UPDATE: Our 1-month young PLG product Keyplay Lists passed 1K users 🎉
Now let's talk PLG Rising 40...
I just posted a summary deck with tons of charts and examples.
The full backstory:
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working with OpenView to launch the 2023 PLG Rising 40 Awards and study how up-and-coming PLG companies go to market.
Five winners across six categories – and 10 from the “Most Loved” category – were selected by PLG experts from 400+ community nominations.
In this analysis, we cover four trends across the PLG elite:
- Dual sales-led and product-led funnels
- The community + PLG sweet spot
- Alternatives to pure freemium plans
- Hiring differences between PLG and other SaaS
1) PLG, but not rep-free.
Median sales headcount is 12% of total.
Product-led companies are defined by self-serve and low-touch buyer experiences. This approach is not mutually exclusive from sales. PLG Rising 40 often invest in some form of complementary or parallel sales motion (PQL assist, inbound, ABM).
69% of PLG Rising 40 have some form of “enterprise” offer.
The classic PLG stories grew bottom-up first, then added enterprise sales. The rising 40 seem to be pursuing both motions in parallel, even early in the lifecycle.
Supermetrics: This martech company has all the GTM signals to support self-serve – partnerships, templates, freemium, etc. Yet, sales represent nearly a third (29%) of their 358-person team. And they’re not slowing down. Headcount is growing M/M, hiring velocity is high, and they have open roles for SDRs and AEs in various locations.
Tines: More than a third (37%) of Tines’ relatively young team of 185 work in sales. What’s more, they’ve built multiple funnels (free, startup, and unlimited plans) in five years. Despite the market, they’re increasing headcount M/M and have open sales roles.
Of course, not all PLG companies have big sales teams. There’s a huge spread in sales team size across the PLG Rising 40. Sales make up just 2-3% of Pocus, PostHog, and Buffer.
2) Rising PLG companies prioritize community
PLG Rising 40 build community 3.5x more often than SaaS peers.
This supports what we saw in our Cloud 100 analysis. Interestingly, about two-thirds of the Cloud 100 have a PLG motion. 58% of what the tech world considers the best of SaaS (Cloud 100) have a community versus just 37% of our entire B2B SaaS index.
Communities are particularly attractive for SaaS companies with technical products, like Security and Developer tech, where users need more group discussions and support. All 10 winners from both of those categories have a community.
It’s also a no-brainer for bootstrapped companies that need to grow their audience organically. Four of the five winners in the Bootstrapped category boast a community.
Even the smallest PLG Rising 40 companies are betting on the community + PLG flywheel.
In general, PLG is simply better at building followers and community than your average B2B SaaS company. This makes sense on the surface given that a core philosophy of product-led is to optimize for end users.
BuildKite: Leads with several community offers on their website navigation: annual conference, 2.6K Slack community, forum, and newsletter.
Tango: Most of the major growth levers Tango pulled to get to 200K users involve community. First, they carefully conducted customer discovery with early design partners. Next, they rallied their community for a formal Product Hunt launch. Then, they amplified their audience using creator-led TikTok videos.
3) PLG Rising 40 have multiple flavors of free
Almost identical to what we saw when we looked at free offers across 664 PLG companies late last year, with slightly more PLG 40s opting for reverse trials (both) vs freemium only offers.
Freemium is becoming table stakes, especially in the horizontal SaaS space. Top PLG companies don’t just offer free plans. Ahrefs promotes nine free tools – from traffic checkers to word counters – on its site. Now, emerging players like Copy.ai are following in their footsteps with a library of free AI writing tools.
At the same time, we’re seeing companies like Redpanda use coveted website real estate to direct people to open-source content and brand-moderated communities on Slack and GitHub.
4) Growing against the odds
78% of PLG Rising 40 are actively hiring.
Less than half of our broader SaaS index has grown headcount in the last 6 months. Meanwhile, 84% of the Rising 40 have grown their teams and continue hiring today. About half have open roles in marketing and half in sales.
Want to dive deeper into the characteristics and strategies of top PLG companies yourself?
We enriched and published the full list of winners along with key GTM and hiring signals so you can study next-gen PLG and uplevel your own go-to-market strategy: PeerSignal.org/PLG
Have more questions or feedback? Reply or join the conversation on LinkedIn.
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Adam & Camille
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