(Step 3) Dear Advisor: How do I do Product-Led-Growth (PLG) as my Go-to-Market (GTM) strategy for Product market fit (PMF)?

September 2021, updated on May 2022, May + June 2023

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Great question! First, I commend you for thinking through your strategy for product market fit. To get there, I’ll start by decoding the alphabet soup -- and defining the terms, then discuss outcomes, and advise on steps to get there.

Please note: The advice below holds whether you are (as early as) ironing-out an idea, have wireframes, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) -- or a more mature product. It’s never too early to think about Product Led Growth.


Product Led Growth as a Go-to-Market strategy for Product Market Fit boils down to using data to understand what’s resonating about your product with your customers (as soon as they’re on-boarding), to improve your product, find market fit and grow.


End Goal: Product Market Fit

To reach product market fit, we need to find a big, growing, profitable and loyal customer base, which means we need to:

How do we do that from the very beginning? 

Step 1: Understand our Customers’ Pain Points and How you Solve Them

I share advice on how to learn which of the 30 most common customer pain points your product solves here.

Step 2: Identify Paths Customers may take in your Product to Solve Their Pain Points

First, let’s write down all of the steps around how we expect our customers to use the product to solve their pain points. "Expect" is the operative word here.

Whether you’re in the market already or have an idea in mind, draw out (paper, whiteboard, etc. OK) what are all of the directions/decisions your customers may/should take in your product, to help them reach their end goal. You’re essentially drawing a Wardley map.

Phil Libin's talk argues that the map will have 14 lines to identify and quantify your customer journey. He also reminds listeners to o what works for you; you can start with 14 or a smaller number -- whatever reflects your business and customers better.

Please note

idea → prototype → manufacturing/production → shipment → delivery

This is great, but how can I start small and iterate here? 

Great question! To start, try to understand who are your top revenue/profit-generating customers. 

Step 3: Collect Data on Paths and Profits

Now that we have an idea of what behavior we’re expected to see from our customers, it’s time to see if that’s actually the case. 

To see our customers’ actual behavior, we’ll need to dig into the data, of when and how our customers interacted with our product, to be able to quantify each of the customer paths/funnels in the customer journey (as shown by lines in the image above). Each line can have its own metric, such as a percentage or profit. (At Evernote, where this grew out of, Phil had one team per line.)

Step 4: Optimize Paths to Reduce Friction and Increase Hooks (AKA Product-Led-Growth)

Evaluate the metrics (Step 3 above) to see what’s performing as  -- or better than -- expected, and what can be improved?

Step 5: Iterate 

Iterate on Steps 1 through 4, with more advice on how to take small, actionable and measurable steps to do so -- and how to prioritize this step within the existing backlog, in this article I wrote for dot.LA.

Here are some (more concrete) topics that you may need to iterate on:

Putting it All Together

PLG as a GTM strategy for PMF boils down to using data to understand your customers -- as soon as they’re on-boarding -- to improve your product, find market fit and grow.

Good luck!

If you took a stab at the above -- and are stuck, and have a full-time backend engineer or technical CTO, please schedule a call to collaborate on your unique PMF journey

We’ll help you identify approaches to getting unstuck, which may include, how to:

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