The path to sustainable business success is paved with a product-led growth (PLG) strategy, says everyone from Atlassian to Sequoia Capital. These days, there’s a digital product for everything – whether you’re looking to browse, buy, or bank. That means that for many companies today, their digital products have become a major touchpoint for connecting them to their customers. In fact, by 2026, 40% of the total revenue for top Asia-based organisations will be generated by digital products.
The message is clear: If businesses want to remain relevant to their customers, they’ll need to start putting their digital product at the heart of their business. It’s only by investing in a great digital experience that you’ll keep users coming back. As companies look for more efficient ways to grow, understanding user behaviour and aligning it with product performance is key to successfully riding the digital wave.
While many understand the value of PLG, not all experience success in convincing their boardroom to bet on it. And with the success of a PLG strategy highly contingent on organisation-wide buy-in, it’s crucial that everyone across the business gets on board.
Product success equals business success
So what exactly does a product-led growth strategy entail, and how does it differ from other growth models out there? More importantly, how can it impact business outcomes for the better?
In businesses that are not product-led, the sales team is the primary revenue driver. At product-led companies, the product becomes a revenue and retention source of its own. It is the main driver of customer acquisition, activation, satisfaction, retention, and scalable expansion.
This means that the product drives value for itself and for the business. If a product is great, customers engage deeper with it, oftentimes finding it so valuable that they keep coming back. It also means that the product provides cues that encourage customers to grow their usage over time.
For example, if a free user of a cloud-based analytics tool is maxing out the number of queries they can run, the product itself can prompt them to buy a subscription for extended capabilities. Similarly, if a user needs more sophisticated features to solve their complex data analysis problems, the product can suggest it’s time to upgrade to a premium version.
When all the customer-facing teams across a company (e.g., marketing, product, engineering, or customer success) rally around product-led growth, the business is able to prioritise and deliver an innovative and personalised product experience that drives customer loyalty and retention all on its own. This ultimately leads to efficient and sustainable growth.
The recipe for a good product
Of course, the inverse rings true. While marketing and sales are essential growth levers, even the best campaigns cannot cover for an inadequate product.
So what does a product need to have or be, in order to be good enough to drive sustainable growth all on its own? At its core, a good product should be easily accessible. There shouldn’t be any hand-holding from a support team or complicated account set-up requirements. The people using your product should see its impact almost immediately. If not, they’ll quickly switch to an easier-to-use product, and you risk losing them completely.
Your product should also become an essential part of your customers’ work or daily habits. Whether a new customer downloads your product to buy stock or to order their Friday night dinner, you want the product to solve their initial need so well that they keep coming back. We call this an “aha moment.” For example, someone may first download a grocery delivery app if they’re faced with an empty fridge and are low on time. But if they have a good first experience and you solved their problem, they’ll come back to you the next time they want to skip a trip to the supermarket, until eventually you become a convenience they can’t imagine giving up. Every product needs an aha moment, and you want it to happen as quickly as possible.
Finally, your product needs to be monetisable. While activation, stickiness, and retention are all imperative, a good product ultimately needs to drive revenue. This could be through upgrading to a paid or higher-tier subscription, making initial or repeat purchases, or in-product advertising.
With these building blocks in place, your product is better-positioned to become the heartbeat of your business and form the foundation of your product-led growth strategy.
A product-first culture starts from the top
Product and data leaders may be well-aware of the power of a good product and the advantages of PLG, but that is simply not enough to harness its true impact. Everyone across the C-suite must be able to envision and embrace what a product-led strategy can do for the company’s growth.
This is where a Chief Product Officer’s (CPO) seat at the boardroom table becomes invaluable. To make PLG a reality, a CPO’s role in the eyes of their peers must extend beyond merely ensuring a company’s product is meeting basic business and customer needs. Instead, the CPO must also be seen as an advocate for sustainable business growth, and this means steering conversations that convince fellow leaders of the inextricable link between product and business growth.
But how can CPOs strengthen the case for PLG in the boardroom? A sure-fire way to demonstrate the power of putting product first is to measure that success through outcomes, not output. Product leaders need to spotlight how iterating a product to meet customers’ needs can lead to happier, more loyal customers that stick around and spend more.
This is a shift for many product teams. In the past, outputs — such as how many new features are rolled out each quarter — were the status quo. Now, the number of feature releases doesn’t matter if you can’t articulate how those capabilities helped the business grow. Moreover, specifics matter: Product teams need to be able to measure their impact on everything, from new user sign-ups and engagement metrics to check-out rates and revenue.
Staying ahead of the curve
In a world that sees thousands of new digital products every week, a product-first strategy is a timeless staple that can take your organisation from one era to the next. When done right, it can delight customers, spur faster growth, and command high valuations. This starts with building a product so good that its value becomes indisputable – then letting that product’s business impact speak for itself in the boardroom.