About Christian: Christian is a detail-oriented visionary that challenges both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to think bigger. As lead an Executive Partner and leader of the UX team at Innovatemap, he works closely with product marketing to make sure products are well-designed and marketable.

Christian is passionate about bringing ideas to life, from creating a UX strategy to innovating alongside non-tech companies.

Explain Innovatemap and how you help SaaS companies and product teams?

We’re a digital product agency that helps early-stage and scaling tech startups bring new products to market. We fill in product gaps through product marketing and brand, user experience and product management.

What has piqued your interest in product-led growth?

Coming from a product and design background, I was initially interested in product-led growth as a way to have the product team take more responsibility for growth. It was similar to the “design thinking” movement that started taking hold about five years ago. Design thinking got other non-design areas of the business thinking seriously about design and I think PLG is doing the same for the product. As products are getting taken to market faster, it just makes sense for the product itself to help shoulder some of the burdens that marketing, sales, and customer success have typically owned.

What have you seen from clients as they think about PLG as a mechanism for growth?

Early-stage companies are thinking of it from the outset. I find more founders looking to common examples like Slack, Dropbox or InVision as role models for how they want to grow their product. For later-stage companies, I find that product teams want to find ways to help sales and marketing. They’re often looking for how to modify their own development process and prioritization to look for growth, retention, and engagement opportunities in the product. 

What are the hurdles to helping your clients to understand & adopt a PLG strategy?

For more mature tech companies (three years and older), the biggest challenge is how to change an existing org structure and market approach. Additionally, I see companies trying to understand how to keep their product team aligned with sales and marketing on a regular basis. For example, it’s hard for a product team to know what a salesperson is demoing on a sales call, or keep up with how marketing is messaging a new feature. 

But one of the biggest hurdles is helping non-product teams understand that PLG is something that should help, rather than threaten other areas. Even if a product team wants to try a freemium model, for example, that can be hard to communicate with a sales team that typically owns new revenue. How do you track it? Who’s responsible? 

As a product practitioner, how do you see the growth of PLG teams?

I think like most movements in tech, it will be driven by a few large examples, then take hold with companies thinking PLG from the beginning. You can see how OpenView highlights their most successful portfolio companies using PLG which is opening people’s eyes. And at the same time, I see the movement growing with founders who simply don’t know any different. 

I also see that it will result in completely new teams and org structures. You will see mature companies that have completely independent growth teams, and more companies that have chief growth officers early on.

Related Post: Building the Right Growth Team

How should companies think about product and brand design as they look to incorporate more PLG strategies?

While many PLG strategies are highly context-dependent, the importance of brand and design is one that is true universally. There’s truthfully no reason to incorporate any other PLG strategy without first ensuring that your brand is compelling and consistent, and your product is well-designed. Without that, other strategies are harder to implement. For example, if you decide to create a freemium version but don’t find ways to optimize your UX to lower the average user’s time-to-value, you’ll find the strategy won’t succeed. Conversely, if you design your new-user experience well, and ensure that you have hit on the quickest value features, then freemium works much more easily. 

What’s one final piece of advice you would give to SaaS companies as they think about their product and brand design?

Always ensure that your product’s story is well-understood internally and accurately presented externally. Then carry that brand through the actual product design to ensure your product delivers on what you promise. From there, any PLG strategy will be more effective and easier to implement.