Product led marketing is just marketing done right


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Let’s start by stating the obvious: marketing exists to convince a potential user that a product solves a problem they have, whether it be a problem they know exists or not. This goal can oftentimes be lost among other tangential goals of marketing like brand awareness, sharing company updates, etc. Product led marketing gets us back to the core reason for marketing at all: the product itself.

Without changing anything about the product, marketing can fundamentally change the business through activation: ie. the percent of users that use the product that achieve meaningful usage or even get monetized and start paying. How? One word: motivation.

One audience in particular that’s averse to marketing are developers. As a data engineer turned marketer, I’m still hesitant to try a tool if all it can offer me is a beautiful user interface (UI). I need to know what the tool will get me or save me to assess whether it’s worth the time to try it out. While consumers may be heavily influenced by brand (take Lululemon as a prime example), business buyers are more focused on three things:

    Time efficiency. Saving time by reducing redundant or tedious tasks. Example: using a cloud provider (i.e. AWS/GCP/Azure) instead of hosting infrastructure on-premise
    Monetary efficiency. Saving money through monitoring expenses or increased efficiency. Example: vendor usage management and automatic limits
    Expansion. Expanding ability to manage new teams, projects, or features. Example: good business expense management to hire remote teams

Product led marketing needs to motivate the user to sign up, use the product, not be deterred by any bugs in new features or early stage products, and ideally integrate it into recurring work. Doing so takes refinement and careful product management, but let me give a quickstart that appeals to me as a developer and I’ve seen work in a marketing capacity:

Market what the product helps achieve, not what the product does. The harsh reality is product features don’t matter at face value—they only matter in the context of the problem they’re solving. For example, Hubspot analytics dashboards aren’t just pretty charts—they are extremely useful reports to optimize campaign conversion which yields more users and thus more customers. Market solutions, not features.

Be metrics informed. While brand and message need to feel good, marketing efforts ultimately need to tie back to increased usage and revenue. Prioritizing time implementing one email campaign over another or budgeting for certain paid ads differently should be done while informed on conversion rates and efficiency. For organic marketing, attribute conversions (like signups) to campaigns accordingly and reference view to signup conversion efficiency. Paid advertising can be measured using common CAC calculations. When operating on qualitative feel, make sure there isn’t a conflict with quantitative metrics.

Meet the user where they are when they get there. At my current company, Prefect, we 4x-ed our engagement rate on specific product marketing emails when we introduced event-based campaigns. If a user interacts with a part of the product but doesn’t complete their setup of the feature, we send along documentation and tips on how to do so. Zapier is a great example of use-case based marketing—if I sign up for Zapier from a Google Sheets example, the first three emails I get are about Google products. If the user tells you what they’re interested in, lean into it to engage them.

Marketing is most effective when focused on problem solving and refined with metrics. This is the essence of product led marketing: meet the user where they are and communicate how the product solves a problem directly.

Sarah Krasnik
Sarah Krasnik is the Growth Lead at Prefect, a data workflow company. Previously, she led the data engineering team at Perpay, responsible for building the data platform including marketing automation and product analytics. She's also a freelance consultant and advisor on go-to-market strategy for technical startups. She is based in Burlington, VT.


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