Discover more from Proof of Concept
The future of PLG is Design
Issue 165: Why design (and designers) will be drivers of this customer-centric motion
In the future, I predict more people from a design background will not only contribute to self serve motions and PLG, but become direct owners of it. If you're not familiar with the Software as a Service (SaaS) world, Self Service is the ability for an end user to sign up, onboard, pay, and use the product without any manual intervention from the company, such as a sales person.
According to Frontegg, 77% percent of people will only use a SaaS product if it's self serve. Some of the key pillars of selve service includes signup, onboarding, documentation, support, subscriptions, and security. Product-led growth (PLG) is placing the product at the center of your company's growth strategy. The core pillars of PLG are Acquisition, Expansion, Conversion, and Retention. The key is overseeing the entire end-to-end customer experience. You might be wondering, "wait, isn't this experience design in the first place?"
What I'm sharing with you is not new information, but it seems like we've lost our way a bit in terms of thinking about end-to-end experiences.
Whenever new ideas of ways of doing things emerge and become popular, there is a natural sway to over-index on it. Some examples that come to mind are Design Thinking, people management, and the verticalization of design of having dedicated designers embedded on a team.
Design became (a bit) too vertical
Let me be clear, I believe having designers embedded on product teams so they can control their own destiny is a great thing to have. Having that depth is great. What I'm advocating for is we need to think across the business, and that's what is most valuable. As I always say, the number one thing about a leader with a design background is they are a designer. Most execs are focused on their domain and vertical, and the design exec is responsible for them to weaver together.
In Kristin Skinner and Peter Merholtz's book, Org Design for Design Orgs, this balance of vertical and horizontal is often depicted as a centralized partnership. The problem isn't having design vertically integrated with team, its that many companies forgot about the horizontal integration.
There is only so much design can make an impact on and other roles such as marketing, engineering, and data analytics are required to have a successful self serve and PLG motion. Influence can only take you so far, and at some point the ability to be more directive is key.
Growth design sparked PLG
It's time to retire the notion that growth design is invoking dark patterns, A/B testing, and only looking at data to make decisions. Great growth design is experimenting with a clear hypothesis of what is going to drive the best value for the end user and maximizing their satisfaction of your product. This is why we've named our growth teams in the past, "Lifecycle."
It's been great to see what used to be a kiss of death role as a growth designer become something more aspirational. Growth doesn't only occur only on the signup and segmentation survey. It's a continuous onboarding journey of customer success; retaining them because they love your product. As one of the designers at Webflow often said, "doing growth design well is just good design."
Metrics are strong incentives
I have been on teams and led teams where the goal has essentially been, "do good design that leads to our goals." Having goals associated with metrics helps create clarity on where design should spend its time. Sure, we can prototype and create visions until the cows come home, but in the end, businesses want evidence on why to invest. Having hypothesis of where investments will move the needle provoke more serious conversations about design. There is a world where you can balance this and craft at the same time.
Why self serve and PLG benefit from a design approach
Removing silos and friction from organizations
Marketers, writers, brand designers, product designers, and researchers all need to collaborate more. When they all belong to different teams or orgs, it can make it difficult to. There is always an effort to collaborate, but the reality is each org has their priortiizations of what's important and that factors into how much you can collaborate.
Design is very close to the customer
There are definitely orgs outside of design really close to customers, such as Sales and Customer Support. However, designers and researchers are very close to the customer. Not only that, they can design on the customer's behalf to understand what are the key moments for not individual customers but for the entire customer base.
PLG is good design
Great Self Serve and PLG is all about fostering the best customer experience possible, resulting in successful outcomes for the business. It really is that simple. There should be no surprise that an org that comprises of Marketing, Brand, Design, and Research is the one best suited for leading a self serve motion. I've seen leaders like Shay Howe (ActiveCampaign), Chetana Deorah (former Netflix/Coursera), and Jehad Affoneh (Toast) be leaders of self serve and PLG motions.
I'm excited to see more leaders with a design background step into roles divergent or in addition to design. More are becoming CPOs and CMO's and that's as important as there being CDOs (if not more IMO). It's not about the number of "design leader" roles there are, what's more important is people who know design being in leadership positions to influence and innovate.
Week 41 recap
AI for All at Replit → At the summit, we announced at Replit that our AI tools will be free for everyone. Give it a try and I’d love your feedback.
I’m at the airport heading to New York City. I’ll be at a retreat, working with Replit team members, and connecting with founders. No, I’m not going to NY Tech Week.
Collection of what I read and related to this week's post
Joe Pompliano on X: "USC trying to throw the punt returner onto the ball is an all time move. I've never seen that 🤣 → What a wild football play!
Crossbeam is hiring a Brand Designer → Go work for Desiree Garcia