Maximizing SaaS Sales: How Great UX Can Fuel Product-Led Growth
Product-led Growth principles for B2B software companies.
In the world of B2B software, the path to organic, exponential growth remains elusive. The traditional avenues of growth, like building extensive sales and support teams, can be daunting, resource-intensive, and sometimes downright impractical. So, what is the solution?
Borrowing from the world of B2C product design, at Neuron, we have identified Product-led Growth (PLG) as a transformative strategy quietly reshaping the B2B software landscape. With a focus on exceptional user experience, PLG leverages your product to become the driving force behind your product’s adoption, leading to higher customer satisfaction, increased user retention, and, ultimately, the elusive organic growth you seek. In this blog post, we will explore how this innovative approach can help B2B software companies not only survive but thrive in an increasingly competitive market.
B2B, Meet UX ❤️
As the B2B software industry has grown more competitive, user experience (UX) has emerged as a differentiator. Historically, B2B workplace product companies did not need to prioritize UX and UI as much as B2C products. However, a new wave of enterprise tools like Zoom, Slack, and Asana are disrupting the B2B SaaS space and forcing all others to place greater emphasis on their products’ UX.
Unfortunately, clunky and confusing interfaces are still common in the B2B sphere. Ryan Matthew, Neuron Co-founder and UX Lead, explains: “A lot of B2B software is feature-rich but difficult to use. The software offers a great deal of value, but it is difficult to unlock.”
“A lot of B2B software is feature-rich but difficult to use… The software offers a great deal of value, but it is difficult to unlock.”
It is a well-known fact that poorly designed software often leads to user dissatisfaction, product abandonment, and decreased revenue. Why, then, do many B2B products continue to fall short in this area? We have seen several common factors contributing to this trend:
First, software executives may be hesitant to update the UX/UI of legacy software because of perceived risks related to a vast user base and extensive features.
Additionally, a common issue is the disconnect between the decision-makers at the customer companies and the end users. Procurement teams often prioritize factors other than usability when purchasing SaaS products for their company, leading software executives to overlook the connection between improved usability and retention.
Finally, executives may lack adequate first-hand experience of the challenges faced by end users, making it difficult to take steps toward improvement.
Good UX Drives Sustainable Growth
B2B software companies should prioritize improving UX/UI, as this investment can yield significant returns. This is particularly important for the PLG model, which relies on delivering an exceptional user experience to cultivate loyal customers who will promote the software to others.
Satisfied customers = Product advocates
The key to successful PLG is to provide a high-quality tool that users will love and recommend to colleagues. Well-designed software exhibits the following features:
A short time-to-value ⭐
A user-friendly interface
A seamless onboarding experience
Self-service upgrade paths
The primary metric to pursue is a short time-to-value (TTV), which is the duration it takes for new users to experience their “aha” moment in a product. When users can quickly identify how a solution solves their problem, they are more likely to continue using it and recommend it to others.
The PLG model has been used by some of the most disruptive software companies of the past decade. For instance, consider Zoom, which allows employees to download and use the software at no cost. Once they test it out and realize its benefits, they begin integrating it into their workflow and inviting their teammates to meetings. As more people in the company start using Zoom, its value becomes apparent across departments. Eventually, end users become advocates and begin lobbying executives to adopt the software. The beauty of this approach is that it eliminates the need for demos, sales processes, or, need we mention, one of those billboards.
The Benefits of PLG
Naturally, a product must provide genuine value for this bottom-up approach in order to be successful, but with proper execution, companies can achieve quicker business results by making the most efficient use of their resources.
These advantages come from software that is designed well and inherently easy to use. “The qualities that make B2B software easy and enjoyable to use are the same ones that allow you to sell software more easily, and possibly for it to even sell itself,” explains Matthew. This approach ensures that the product is valuable and adaptable to market changes while fostering a community of committed and enthusiastic customers who are invested in the company’s success.
“The qualities that make a software easy and enjoyable to use are actually the same things that allow you to sell your software more easily, and possibly for it to even sell itself.”
Product-led B2B software — at its best — delivers the frictionless, personalized experiences the modern-day consumer demands. “User experience has always been important, but the height of the bar has risen,” says Matthew. Investing in UX design is no longer an option — it is a necessity to thrive in the dynamic world of B2B software. “Users expect a personal experience that provides real value from the moment they start using the product.”
Applying the PLG Model to Various Use Cases
When focusing on specific use cases, the UX strategies that enable PLG vary from one B2B product to another. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach; it depends on the nature of the product. For instance, some B2B products have numerous features that can be overwhelming for new customers. The key is to familiarize new users with the core functionality — the feature that brought them to the product — and help them reach their “aha” moment the quickest. As users become more familiar with the product, gradually introduce them to additional features that align with their behavior and needs.
It’s important to acknowledge that some B2B products are simply better suited for a fully product-led approach than others. There are certain categories of B2B software that are inherently difficult to show immediate value for. “For some complex products, there might be logistical hurdles, or security or integration hurdles that prevent new users from experiencing the full product themselves without assistance,” explains Matthew. “So this is not to say that product-led companies don’t ever need a sales team, but the product should do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting users up to speed.”
For instance, with an analytics or business intelligence tool, its value comes from presenting collected data in useful and digestible ways. However, it may take some time for the data to start flowing and for the tool to demonstrate its worth. The worst thing to show a customer on Day 1 of using your product is a blank screen, so how can you keep your customers engaged and enthusiastic about the future? Providing a sneak peek of what’s to come is one option. If you have some data available, but not enough for real insights, you might even offer projections. Another option is to create a realistic demo environment so that customers can envision what their actual data could look like and understand its value for themselves. The crucial thing is to keep Day 1 exciting and full of promise rather than disappointment.
Adopting and Implementing a PLG Approach
When considering implementing a PLG approach, it is important to be aware of common issues software companies may face.
One challenge is the misconception that PLG requires just a few product enhancements when in reality, it requires quite a significant organizational shift. Matthew cautions that “switching to a product-led approach is not an overnight process.” It involves making foundational changes to the product and organization and putting user experience at the center of your product strategy. Another mistake that companies often make is assuming they know their B2B software users well enough to skip proper user research. In the best case, this leads to a rigid experience that lacks flexibility, as users may not use the product exactly as imagined. The worst case is that you spend time and money building a product that doesn’t have a product-market fit.
If you have opted to embrace the PLG approach, what are the next steps? Begin by bringing your data, sales, and support teams together to gather and organize user data. Collect both quantitative and qualitative information on users’ interactions with your product. The objective is to pinpoint areas where users are experiencing issues and then find ways to resolve them, as a smooth user experience is essential for a successful PLG strategy.
If you are running a tool like Mixpanel behind the scenes, determine which features your customers are using the most. If not Mixpanel, make sure you are incorporating some element of Business Intelligence that will help you quantify your hypothesis. These insights will give your product team a starting point to optimize the user onboarding process and minimize the time it takes for your customers to see the value of your product. The primary objective is to introduce new customers to the core functionality of the product so that they can quickly experience its benefits. “Ultimately, you need to understand that end-user success will become your company’s success. The more a company leans into helping their customers, the more likely this model will work for their business.”
“Ultimately, you need to understand that end-user success will become your company’s success. The more a company leans into helping their customers, the more likely this model will work for their business.”
Good UX Can Help B2B Software Sell Itself
In today’s competitive B2B software landscape, products with well-designed user experiences have the power to sell themselves. By adopting Product-led Growth principles, software companies can sell their products more efficiently, which also opens up the potential for increased productivity, streamlined workflows, and higher customer satisfaction. These strategies further empower businesses to leverage their software as a powerful sales tool, driving sustainable growth and expanding their customer base.
Partnering with UX/UI experts can help incorporate top-notch design principles and embrace a PLG model. Since every use case is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re interested in discussing your specific requirements, contact Neuron to explore your options. Our hands-on senior team specializes in crafting top-notch business and enterprise tools that enhance productivity, sales, and intelligence. Reach out to us today to get started.
Neuron is a San Francisco-based UX/UI consultancy that creates best-in-class digital experiences to help businesses succeed in today’s digital world. Learn more about our services and explore our work.