PRODUCTHEAD: Product-led growth product management (wut?)

PRODUCTHEAD: Product-led growth product management (wut?)

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

high & product #

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


Product-led growth:

is a strategy where the product itself sells itself through features and usability

can create self-perpetuating growth loops

can be even more effective when combined with growth product management company-wide


My LinkedIn feed at the moment appears to be about 80% humblebrags, 10% AI and 10% product-led growth. It may just be a quirk of who I follow.

Vocal objectors #

Some people are objecting to the term ‘product-led’ because they believe it to be a power-grab by product people with ideas above their station.

To the perpetually outraged:

the growth is product-led — not the company

What is product-led growth? #

[I put out a little primer on product-led growth in PRODUCTHEAD last year if you want to get up to speed.]

Think of product-led growth as an alternate route to market for your product, where the product does the legwork of selling itself by helping its users to achieve value quickly by way of its features, performance and guidance.

The goal is to get a user to become and crucially remain a paying customer without any human interaction at any stage of the process. While still dependent on converting users to paying customers, long-term retention is valued more than the initial sale.

Product-led growth also means the product itself encourages existing users to acquire and convert new users for you for minimal effort on your part. The product can also encourage upsell where appropriate based on the customer’s usage patterns and where they’re deriving the most value.

No salesperson is involved, and this activity should handily align with the goals of a customer success team to help a user to derive value from the product as quickly as possible. It helps you increase the returns from your product without increasing the traditional operating costs that come from scaling up the sales team.

If you do this well, your product perpetuates its own growth loops, which drive up your user numbers and hopefully your revenue also. It doesn’t replace the traditional sales / marketing approach, but complements it.

If you do have a sales team, they can focus on the higher ticket solution sales, and leave the high volume / lower ticket transactional sales to the product itself.

Not a new concept #

Let’s face it, everyone’s feeling the pinch right now, so it’s not a massive surprise that C-suites are more amenable to something that promises higher revenue without higher costs, and that’s probably why product-led growth is finding so much traction at the moment.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it should be. Companies such as Dropbox, Typeform, Mailchimp and Slack have all used similar techniques before product-led growth became a thing. The notions of self-perpetuating flywheels and virality can be traced back to Eric Ries’ 2011 book The Lean Startup, and other similar ideas at the time.

However you can only get so far if your influence is confined to the the product itself. This brings us on to a potential enhancement. If you’re senior enough, you may the opportunity to influence other departments / disciplines in your organisation to participate in more aligned growth interventions.

Combining product-led growth with growth product management #

Growth product management is a specialisation that has emerged in the last few years. Although definitions differ, it broadly translates to a product management role that attempts to influence the growth of a product through company-wide interventions, rather than being limited to interventions solely within the product and its immediately adjacent services.

You can think of it as an antidote to the problem of siloed corporate structure inhibiting (or driving away) customer growth through red tape and inefficient hand-offs between departments, leading to a poor customer experience that results in low conversion and high churn.

By having the remit to conduct growth experiments and make changes to policies and processes company-wide, the intent is that a higher level of user / revenue growth in a product can be achieved than for a traditional product manager confined to their product.

It’s all about shortening the time to value (for both the user and the company), but having more effective levers to pull to cause that to happen.

If product-led growth gives you a toolkit to let the product drive its own growth, the role of growth product manager gives you the remit to use those tools and techniques company-wide.

While the concepts of growth product management and product-led growth can be applied independently of each other, clearly there’s a great deal of potential benefit in combining them.

For you this week #

I’m absolutely not the first person to suggest the tie-up between growth product management and product-led growth, but for those of you in a sufficiently influential position seeking a different sort of challenge, it may be a worthwhile new direction or a step up for you. With that in mind, I’ve selected some good videos and articles that provide more background on both concepts.

Speak to you soon,


I’ve included an Amazon affiliate link this week, meaning I would earn a small commission on any purchases you made.

what to think about this week

PLG [Product-led growth]: The death of classical sales

Sales may not be dead, but in a world where retention is more important than ever, it’s definitely changing. The key might be product-led growth. Leah Tharin is helping us break down the importance of running a product led strategy and its capability to empower your sales and marketing teams.

Sales isn’t dying; it’s evolving

[Leah Tharin / Paddle]

What are the secrets to enabling sustainable growth?

If they could, organisations would choose always to grow – not only bigger but faster. So why do most organisations fail to realise this aim and why can this aim sometimes lead to the death of an organisation?

How one PM’s approaches have changed over time

[Ravi Sinha / Pendo]

The rise of the growth product manager

The growth product manager role is most immediately valuable within organizations that have embraced a product-led growth strategy. This often means leading with the product using a free trial or freemium model to drive acquisition and employing a low- or no-touch sales channel as part of their go-to-market strategy. In organizations like these, product teams are naturally inheriting commercial responsibility at a rapid pace.

“Growth” is sneaking into product manager job titles

[Product‑Led Growth Collective / Appcues]

Growth loops are the new funnels

The AARRR funnel framework has been the dominant guiding framework to metrics, goal setting, and strategic growth conversations. Funnels were a good starting point but do not accurately represent how the fastest growing products grow. It is time to move past the funnel framework and focus on growth loops.

How does your product grow?

[Brian Balfour et al. / Reforge]

The PLG for Sales-Led Guide

If we talk about why anyone entertains exploring product-led growth then it’s usually for one of two reasons:

1. You want to understand it better because the superficial implementation advice you usually deal with seems not to apply to your sales-led organization

2. A market opportunity has been discovered by usually expanding downmarket but you’re not sure how to do it. Your expertise is probably mostly in Sales-led distribution and you’re not even sure where to start.

How to *actually* do and understand it

[Leah Tharin / Leah’s ProducTea]

recent posts

I want to update my pricing strategy. Where do I start?

“My product currently has one tier of per-seat pricing for all customers. I want to change my pricing strategy to cater differently for SMEs and enterprise customers. Where do I start?”

A few pricing concepts to consider + further reading

[I Manage Products]

How do I make my product roadmap a better communication tool?

“My product roadmap is not getting the right information across to other people in my company. In particular, my customer success and marketing teams are struggling to plan their work for upcoming product releases. I’m also not sure how I can show my roadmap’s relationship to the half-yearly OKRs we set. How can I improve it?”

Your product roadmap is a communication tool

[I Manage Products]

How can I keep track of all these product metrics?

“Do you have any advice on productivity tools for tracking product metrics? I’m seeking guidance on streamlining feedback and metrics management. Juggling continuous discovery insights, team feedback, and metric tracking has become increasingly overwhelming.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start

[I Manage Products]

can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from all the yak fur I’ve been shaving.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a freelance head of product, product management coach and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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