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Amplifying Growth through PLG, UX, and HCD

A staggering 99.5% of consumer apps fail. The success rate is incredibly low, with only 0.5% of consumer apps succeeding. 40–60% of users will not open your app more than once. New application downloads are rare.

Amidst the cacophony of social media, spam, scams, and a contracting economy, the importance of providing significant value to your audience has never been more critical. This is where Product-Led Growth (PLG), User Experience (UX), and Human-Centered Design (HCD) form an indispensable triad for product leaders.

PLG: A strategy that places the product at the center of the customer acquisition, conversion, and expansion journey. The goal is to create a product so compelling that it sells itself.

UX: The overall experience a user has with a product, system, or service, including its usability, accessibility, and the emotional response elicited by interacting with it.

HCD: A design and management framework that involves the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process, focusing on creating solutions that align with human needs and behaviors.

The key to leveraging PLG strategies to enhance customer lifetime value (LTV) and drive consistent growth lies in intertwining PLG with UX, underpinned by the principles of HCD.

Creating a Product Users Love through HCD

The cornerstone of a successful PLG strategy is creating a product that users love. This goes beyond mere functionality; it requires a deep understanding of users’ needs and desires, a key principle of HCD.

Take Pinterest, for example. Its success is not accidental but the result of a deliberate strategy involving internal collaboration and executive alignment. This strategy, rooted in HCD, has allowed Pinterest to gain a deep understanding of its users’ needs and desires. By implementing features that directly address these needs, Pinterest has created a product that its users love and use daily.

As a product leader, fostering a similar culture of collaboration within your organization is crucial. This will enable you to respond swiftly to user feedback and continuously improve your product based on real-world usage, aligning with the iterative design principle of HCD.

“The best products don’t win, the ones everyone use win.” 

— Nir Eyal

Strategies for Driving Product-Led Growth with HCD and UX

Now, how can we apply these principles to drive product-led growth? Here are some strategies, each aligning with the principles of HCD and enhancing UX:

  • Inherent Virality: Design your product in a way that it becomes inherently viral. This means that the more people use it, the more they share it, and the more value they get from it. This can be achieved by incorporating features that promote sharing and collaboration.
  • Frictionless Design and Onboarding: The quicker a user can understand and start getting value from your product, the better. This involves creating a frictionless design and onboarding process that quickly conveys the product’s value to the user.
  • Freemium or Free Trial Models: By allowing users to explore the product for free, you remove barriers to entry and allow users to experience the value of your product firsthand. As users gain value from the product, they’re more likely to convert to a paid plan that offers more licenses and additional features.
  • User-Centric Design: A product with a poor user experience will never be shared nor grow organically. Design thinking, with its focus on empathy and user-centric design, aligns well with the principles of PLG. This involves understanding your users’ needs and desires and building a product that addresses these needs.
  • Invest in Your Product’s Hook: A hook is a feature or aspect of your product that shows your users the true value of your product and convinces them to keep using it. This could be an innovative feature, a unique aspect of your service, or a compelling user experience. The goal is to get users to that “aha!” moment as quickly as possible.
  • Continuous Improvement: Successful PLG companies continuously improve their products based on real-world usage and feedback. They maintain an ongoing dialogue with their users to understand their problems and needs and build products and features that directly address these issues.

As OpenView Partners aptly puts it, “The best software companies have recognized this market shift and have put end users at the core of their business.” To emulate this success, consider how your product can facilitate user-to-user interactions that naturally promote growth.

“The world’s most valuable software companies are increasingly built with a focus on the end user.” 

— Blake Bartlett, OpenView Partners

Engaging Customers at Every Phase

Driving growth also involves engaging customers at every phase of product development. This means maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your users to understand their problems and needs. With this insight, you can build products and features that directly address these issues, delivering immediate value to your users.

This approach not only enhances user satisfaction but also accelerates the adoption of your product. Remember, the quicker a user finds value in your product, the more likely they are to continue using it and recommend it to others.

Cross-functional Collaboration

However, a PLG strategy should not exist in a silo. It requires collaboration across all departments in the organization. A cross-functional team focused on PLG can ensure that multiple people and departments feel ownership, helping to ensure this work is as effective as it can possibly be.

PLG is More Than Freemium

It’s important to remember that PLG is not just about the freemium model. It’s about creating a product that users love, and then using that love as a tool to drive growth. This can involve a variety of strategies, from creating features that encourage sharing and collaboration, to involving customers in the product development process, to aligning the entire organization around the goal of providing the best user experience possible.

Datadog is highlighted as a company that has successfully implemented PLG principles. The company reached $1 billion in revenue while still growing 70% year-over-year and being highly profitable. Their emphasis on frictionless adoption and usage-based revenue model are key to their success.

The Power of UX in PLG

Product-led growth and design thinking are two sides of the same coin, both focusing on delivering value through a superior user experience. PLG is an end-user-focused growth model that relies on the product itself as the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion, and expansion.

The product experience must provide enough early and easily realized value to drive interest, leading to exploration and purchase. This shift to PLG requires companies to improve their product experiences or face the reality of increased competitive pressures.

“Product led growth is about helping your customers experience the ongoing value your product provides…” 

— Wes Bush, Product-Led Growth

Design thinking, with its focus on empathy and user-centric design, aligns well with the principles of PLG. When you need to attract individual end users to a free product, human-dependent growth doesn’t scale — it can’t be forced by aggressive sales. The only choice is to de-labor the distribution engine behind your product by empowering end users to find, evaluate, and adopt your product on their own.

This is where design thinking comes into play, helping to create products that are easy to find, learn about, and try. A product with poor user experience will never be shared nor grow organically. The integration of design thinking and PLG is crucial for creating a product that not only meets user needs but also drives organic growth.

“Product led growth is the future of go-to-market strategies, it isn’t just another distribution strategy.” 

— Kyle Poyar, OpenView Partners

A product-led growth strategy can significantly improve customer lifetime value and drive consistent growth. By focusing on creating a product that users love, involving customers in the product development process, and aligning the entire organization around the goal of providing the best user experience possible, companies can drive growth and improve their bottom line.

As OpenView Partners states, “Product-led growth has already created more than $200B of market value, and we’re still seeing exponential growth.” Your company wins when end users win.


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