What is Product-Led Growth? Metrics, Examples & Best Practices

November 8, 2023
what is product led growth

We grow SaaS businesses. Let’s start growing.

Have you ever heard of product-led growth? 

It’s like when your product becomes the superhero, doing the heavy lifting to make your business skyrocket. 

Product-led growth has gained substantial traction in the SaaS sector, with many successful SaaS companies attributing their growth to PLG strategies.

Beyond SaaS, other industries are increasingly exploring and adopting PLG principles to drive user-centric growth.

In this product-led growth guide, I will share easy-to-understand metrics, real-life examples, and the golden rules to make your business thrive by adopting a successful product-led growth strategy. 

What is Product-Led Growth?

Product-led growth is a business advancement tactic where the product takes the lead in driving company growth. Rather than heavily depending on traditional sales and marketing methods, the product takes center stage as the primary instrument for acquiring, converting, retaining, and expanding the customer base. 

It’s about creating a product so good and user-friendly that it sells itself, drawing in users who try it, love it, and stick around. In essence, PLG shifts the focus from selling a product to letting the product pull in users by showcasing its inherent value.

What Are The Different Product-Led Growth Models?

Businesses often combine product-led models to create a comprehensive product-led growth strategy. These models can be tailored to fit the nature of the product, target audience, and business goals. 

Here are the top product-led growth models for all business types:

  • Self-Serve Model: Users can sign up, explore, and start using the product without requiring assistance from sales or customer support. 
  • Freemium Model: Offers a free product with limited features, enticing users to upgrade to a paid version for additional functionalities. 
  • Trial Model: Provides users with a limited-time trial of the full product, encouraging them to subscribe or purchase after experiencing its value. 
  • Land-and-Expand Model: Focuses on acquiring a small number of users within an organization and expanding usage over time, gradually converting the entire organization into customers. 
  • Virality Model: Leverages word-of-mouth and social sharing to encourage users to bring in more users, creating a viral effect and expanding the user base. 
  • Marketplace Model: Facilitates the creation of a platform or marketplace where users can access and integrate with various complementary products or services. 
  • Bottom-Up Model: Targets individual users within an organization, aiming to grow organically from the bottom levels to gain broader adoption. 
  • Developer-Centric Model: Focuses on providing robust APIs and developer tools, encouraging third-party developers to build on top of the product and expand its ecosystem. 
  • Low-Touch Model: Involves minimal human interaction in the sales process, relying on automated tools and resources to guide users through the product journey. 
  • High-Touch Model: Incorporates a more hands-on approach, with personalized assistance and guidance from the sales or customer success teams to drive adoption and expansion.

What Does Product-Led Growth Look Like?

Product-Led Growth (PLG) is characterized by specific traits and actions that set it apart. Here’s what Product-Led Growth looks like in practice: 

  • User-Focused Design: Products prioritize delivering a smooth and user-friendly experience, aiming to ensure the product is intuitive and easy to navigate.
  • Self-Service Onboarding: Users can sign up, explore, and start using the product with minimal assistance. Onboarding is often self-guided, allowing users to understand the product’s value quickly. 
  • Free or Freemium Offerings: Many PLG models offer free product versions or a freemium model with limited features. This encourages users to try the product before committing to a paid plan. 
  • In-Product Guidance: Products provide in-app guidance, tooltips, and tutorials to help users navigate and understand key features. The goal is to ensure users can extract maximum value from the product independently. 
  • Product-Led Metrics: Key performance indicators (KPIs) focus on user-centric metrics, such as activation rates, engagement, and retention, rather than traditional sales metrics. 
  • Viral Features: Products may include features encouraging users to share or invite others, contributing to organic growth through word-of-mouth and social sharing. 
  • Frictionless Upgrades: Premium features or plans are presented seamlessly within the product, making it easy for users to upgrade without encountering barriers. 
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Product development and marketing strategies are informed by data analytics and user behavior, allowing businesses to make informed decisions for continuous improvement. 
  • Community Building: PLG often involves creating communities where users can connect, share experiences, and learn from each other. This fosters a sense of belonging and loyalty. 
  • Focus on Time-to-Value: There’s an emphasis on delivering value to users quickly. Products are structured to provide tangible benefits early in the user journey.

What is the Importance of Product-Led Growth?

Here are the top reasons why product-led growth is important. 

  • Agile Innovation: PLG fosters a culture of continuous innovation. With direct user interaction, businesses can quickly adapt and introduce new features or improvements based on real-time feedback. 
  • Reduced Customer Churn: By consistently delivering value within the product, PLG reduces the likelihood of customer churn. Users who find ongoing benefits are more likely to stay engaged and loyal. 
  • Natural Upselling Opportunities: PLG models create natural opportunities for upselling premium features or plans within the product interface. Users can easily explore and opt for additional functionalities based on their evolving needs. 
  • User Empowerment: PLG empowers users by giving them control over their experience. Users can navigate the product, explore features, and make decisions at their own pace, fostering a sense of ownership. 
  • Global Reach: With a focus on self-service and online accessibility, PLG allows businesses to reach a global audience without geographical constraints. This enables international expansion with minimal barriers. 
  • Brand Loyalty Through Education: PLG involves educating users on the product’s value through in-app guidance and resources. This educational approach not only enhances user understanding but also fosters brand loyalty. 
  • Personalized Experiences: PLG enables the creation of personalized user experiences based on individual preferences and usage patterns. This tailored approach enhances user satisfaction and engagement. 
  • Enhanced Product Stickiness: PLG contributes to product “stickiness,” meaning users become deeply engaged and reliant on the product for their specific needs. This stickiness reinforces long-term customer relationships. 

How To Design A Product-Led Growth Strategy?

Designing a Product-Led Growth (PLG) strategy involves a thoughtful approach that integrates product development, user experience, and marketing. Here’s a step-by-step guide: 

Understand Your Users

Understanding your users is a critical aspect of developing an effective Product-Led Growth (PLG) strategy. This involves gathering insights into their preferences, habits, and needs. 

Utilize methods such as surveys, user personas, and virtual interactions to create a comprehensive understanding. This knowledge is the foundation for tailoring your product to meet user expectations and drive engagement. 

Identify Key Activation Points

Activation points are moments within your product where users derive significant value and become more deeply engaged. To pinpoint these crucial moments, consider the following steps: 

  • Perform User Journey Mapping: Map out the entire user journey from the initial interaction to becoming a regular user. Identify touchpoints where users experience the most value and where their engagement tends to increase. 
  • Analyze User Feedback: Scrutinize user feedback to understand the features or functionalities that users consistently find valuable. This feedback can be gathered from customer support interactions, surveys, or reviews. 
  • Track User Behavior: Leverage analytics tools to track user behavior within your product. Look for patterns that indicate when users are most actively engaged or when they achieve significant milestones. 
  • Utilize A/B Testing: Implement A/B testing to experiment with variations in your product. Assess user responses to different features or interface elements to identify which aspects contribute most to user activation. 
  • Review Product Analytics: Review your product analytics to review metrics such as user engagement, time spent on specific features, and any user actions that indicate increased value perception. 
  • Benchmark Against Industry Standards: Compare your activation points with industry benchmarks. This external perspective can help you identify areas where your product excels or has room for improvement.

Implement Seamless Onboarding

Design an onboarding process that is self-explanatory and guides users to explore key features. 

Begin with a straightforward and minimalistic registration process. 

Request only essential information, avoiding unnecessary details that might overwhelm users. 

After that, implement a progressive profiling approach, gradually gathering more information from users as they navigate through the onboarding process. 

Minimize the time it takes for users to experience the core value of the product. 

You can also provide teasers or glimpses of the core features during onboarding. Showcasing the value proposition of the product generates early excitement and anticipation.

Leverage Free or Freemium Models

Consider offering a free version or a freemium model to allow users to explore the product with limited features. 

If imposing usage limits in the free version, position them as reasonable thresholds rather than restrictive barriers. 

Users should feel they are getting substantial utility before hitting any limitations.

You should also offer flexible upgrade paths, allowing users to choose plans based on their evolving needs. 

Provide transparency in pricing and feature differentiations to help users make informed decisions.

Incorporate Viral Features 

Integrate features that naturally encourage users to share or invite others. 

You can design viral loops within your product where each user action has the potential to attract new users. For example, a user’s activity could prompt invitations to their network, creating a continuous loop of user acquisition.

Viral effects can contribute to organic growth through word-of-mouth and social sharing. 

You can also introduce exclusivity by providing users with limited, exclusive invitations to share with their network. 

Scarcity can drive interest and increase the perceived value of your product.

Top Product-Led Growth Metrics

Product-led growth relies on various metrics to measure the effectiveness of strategies and the overall success of a product. Here are some key metrics to track in a PLG approach: 

Activation Rate

This metric measures the percentage of new users who take a specific action that indicates they’ve found value in the product. It helps evaluate the effectiveness of onboarding processes. 

The formula to calculate Activation Rate is:

Activation Rate = (Number of New Sign-ups/Number of Activated Users) × 100

User Engagement

It tracks how actively users are interacting with your product. This can include features used, time spent within the product, and the frequency of use. Higher engagement often correlates with product satisfaction. 

The formula to calculate the user engagement rate is as follows: 

User Engagement Rate = (Total Number of Users/ Number of Engaged Users) × 100

Conversion Rate

This metric indicates how well your product converts users from the free or trial version to premium or paid plans. 

The formula to calculate the conversion rate is as follows: 

Conversion Rate = (Total Number of Opportunities/Number of Conversions) × 100

Expansion Revenue

This metric helps to measure revenue generated from existing customers through upsells, cross-sells, or additional feature adoption. 

The formula to calculate expansion revenue is: 

Expansion Revenue = Total Revenue from Existing Customers − Revenue from Existing Customers at the Beginning of the Period

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS measures user satisfaction and loyalty by inquiring about users’ likelihood to recommend the product to others. A higher NPS signals a strong probability of positive word-of-mouth and organic growth.

The formula for calculating NPS is as follows: 

NPS = (Percentage of Promoters − Percentage of Detractors/Total Respondents ) × 100 

Churn Rate

The churn rate quantifies the proportion of customers who cease using your product within a specified timeframe. A reduced churn rate signifies improved customer retention and sustained long-term product value.

The formula to calculate the Churn rate is as follows: 

Churn Rate = (Total Number of Customers at the Beginning of the Period/ Number of Customers Lost during a Period) × 100

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

CAC figures out how much it costs to get a new customer. It’s important to make sure that the money a customer brings in over time is worth the cost of getting them in the first place.

The formula to calculate CAC is: 

CAC = Total Marketing and Sales Expenditure/ Number of New Customers 


Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

CLV predicts how much money a company might get from a customer over time. It’s like figuring out how valuable it is to get and keep customers for a long time.

The formula to calculate CLV is: 

CLV= Churn Rate Average Revenue per User (ARPU) / Churn Rate

Virality Coefficient

In products featuring viral aspects, this metric monitors the number of new users brought in by each existing user. A virality coefficient surpassing 1 signifies favorable viral expansion.

The formula to calculate the virality coefficient is:

Virality Coefficient (K-factor) = Number of Invitations Sent per User X Conversion Rate of Invitations ​/ Churn Rate

Time to Value (TTV)

TTV checks how quickly a new user gets something useful from the product. If it’s quick, people usually like it more and stick around.

The formula to calculate Time to Value is:

Time to Value (TTV) = Time when Value is Realized−Time of Initial Interaction or Sign-Up

Feature Adoption Rate

This metric indicates the success of feature launches and the overall responsiveness of users to product improvements. 

The formula to calculate Feature Adoption Rate is:

Feature Adoption Rate = (Number of Users Adopting the Feature/Total Number of Users​) X 100

Successful Examples of Product-Led Growth 

Several companies have successfully implemented product-led growth strategies, leveraging their products to drive user acquisition, engagement, and retention. Here are some notable 



Zoom disrupted the video conferencing market with a user-friendly product that allowed easy access to virtual meetings. Its freemium model enabled rapid adoption, and as users found value, many organizations transitioned to paid plans. Word-of-mouth and viral adoption contributed significantly to Zoom’s success. 


Duolingo, a language learning platform, offers a free, gamified language education experience. Users can access a wide range of language courses without charge. The product’s engaging design and effective learning methods have attracted millions of users, establishing Duolingo as a leader in the language learning space.


Slack revolutionized team communication with its intuitive and collaborative platform. Offering a free version with essential features, Slack gained widespread adoption among small teams and startups. Its ease of use and integrations led to organic growth, making it a prevalent tool in workplaces globally. 


Dropbox’s freemium model, offering free storage with the option to upgrade for more space, led to widespread adoption. Its referral program, where users could earn additional storage by inviting friends, contributed to rapid user acquisition. Dropbox successfully converted free users into paying customers. 


HubSpot, a marketing and sales platform, utilizes a freemium model for its CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool. By providing valuable features for free, HubSpot attracts businesses that later upgrade to access more advanced functionalities, showcasing a product-led approach to growth. 


Square revolutionized payment processing for small businesses with its easy-to-use card reader and point-of-sale solutions. By providing accessible and user-friendly tools, Square empowers small businesses to accept electronic payments, showcasing a product-led growth strategy.


Canva democratized graphic design by offering an easy-to-use platform for creating visuals. With a freemium model and a vast library of design elements, Canva attracted a broad user base. As users experienced the product’s value, many opted for paid plans to access premium features. 

Mastering Product-Led Growth: Best Practices To Follow

Here are the product-led growth best practices to follow to drive customer acquisition, retention, and expansion: 

User-Centric Product Design

Prioritize user experience and design your product with simplicity and intuitiveness in mind. A user-centric approach ensures users can easily understand, adopt, and derive value from your product. 

Freemium or Free Trial Models

Offer a freemium model or free trial to allow users to experience the core value of your product before committing to a paid plan. This approach lowers barriers to entry and encourages users to explore your product without upfront costs. 

Clear Onboarding Processes

Design onboarding processes that guide users seamlessly through the initial steps of using your product. Communicate the value proposition and help users achieve their first success quickly to drive engagement. 

Data-Driven Iteration

Use data analytics to continuously monitor user behavior, identify pain points, and measure the impact of changes or updates. Iteratively refine your product based on insights to enhance user satisfaction and drive growth. 

Viral Features and Referral Programs 

Incorporate viral features that encourage users to share your product with their network. Implement referral programs to incentivize users to bring in new customers, leveraging the power of word-of-mouth marketing. 

Scalable Pricing Models 

Implement pricing models that scale with the user’s needs. Ensure that as users grow, the value they receive from your product aligns with the pricing tiers, making it a natural progression for them to upgrade. 

Continuous Product Education

Provide ongoing product education through tutorials, guides, and in-app assistance. Help users discover and maximize the value of your product’s features to enhance their overall experience. 

Community Building

Foster a sense of community among your users. Establish forums, discussion groups, or social media channels where users can connect, share insights, and learn from one another. A strong community contributes to user retention and advocacy. 

Agile Development Practices

Embrace agile development methodologies to adapt to user feedback and market dynamics swiftly. Consistently launch updates and innovative features to ensure your product stays current and meets evolving user requirements. 

Customer Feedback Integration

Adopt agile development practices to address user feedback and adapt to market shifts promptly. Consistently roll out updates and novel features to maintain the freshness of your product and align it with evolving user needs. 

Metrics-Driven Decision-Making

Base your strategic decisions on key metrics related to user acquisition, engagement, conversion, and retention. Establish a data-driven culture within your organization to align decisions with measurable outcomes. 

Cross-Functional Collaboration

Encourage collaboration between product, marketing, sales, and customer success teams. A cross-functional approach ensures alignment across departments, creating a cohesive strategy for driving product-led growth.


What are the goals of product-led growth?

The goals of product-led growth are to acquire a large user base, activate users quickly through effective onboarding, retain users over the long term, drive revenue through product usage, stimulate viral growth through word-of-mouth and referrals, and ensure ongoing user education and product adoption. PLG emphasizes using the product as a key driver for sustainable growth and customer success.

What distinguishes Product-Led Growth from traditional growth models? 

Product-led growth distinguishes itself by prioritizing the product as the main driver for user acquisition and retention, often utilizing freemium or free trial models. Traditional growth models may rely more heavily on sales and marketing efforts.

How can businesses measure success in a Product-Led Growth strategy? 

Businesses can measure success in a PLG strategy by tracking metrics such as user sign-ups, activation rates, retention rates, conversion to paid, average revenue per user, referral conversion, user engagement, Net Promoter Score, community engagement, and feature adoption. Analyzing these metrics provides insights into the strategy’s effectiveness and guides data-driven decision-making.

Can any business, regardless of size, implement Product-Led Growth? 

Yes, Product-Led Growth (PLG) can be implemented by businesses of any size. It applies to startups, small and medium enterprises, and large corporations across various industries.

What are some common challenges in adopting a Product-Led Growth approach? 

Common challenges include:

  • Designing effective onboarding processes.
  • Ensuring product-market fit.
  • Managing freemium models.
  • Addressing user education.
  • Adapting organizational culture to prioritize a user-centric mindset.

How do PLG metrics differ from traditional marketing metrics? 

PLG metrics focus on product usage, user activation, and retention, while traditional marketing metrics often emphasize lead generation, customer acquisition cost (CAC), and marketing-qualified leads. PLG metrics center on the product as the primary driver of growth.

What are the key considerations in designing a user-centric onboarding process? 

Key considerations include:

  • Understanding user personas.
  • Simplifying the onboarding journey.
  • Highlighting core product value.
  • Providing interactive tutorials.
  • Incorporating user feedback to optimize the onboarding experience continuously.

Can Product-Led Growth be applied to industries outside of SaaS?

Yes, Product-Led Growth is adaptable to industries beyond Software as a Service (SaaS). It has been successfully implemented in sectors like e-commerce, education, fintech, healthcare, and more, emphasizing the universal applicability of the strategy.


Product-led growth represents a shift from traditional sales-led approaches to a more customer-centric model, where the product itself plays a central role in driving growth.

The product growth strategy aligns with the modern trend of empowered buyers who prefer to explore and adopt products on their own terms.

However, it’s essential for companies to continuously adapt and refine their product-led strategies based on real user feedback and market dynamics.

Looking to Grow Your SaaS Business?

Try Clickstrike, a leading B2B SaaS Marketing Agency. Trusted by hundreds of leading tech companies.
Share on: