continue to improve their performance, and outperform other users, they’ll need to keep using the product and potentially upgrade.
In addition to creating that sense of competition, providing users with that type of information also explicitly highlights some of the value they’re gaining from using the product. This in turn helps them internalize how they benefit from the solution.
For example, Grammarly uses this strategy through a weekly writing update that they email to users that summarizes how an individual’s use of the product compares to other users’, what the most common corrections the tool provided to the individual were and how much the tool was used.
By sending this information week after week, Grammarly helps users understand how they’re progressing toward subject mastery. Over time, users will want to learn from their mistakes and rank in increasingly higher percentiles, and the best way to do that is to keep using Grammarly.
On top of the benchmarking data, Grammarly also provides a section about how many more corrections users would see if they upgraded to the premium version of the tool. This helps users see that even though they’re benefiting from the tool, there’s still even more room for improvement. To truly perfect their writing, they need to expand their use of the platform.
2. Education for more thorough adoption
Another way to encourage upgrades and expansion is with user enablement through educational assets like academies and certifications.
“What the certifications do is coach you on best practices around the discipline and also showing you how you can execute those through the tool,” Guido says. “So, it’s both the theory and the application of a given concept.”
The completion of the educational training is celebrated with a certificate or badge that the user can take pride in, and that tangible reward is the gamification element.
HubSpot Academy is a great example of this. They educate users on concepts related to their platform, like inbound marketing, inbound sales, customer service, and how to execute those ideas through the HubSpot platform.
This allows users to get a tactical understanding of how to utilize the platform, and fully explore what’s possible within it. Users get a sense of accomplishment when they complete a course’s tactical assignments and pass the exam. Plus they receive a certificate that they can share with others to establish their expertise.
Additionally, these courses ensure that users know how to leverage HubSpot so they can actually obtain value from it. By training users on how to leverage the platform, HubSpot ensures that they are capable of gaining value from it. This reduces the chances of friction from incomplete product adoption or perceived difficulty of use.
A lot of companies have seen success from adopting PLG. But, there’s a difference between saying you’re going to do PLG and doing it successfully.
“Just making it easy for someone to sign up and use the product isn’t enough,” Guido says. “You need to encourage continued usage.”
To maximize the results of PLG, you want to make your product so valuable to the user that they wouldn’t want to move away from it. Gamification can help users fully realize the value they’re gaining.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.