What’s the one thing every organization is trying to achieve? The answer: growth.

It doesn’t matter if you own a plucky SaaS startup or manage a fortune 500 company; you’re always trying to grow brand awareness, customer satisfaction, sales — and your bottom line metric. That’s why the product-led growth flywheel approach has become so relevant to today’s business landscape.

Here is what the product-led growth flywheel is and how to implement it for your company.

What is the Product-Led Growth Flywheel?

 A hand holding a glowing ring.
Product Led Growth FlyWheel

Before we can answer that question, we have to ask, “what is product-led growth?” Without this vital piece of information, the product-led growth flywheel is meaningless.

According to the Product-Led Growth Collective, product-led growth (PLG) is:

“A business methodology in which user acquisition, expansion, conversion, and retention are all driven primarily by the product itself. It creates company-wide alignment across teams — from engineering to sales and marketing — around the product as the largest source of sustainable, scalable business growth.”

In other words, PLG is about harnessing the power of your entire company to create better products and, ultimately, experiences for your target audience.

The Flywheel Methodology

Think about the traditional marketing and sales funnel. Potential buyers start at the top as strangers, filter down into leads, and eventually become paying customers. But then what happens? The answer, in most cases, is nothing — your customers become an afterthought.

To have your customer become an afterthought is a major problem. We have known seemingly forever that 92% of people say they trust recommendations from friends and family — more than all forms of advertising. Modern companies need to engage their current customers so that they spread the word about their brand and products.

The flywheel spreads the good news.

The flywheel spreads the good news, and it happens because it encourages organizations to view their customers as a vital piece of their future growth. When customers become promoters, company growth is almost inevitable.

The Product-Led Growth Flywheel

Whew, we’ve come a long way! We now have a shared understanding of what product-led growth and flywheels are and why flywheels are beneficial. But you may have noticed; we haven’t actually answered our original question yet. Don’t worry, we’re about to tell you what the flywheel is and what it does.

The product-led growth flywheel is a business strategy that prioritizes amazing product experiences in order to generate customer advocacy and, in turn, company growth.

The product-led growth flywheel is made up of four user segments and four journey stages.

4 User Segments of the Product-Led Flywheel

The four user segments in the product-led growth flywheel are evaluators, beginners, regulars, and champions. Let’s take a quick look at each:

  • Evaluators: These folks are interested in your product, but not yet ready to commit to it. They’re still weighing their options, researching competitors, and wondering if your offerings can truly solve their problems. If you offer a free trial, an Evaluator might be using it. But they aren’t fully invested in your solution at this point.
  • Beginners: People in the Beginner segment understand how your product can help them — and they’re pretty jazzed about it. These users may or may not be paying customers. Either way, they’re spending a lot of time learning the nuances of your offering and integrating it into their workflows.
  • Regulars: A Regular is someone who uses your product on a regular basis and views it as a key component to their success. They may not have the same enthusiasm for your offering as they did in the beginning. But they have no desire to use a competing solution. This is because your product gets them results and they know how to use it.
  • Champions: The final user segment is made up of Champions. Users in this elite group are your company’s ultimate fans. They don’t just love using your products, they feel invested in the success of your company. Because of this, Champions take the time to refer their friends, family, and colleagues to your business.

4 Journey Stages of the Product-Led Flywheel

The four journey stages in the product-led growth flywheel are activate, adopt, adore, and advocate. Let’s take a quick look at each:

  • Activate: Evaluators become Beginners when they activate. While the activation process will vary for every company, in general, it’s when a user realizes that your product can solve their problem(s). It’s important to note that a purchase and activation aren’t always the same thing. Plenty of people buy products and never use them.
  • Adopt: To get to the next user segment, a Beginner needs to adopt. Successful adoption happens when a user integrates your product into their workflow and builds habits around its use. They no longer question if they should use your offerings, they just do. In other words, they’re fully committed to your product.
  • Adore: Users who reach the “adore” stage don’t just use your product; they love using it and are constantly looking for new ways to use it. These folks have passion for the things your company creates and are more than willing to provide feedback. Your job in this phase is to remove friction, so they never grow tired of your offerings.
  • Advocate: This is where things come full circle. Up until this point, the flywheel might not seem that different from a standard funnel. But once you get Champions to advocate for your brand, everything changes. Just remember, Champions might not do so without a little nudge. Don’t be afraid to ask your top customers to spread the word.

How to Implement the Product-Led Growth Flywheel

Alt Text: A man pointing at sticky notes on a wall.
How to Implement the Product-Led Growth Flywheel

Now that we have an in-depth understanding of the product-led growth flywheel, let’s talk about how to implement it. Simply follow these four steps and you’ll learn how to be product-led.

How to be Product-Led

1. Create Top-Quality Products

If the growth of your company is going to center around the quality of its products, you should really make sure that said products are absolutely amazing.

Ask yourself, “what major challenges do my customers need to overcome?” Then do what you can to ensure your products solve them with as little friction as possible. Easier said than done, true. But if it were simple, everyone would already be doing it, right?

Once you’ve created a top-quality product, you need to address the way you talk about it to potential customers. Lead with pain points and how your offering solves them. Showcase social proof pieces like positive reviews, testimonials, and case studies.

But never exaggerate. You know how you can’t stand a braggart? Well, your customers can’t either. The initial stage brag and exaggeration might help you secure initial customers and users. But it will hurt your flywheel in the long run because it will set your users up for disappointment. Disappointed users won’t advocate for your company, which is the ultimate goal.

2. Make it Easy to Become a Customer

If people don’t use your product, you’ll never get your flywheel in motion. That’s why it’s so important to make things easy for potential customers. Remove as much friction as possible between them and becoming a user of the things you create.

Many SaaS companies do a great job of helping customers have easy adoption. Take a company like Slack. You don’t even have to pay a monthly fee to use their service. You just sign up and start messaging colleagues.

How to eliminate friction for your customers.

  • Use the Freemium Model: The freemium model allows customers to use a product for free, albeit with limited functionality. This model works for product-led growth strategies because customers can try product features with zero financial risk.
  • Offer Free Trials: With a free trial, customers get access to all product features for a limited time — usually, 7 to 14 days, though 30 days is common. The free trial model also removes financial risk for customers, making it a great strategy for product-led growth.
  • Simplify Your Onboarding Process: It doesn’t matter how amazing your products are. If customers have to fill out a myriad of forms, install complicated software, etc., they’ll bail. Make sure onboarding is a piece of cake. And provide customers with an easy way to contact qualified support representatives if/when they have questions.

Note: some people worry that a freemium model will reduce sales. While it’s true that some folks will remain on your free plan forever, if you’ve built a quality product, plenty will upgrade to paid plans. Freemium is just a way to “get them in the door,” so to speak.

3. Prioritize Time to Value and Virality

Once people start using your product, you need to make sure they experience its value as soon as possible. By delivering quick wins, you’ll build excitement for your offerings. Quick wins can be done in a few different ways:

  • In-App Directions: If you sell a software product, consider adding a “tips” section that highlights the most important features for new users.
  • Welcome Sequences: Once a new customer has been onboarded, send them periodic emails teaching them how to use your products.
  • Customer Support: Make sure your customers always have access to someone on your team. That way, they can ask questions about your product when they have them. Then take it a step further and provide your support reps with ways to improve the customer experience. For example, you could equip them with a visual communication tool like CloudApp that includes simple screen recording, GIF creation, and screenshot features. That way, they can provide answers to customers in more personal ways.

Time to value isn’t the only thing you need to prioritize. You also want customers to share their love for your products with their friends, family, and colleagues. To encourage this, try:

  • Asking: Sometimes, all you have to do to encourage virality is ask your current customers to spread the word. If they like what you do, they will.
  • Special Offers: Other times, an incentive is needed. For example, you could offer customers access to premium features if they refer someone else to your company.

Ultimately, you want to make sure your new customers experience the value of your products quickly. Then give them ways to share their positive experiences with the world.

It can help to manage all of your information in one spot. For businesses, all information held in one place could be a tool like Asana or Trello. For the legal field, you may want to look at Filevine case management software or other software that performs these tasks for you.

4. Measure the Right Metrics

A professional looking at company metrics on a computer.
Measure the Right Metrics

You won’t know if your product-led growth flywheel is effective until you measure it. This means you need to track a few key metrics during your product management efforts. Here are three we recommend:

  • Customer Engagement: You can measure customer engagement by tracking KPIs like time spent on products, number of features used, interactions with support reps, and referral activity. There’s no standard “engagement” metric to track. You’ll need to come up with your own criteria to monitor and make decisions around.
  • Product-Qualified Leads: A product-qualified lead (PQL) is someone who has used your product, experienced the value it creates and seems likely to become a paying customer. Product-qualified leads will look different to every company. Study your customers and develop key characteristics to track for your PQLs.
  • Time to Value: Earlier, we said that you need to prioritize time to value (TTV). To do that, you need to measure it. Time to value is the length of time it takes a customer to reach activation, i.e., the first journey stage in the product-led growth flywheel. The goal is to get your TTV to as close to zero as humanly possible.

There are plenty of other metrics you can measure as well. Choose the metrics that correlate best with your company goals. Then do your best to track your progress and improve the metrics.

In Conclusion

Companies that use the product-led growth flywheel put their products at the center of the customer experience. By doing so, they’re able to encourage greater customer advocacy and business growth. To adopt this approach for your organization, follow our four-steps:

  1. Create Top-Quality Products
  2. Make it Easy to Become a customer
  3. Prioritize Time to Value and Virality
  4. Measure the Right Metrics

If you can successfully take a target audience through the four user segments and journey stages outlined above, your company will be successful. Good luck!

Joe Martin

Joe Martin

VP of Marketing

Joe Martin is currently the GM and VP of Marketing at CloudApp, a visual collaboration tool. He has more than 13 years of experience of marketing in the tech industry. Prior to his role at CloudApp, Martin was the Head of Social Analytics at Adobe where he led paid social strategy and a research team providing strategic guidance to organizations within the company. He has an M.B.A. from the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, Executive education in Entrepreneurship from Stanford Graduate School of Business, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Utah and a digital marketing certificate from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been published in the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and other top tier outlets.