“If you’ve been thinking that ​product-led sounds similar to design-led, you’re right—the empathy and innovation inherent in design-led thinking is a crucial component to product led growth.” – The Product-Led Growth Collective

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. 

However, boiling down and repackaging expertise is easier said than done. Yet today’s consumers want to independently test if a SaaS product serves their needs. To this end, organizations are turning to product led growth (PLG), a strategy that relies on products selling themselves rather than solely depending on marketing and sales led growth. 

The most challenging aspect of becoming a product led company is refining a complex product enough to make it accessible to customers. Done successfully, those same customers become the SaaS business’s main advocates and promoters. Design plays a crucial role—actually, several—in achieving this success. Why? Because the aim of a product led growth strategy is to create a relevant and exceptional user experience. 

Design practice and culture supports the transition into a product led model in three essential ways:

  • Embrace an empathetic attitude that promotes a focus on the user
  • Empower all employees to be designers
  • Employ change and disruption as a path to innovation

These principles are intertwined and necessary for a successful transformation. Let’s dive deeper into each.

Embracing Empathy for a User-centric Mindset

Understanding your users and their customer journey is key to the success of any business adopting a growth model. Knowing users—see what they see, feel what they feel, and experience things as they do—builds internal empathy towards the user, leading to better products. 

While no one can fully understand another’s experience, designers train themselves to get as close as possible. They put aside their preconceived notions and instead choose to understand the ideas, thoughts, and needs of others to create the optimal product experience. To do this, designers research customer insights such as:

  • Context (why a user might interact with a product or service)
  • Situations where people use the product or service
  • Actions, areas, or topics that can  influence use
  • Users’ intrinsic motivations

Placing users’ needs at the center provides direction when creating a shared organizational vision. Design practice is central in advocating for the user’s needs and helps the organization have a common vision for product and business goals across teams, departments, and mandates. 

In short, empathy is a core activity that should be practiced throughout your organization to achieve PLG company status. Empathy creates a foundation and provides a throughline for the next step in the design process: co-creation.

Empower Everyone to be a Designer 

The design process is iterative and visionary, supporting strategic transitions. It’s often considered the glue that supports collaboration for two reasons. 

First, design practice has a varied toolbox that enables different actors of a project to  align, create, and share ideas—and by doing so, improve them. The co-creation methodology is one example of many. When co-creating a solution with all the project stakeholders, we are all designers whose only objective is to prioritize and develop according to the users’ needs. This moves the needle from perceived value to experienced value.  

Secondly, creating together with stakeholders doesn’t just generate leads and product champions—it also increases product engagement and lowers churn rate, a key desired outcome. More product data from different perspectives leads to new designs.

At Coveo, we always have our clients at heart. Our Customer Success Management team, Professional Services team, and Solution Architects collaborate with partners and clients to co-create solutions that fit specific needs and missions. Encouraged by co-creative processes and a product led approach, we created a trial experience that continues to iterate and improve. Prototyping, testing, and iterating reveal innovations that allow us to remain a step ahead of the competition and create lifetime value for our customers. 

In a nutshell, design methodologies propose strong frameworks to co-create solutions based on real problems. And this brings us to our next point—that constant change is a necessary ingredient for a product led growth model.

Employ Change and Disruption as a Path to Innovation

Change and disruption are uncomfortable for any organization. Unfortunately, they’re needed if you want to transition from a traditional top-down to a PLG strategy. And we’re not talking about a small change—these will have a ripple effect and be felt across the company. Why? Because just as all are designers, these different teams are needed to support the success of a new strategy. 

Change inevitably creates friction, which is why both empathy towards one another and alignment are key. As the PLG Collective describes it: 

“Think of it as the democratization of product: Like any effective democracy, product-led growth requires traditional decision-makers to open up the decision-making process to a larger, more diverse group of stakeholders. Does this create more difficult, complex discussions? Yes. Do difficult, complex discussions lead to better, more innovative business decisions? Absolutely.” 

Additionally, you’ll need to adjust your product’s success metrics. In a PLG strategy, time to market and time to value are the main performance indicators. A continuous design practice supports these metrics and you can achieve them by inviting a variety of feedback, as we discussed above. 

The ongoing discoveries and conversations had with your user base support your product’s evolution. In other words, PLG is all about using an iterative process that empowers the user to test a product themselves. And through this testing, users discover the value of your product on their own. 

The users’ iterative and evaluative processes are, per se, disruptive-but for a positive outcome! 

Ready for the Democratization of Product?

We think it’s pretty clear that design plays a crucial role in the adoption of a product led growth strategy. 

Your design team creates an interconnected web of interactions and conversations throughout your organization and customers about your product, where it can grow, and how it should grow. By investing in design, you can turn your business into a product led growth company and better meet the needs of your customers. Coveo continues to invest in its PLG strategy. Curious to see how it’s going? In the spirit of self-service, you can take our trial for a test spin yourself!

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About Juliana Alvarez

Juliana Alvarez is curious by nature making her role as UX researcher a second nature. Her passion for Human behaviours, Design and Strategy drives all the projects she undertakes. With her in your team, no questions are left unanswered.

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About Raoul Flaminzeanu

Raoul is Director R&D, Design at Coveo. With 20 years of experience in tech and design, Raoul leads, mentors and inspires design and product teams to co-create the future. In addition, he is passionate about dialogical organizations, chaordic systems, and he occasionally dabbles in pottery.

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