Welcome to episode twenty-four of the SaaS Backwards podcast, where we interview CEOs and CMOs of fast-growing SaaS firms to reveal what they are doing that's working, and lessons learned from things that didn't work as planned.
You can listen to the full episode directly below via Spotify, or visit SaaS Backwards on Buzzsprout or wherever you listen to podcasts.
The Product-Led Growth Go-to-Market Motion; Digging Deep with Correlated's Breezy Beaumont
With Breezy Beaumont, Head of Growth and Marketing at Correlated
Edited for clarity and readability
Host, Ken Lempit:
Welcome everyone to SaaS Backwards, a podcast that helps SaaS CMOs and CEOs to accelerate growth and enhance profitability. We take a look at what's working for growing SaaS companies, leadership decision making, and what did and didn't work, and why.
Our guest today is Breezy Beaumont. She's Head of Growth and Marketing at Correlated. Hey, Breezy. Welcome to the podcast.
Could you tell us just a little about yourself and the company you work for?
For sure. My title is Head of Growth and Marketing, and I also manage our SDR team here. Correlated is a company that was founded in 2020. We've been growing pretty rapidly since then, especially over the last six months or so.
We help product-led growth companies and we help them to find expansion, upsell, cross-sell, and other revenue opportunities based on how people are using their product.
We're assuming that everybody knows what a product led growth company is, and maybe you could just set the table before we get into that area of endeavor?
Yeah, definitely. There’s been a lot of really successful companies, and I think that's more of what people think of when they think of product-led growth. Companies like Zoom, Calendly, Expensify, Datadog, Atlassian and others. And so, there's a lot of really great examples of product-led growth companies, but what does that actually mean?
Generally, when you go to somebody's website, this is how you'll be able to tell if they're a product-led growth company:
Do they have a way for you to get started with the product pretty much immediately?
Can you get your hands on it and try it for yourself?
And so, the core of a product-led growth company is putting your product at the center of everything that you do and making it easy for your prospects or customers or users to be able to get started with your product and work their own way through that sales process.
So, they're actually most likely going to be able to start without a gate of any kind, right? They don't have to talk to anybody, just put in their credentials to have access to the system and off they go.
Exactly, and it's about giving them the choice to do that. So, they may or may not choose that path. They may choose, "Hey, I'd rather have a demo and go through what would be thought of as a more traditional sales process," or, "Hey, I'd rather get started with the product, and then I want to have a conversation with sales in a couple days or next week, once I feel it out for myself a little bit." So, it's about giving them the choice. But if they so choose to use your product, then yes, hopefully they can actually get in there and start using it.
And that has a real impact on the organization, right? A product-led growth go-to-market strategy is different than a traditional one. Why don't we dig in on that a little bit in terms of the impact on the sales role, and the dynamics between sales, marketing, customer success? And since you guys are yourselves product-led, feel free to talk about how that plays out within Correlated.
Yeah, definitely. It is a go-to-market motion, which means it changes the way that all of your people on your go-to-market team work. And so, the role of sales, marketing, customer success, etc., are similar to how they are today, there's just some slight changes maybe in the way that you work or in the way that your processes work.
That’s a huge topic and there’s a lot to unpack there, but one of the things you talked about was specifically on the sales side.
I think one of the things that's important to note is to think about how the funnel might work, because generally how your funnel and your sales process works will define how your team interacts with buyers.
If you think about the traditional sales funnel today, we have leads coming in, they convert into an MQL, into a SAL, an SQL (an opportunity), and close one, hopefully, and so on and so forth. And then you have the start really of them being a customer and having that customer journey.
When you are a product-led company, obviously that flips your funnel and twists it and does a couple different things to it, because people can choose; do they want to get started with your product, or are they just interested in learning about your content, AKA, becoming more of that MQL path?
The tricky part about it is that they always end up crossing into one another. So, let's say someone comes in and they're just interested in your content but they start to use your product so maybe they're a PQL (product qualified lead). And then maybe there's some level of a sales conversation and now they're a customer, but it's time for that customer to upgrade so now there's another chance for them to become the second definition of a product qualified lead.
I'd say the biggest difference is that there's multiple opportunities for expansion in product-led growth. Whereas in a traditional funnel, people can move through a little bit more linearly because you would become a lead, you'd become an MQL, SQL, and so on, and then you eventually become a customer and you sign a contract for one year, two years, three years, something like that.
With product-led growth, you might have a freemium product that people can use. Then they move up to the next tier and the next tier. And so, these expansion opportunities might have multiple expansions in a year, and so that's one of the main things that starts to swap on the sales side.
This sounds chaotic the way the described it there, but as I was taking it in, I think it's more organic, right? I mean, this is how people actually want to learn about, consume, learn more, consume more. I mean, it sounds to me like it's developing a relationship with the software company rather than being forced through a manufactured process, right?
Exactly. And all the pieces of the way that "we used to sell" as some people are talking about it, are still there. I think the biggest difference is what you started to point out there, is that the customer gets to choose and has more control over how they move in that process. They can get involved with your company--maybe in a Slack community, or maybe just on LinkedIn, and then they're starting to engage with your content and then maybe they do some certification or other program that you have. Maybe they dive into the product, but they're not at a company where it's a good fit. And so, a couple years down the line, now they know exactly how your product works and they buy it for their company there.
It’s a little bit more of this fluid piece where the customer is getting to choose which path do they want to take, what makes sense for them, and it's also meaning that your product is probably going to have to get slightly better. Which is going to be a win-win for both sides, because if your product is out in the open and no longer hidden behind a contract, it needs to deliver on the promises that we say it's going to deliver on. And so, it pushes you to make the product the best that it can be, which ends up being better for business in the long term for the company, but also better for the customer.
That's really awesome. I think that there's reticence among some in the business to go to a product-led motion. And I think the reticence probably comes along like the product may not be good enough, right?
So, that's a concern.
Or maybe they're also concerned about the organizational change, like getting sales people and customer success on board and collaborating through the freemium part of a journey.
And maybe it’s also revenue impact, right? Because if I manufactured my pipeline, I force you through those gates as a software exec, and you believe that you have more control over that. More predictable revenue, to borrow an old term. And I'm just wondering what you see in terms of the organizational challenge, maybe at management level, to get people to adopt product-led versus their traditional go-to-market.
Yeah. I think you hit on a lot of the different challenges. And to be frank, I think that predictability is difficult. It's nice when we have a very clear track for people, and then we can set conversion rates and average conversion rates at each of those steps and have that predictability.
But I will say when you look at the flip side of it, there tends to be a larger pipeline in general when you have product-leds. You have more people, because you have the people who would choose your traditional path, but now you're opening up an additional way for people to get involved with your product, which is just jumping right in and actually using your product.
And then you're also opening up, like we talked about, these multiple expansion opportunities. So, you're focused on the land, but you're maybe even more so focused on the expand side. That's actually something that we see a lot on the sales side is shifting some of that compensation, so instead of it being maybe even as much as 100% compensation on the land, we're seeing maybe 25% land and 75% expand within 12 or 18 months.
So, the predictability is difficult, not just in terms of the funnel, but in terms of pricing as well. If the company chooses to go along the usage-based pricing model, there is some difficulty.
You think of companies like Slack and others who may have different amounts that you build on a monthly basis, but one way around it that we see companies doing is bucketing their pricing, basically, even on the usage based side, saying, "You can use as much as this amount of the bucket, or this amount," and increase it that way. That can help with some predictability.
And then one other point that you brought up that I think it's important to discuss is the idea of your team shifting and how that will happen. I think that the biggest pushback that we see, especially on the sales side, is more of a misunderstanding of how the product-led growth motion will work. People are misunderstanding the idea that they're being replaced or that the product's all of a sudden just going to sell itself.
And, "What if people just start using the product and they don't want to talk to me in sales anymore?" That's just a misunderstanding in that, you'll be involved after they're using the product.
For example, let’s say that someone starts using the product and they invite a couple other users. Well, that might be a good opportunity for sales to jump in and have a conversation, or maybe they're using the product and they click on a new feature that they haven't currently paid for. Maybe you have a couple different product lines.
Okay, that's another opportunity for sales to have a conversation. So, it's a different way of having a conversation instead of trying to push them through the sales process that we think of, it's instead engaging them throughout their customer life cycle.
That’s a really important point—that there's a lot of hard work in the traditional sales model. The SDRs have to basically chum the ocean to find the few fish, and that's a really hard job, and there's a real winnowing out of great people who might have otherwise stayed in an organization but couldn’t cut the hard numbers that are needed to make the predictable revenue model work.
And the sales executives, whatever they're called, AEs, however we call that next level up; those people are still weeding through the SDR leads, the SDR generated leads that are obviously somewhat engaged, but those SDRs maybe are compensated on meetings. So, they're trying to get anybody who can speak English to get to a meeting, and then the AE has to weed through those people. So, there's this really tough, tough job.
I think it's actually attractive as a salesperson to say, "Hey, I see you're using Slack for this. Did you know that you can also do your monthly reporting? If you just change the way you use these channels, by the way, buy this feature, you can now eliminate that dreaded monthly report by having this thing built into this conversation you're already having with your customers."
It seems to me that if you put it in the perspective of conversations you'd rather have, it might be easier to get sales people lined up, especially as you talked about before, altering the comp, right?
And saying, "Hey, your comp is going to be driven by how you help us grow these initial users," then you become a product and customer champion instead of slogging it out trying to get somebody who actually might care.
Yeah, exactly. And Snowflake's actually become semi-famous for saying that they don't have any customer success people and that all of their sales people should be acting like customer success people. And so, they're involved throughout the entire customer journey, which I think is an interesting take.
Yeah. And in doing the podcast, I mean, I spoke with the founder of Lemlist, a sales automation company, and the guy spends two hours a day talking to customers. I don't know how many employees he's up to—maybe 50 to 70, something like that. He's on the phone talking with customers all the time, seeking opportunity to learn, first of all, how can he improve the product, but also looking for the opportunity for what else he can sell.
So, I think there's a real move there. I also like and I just want to underline the idea that I think the perception has been, “it's all or nothing.” And maybe on the product side, you must have the enabling technology to support product-led, but in your go-to-market, you can provide both paths.
I think that's the first time it's been discussed here on our podcast, and that might give people some comfort that they can take a year or two and see how it works before they fully commit, right? It's not all or nothing.
Yeah, exactly. All the things we've been doing. Cold outreach still doesn't go away. Sales isn't going away. The way we market today isn't going away. But some of the ways that we do each of these things is slightly shifting. So for the SDRs or BDRs on the cold outreach side, they might be trying to set a meeting, or get someone started in the product. So, now there's just two different paths there.
On the marketing side, still doing all the same activities, but maybe focusing a little bit more on building community and building content and un-gating more things. Just really putting the information out there and providing that thought leadership. And sales side, same thing. They're getting involved across that customer journey and not just on the piece before some of the customer.
Yeah. You just tied two things together for me which I think is neat; the idea that demand generation, thought leadership has a role to play in product-led growth. I don't know if you've thought about that much more, but if you have something to add on that, that would be great to talk about.
I think there was already a movement towards un-gating more content and just putting things out there. There's also been a movement towards building more publicly on social media and sharing everything that you can there, and also building various Slack communities. I know I'm a member of at least 10, 15 or more different Slack communities on various topics.
So, I think a lot of these things were already shifting in that direction, compounded by the idea that marketing attribution is getting more and more difficult and even more fuzzy than it has been in the past. We see cookie data going out the window, and if you're focused on social and community marketing, attribution is incredibly difficult.
Many external factors have already been pushing us this way, but also this really lines up well with product-led growth models in that you're just trying to share as much as you possibly can, add as much value as you've possibly can through all of your marketing and content. And then, same goes for when someone gets into the product. You want to get them that time to value as quickly as possible and help them in any way that you can, and then hopefully you earn those expansion opportunities from there.
So, there you have it. First time I've heard it anyway, product-led growth and thought leadership and communities, right? The dark funnel that the component talks about, right? So all these things coming into this one focus, it's really interesting.
You mentioned that the funnel looks different. Can we talk in a little more detail about how you guys manage a product-led funnel, and what is a PQL, and how do we make that meaningful to people who are encountering it for the first time?
Yeah, absolutely. The way that we look at the PQL score, a product qualified lead, is not exactly the same way we think of an MQL. So for an MQL score, we usually say, "Okay, they've attended this event, or downloaded X amount of this content," or whatever it may be. It's usually a combination of that and then some firmographic and demographic information.
So similarly, a PQL would be a combination of maybe demographic or firmographic, meaning their title, their company size, this and that, combined with product usage data. So instead of that marketing data, we're now looking at product usage.
So, have they tried to feature? Have they invited a certain amount of people? Have they hit certain usage metrics? Whatever it may be.
That’s the similarity between the two is that we're still combining somewhat similar data. The difference being on one side, it's eBook and the other downloads, and the other, it's what they're doing in our product.
But one of the differences is that in MQL land, we generally have only one opportunity for someone to become an MQL. Maybe at a super developed company, we also have something like a recycled MQL or a re-MQL, and they can move back into that definition again.
But on the PQL side, there's going to be multiple definitions for a PQL throughout the entire customer journey. So, maybe the first time they sign up to use the product and do A, B, and C inside the product, okay, now they're PQL.
And now they've hit this next usage tier and invited more people to collaborate with them, now they're PQL again, and so on and so forth as they move through that journey. We like to think of it as signals, but PQLs, same idea. It's just a few definitions.
So, they can qualify and multiple times for different opportunities to grow the relationship?
Exactly. Because before we were trying to get someone to become an MQL so we could move them to the next step in the journey, but that was more of a linear journey. Now, it's almost like the journey is cyclical instead of it being a straight line.
Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. So this has product implications too, right? You need a lot of instrumentation in your product to be able to really do this, right?
Yeah. There's been strong tooling for product teams and others on that side. And so most companies today are already pulling this product usage data and going somewhere, it's just that the revenue team sales, marketing, customer service, sometimes doesn't know about it. Or CS knows about it, but it's more in terms of a customer health score and not about what they're doing at what time in your product.
And so, most companies are collecting this, they might be using something like Segment, or maybe they're collecting it directly and putting it into something like Snowflake or a different data warehouse. And so, it usually exists, just you might not know exactly where.
And so at Correlated, we are eating our own dog food and using Correlated. And so, basically what we're doing is combining that product usage data with more of the traditional revenue team data, so your CRM. And by combining it, we notify ourselves, "Okay, someone is using our product and they've created three signals," or, "They've tried a certain feature that they haven't tried before, they invited more users," and then sending notifications about that or maybe kicking off a sequence and outreach based on an action that somebody took.
Yeah. So, one of the complaints we hear about MQLs, there's no science behind it. We have these rubrics: Mary attended a webinar, downloaded an eBook and visited the blog three times; she's an MQL. Do we get any more scientific on the PQL product-led growth side?
Yeah. I think you should be tracking what happens after that PQL signal goes off.
First, is your team responding to it and taking action on it? That's the first thing we should look at. And then second of all, if they are, what happened from that? So, did that lead to an expansion opportunity? Did that lead to them converting from your free trial to some tier of paid?
And so, looking at that down the line, in the same way that if you're looking at an MQL and they shift across, it's hard to change your MQL score too often. I think most companies try not to change it more than quarterly.
But for your PQL score, you don't want to obviously be shifting them all over the place, but there's a little bit more malleability that you can test different scores and different layering of criteria and see what happens after that.
The data's also a little bit faster for you to get that because someone's doing some action. You're reaching out to them in real time. And so, the time to see, "Did that lead to more revenue for us?" is a little bit shorter and a little bit more clear than looking at your MQL definition and then trying to see, "Okay, how many of those turned into SQLs and deals closed?" Because usually if you're in that model, your sales cycle's also probably a lot longer and product-led growth sales cycles tend to be shorter.
So, this lets the product manager in, right? So, the product manager now also has a role to play because he or she can see what people are consuming and maybe alter their plans. Instead of having like a customer advisory board, we just go in and see what people are doing and say, "Okay, well looks like people are more interested in this than that." That's cool.
Yeah. It gives you a ton of data, which myself being a big data person, is really fun. It actually gives you insight into you, what is the right direction that you should move?
So, I think that's one of the fun parts of being a product-led company, is that not only can you see all the different pieces of data from before someone signs up to use your product or becomes a customer, but then once they're in there being able to dig into all those different pieces, and stay in contact with those customers throughout their life cycle is also a lot of fun.
One thing you touched on too is the product team. A shift that happens for marketing, sales, CS, et cetera, is that everyone becomes more deeply ingrained in understanding what the product does, what is the value that it brings, and so on.
I think to some extent in marketing and sales, we could do our job effectively knowing enough about a company, but in a product-led space, I think the knowledge goes much deeper for folks in understanding exactly what the product does. It might even be more hands on in using the product on a daily basis. And so what that also leads to is being more collaborative with the product team.
So, marketing might be collaborating with them to help build virality or network effects into the product. So for instance, when I create a Calendly, then I share my Calendly with you so that we can schedule a meeting together. And now you're aware of Calendly.
Or if I'm invoicing a software company, I might add our logo and say, "Try it for free yourself down at the bottom." And now anytime we send out an invoice, the company is seen there so there's this virality piece that marketers will work with product teams on. So, there's a little bit more of a collaboration that maybe didn't quite exist as much before.
Yeah. You said something that I just want to make a point on and then we're going to move on—you can do an adequate job with limited product knowledge. So, this is the first is true confession segment on the SaaS Backwards podcast, I've had more than a few clients where maybe I never saw the demo. When the client went for three or four years, very happily, and we actually never got the demo. So, it's scary when you think about it.
Yeah. It's something that you could definitely get away with, but at least the ability to get into a product more easily is there, and we have... It's at your fingertips now. There's less excuses in the way. But it is fun.
Because at the end of the day, by having all of these people across the revenue team have a better understanding of the product, it also means it's a win for the customer; or as maybe a consumer of software products ourselves, it makes that experience better because you understand for real how the product is going to work. Their expectations are more closely to accurately set. And so, it does lead to good things for both sides.
It's very organic.
One of my recurring topics in my work, both in blogging, the podcast, and mentoring, is what it's like to be a woman in marketing leadership. I want to talk with you about your experience being a woman leader in young company and others for this one, how that's played out for you, and do you have any advice for people who are coming right behind you looking at their first senior leadership job in marketing?
Yeah, definitely. I think something I noticed across my career is that you'll (hopefully) often, get a seat at the table. And what I mean by that is, being invited to a certain meeting or being asked to on a panel for interviewing someone at the company. So, you'll get this seat at the table. And when you look around, you can start to recognize sometimes you're just getting that seat at the table because you are a woman or because you are a person of color, or whatever it may be.
And although the first reaction for some folks might be this level of frustration, I think one of the things that I've learned is just to take that seat at the table and use it to my advantage. So if I got the seat at the table, I'm going to use it to share my ideas and I'm not going to sit in this meeting silently. If you gave me the seat, I'm going to be involved in the conversation.
And so I think for me, seeing when there's a door opened, even if it's not for a reason that I'd like it to be. Of course, I'd prefer the reason to be, "Hey, we'd really like Breezy's opinion on this. She is a great leader at our company," and this and that, but sometimes you just get the seat for some other reason.
Being able to recognize that is one thing. I think also being able to recognize when it's a good opportunity versus when it's wasting your time. So, if it's a great meeting, use that seat, speak at the meeting, and do what you need to do.
If it's not a great opportunity, like you are just being asked to be on hiring panel after hiring panel because they want to have a woman or a person of color or whatever it may be sitting in so that when someone gets interviewed they get to talk to someone who they can relate to; notice that. And you can make the decision for yourself, but if it's taking you away from your day-to-day job, then give some pushback and don't waste your time where you don't need to.
So, my advice to folks is, if you're given the seat; speak up, share your opinions, be involved, and know when it's a good opportunity, and know when you need to maybe not be involved.
Fair enough. Kind of a related topic as a new marketing leader, if you were taking a new job, and I'm not trying to put any ideas in your head here, but if you were taking a new job, what are your milestones? Do you have a template in mind for how you go into a new situation? I mean, we have our own ideas, but I'd love to hear yours.
Yeah. So before coming into my current role, which I guess is going to be an easy way to talk on this topic, I built a 30/60/90-day plan. I actually presented that as part of my interview process as well, and then helped to bring that to life once I jumped in.
[Editor’s note] Austin Lawrence has a fantastic 100-day plan resource for any head of marketing that is new in the position. Get it here (no form fill).
You're not going to stick to it 100% once you get an inside of a company, but I think you'll realize there were some things that were a hit. Great, execute on them and follow through. There were some things that we're amiss. No problem, pivot. Talk about why they weren't a fit for this exact company.
But I think the 30/60/90-day plan is a good way to keep you on track. I think there's a couple other things that I like to do. Meeting with as many folks as possible obviously. Just a classic general way to get info, but especially with the people who have been there for a long time or who were there early at a company, it's a good way to get a feel for what it may have been like long before you joined.
One thing that I also do on the marketing side that's a little bit more peculiar, I've talked to a few folks about this is that, I always sit down with sales leaderships, and almost always as much as I can try to sit down with each individual seller and each individual seller that we hire from that point forward, and have basically a level set conversation. Like, "Hey, we're going to work together. This is how I've worked at other companies with other folks. I'd be curious to hear how you've worked with others, and we're going to be on the same team, and it's been successful and here are some success metrics. And if you want to get on board, great." If you're talking to individual seller. "If you want to get on board, great. If you don't, that's fine, but it's probably going to hurt you in the long-term."
And the reason I have these conversations is that I think a lot of people have been burned between the relationship between marketing and sales throughout their career, and sometimes sellers have worked with marketing teams who aren't great. Not every marketing team and not every marketing person is awesome at their job.
So making sure that I get a level set there to say, "Hey, we're working together. We want the same goals. We both want revenue. We both want X, Y, and Z. Here's going to be some ways we can work together." And having that conversation is super important, because if you're working over here and in marketing and the other team's working over here in sales, it's going to fail. 100% it's not going to work. You have to be working together.
I actually think that's a great place to land our podcast. I'm a firm believer in building your relationships in the firm and doing everything you can to be aligned and on side with your sales and customer success counterparts. We are all in this together.
If people want to reach out to you or learn more about your company, how can they do can, Breezy?
Yeah. I am very active on LinkedIn and love to have conversations with folks. So, feel free to add me on there, send me a message. And then for Correlated, GetCorrelated.com. You can also find Correlated on LinkedIn. We try to keep the very entertaining and engaging. So, any of those places.
Great. Actually, you mentioned you were on a lot of Slack groups. Are there any that are easily accessible to people that you might want to highlight?
Yeah. I mean, I've joined them particular to topics. So if you're on the revenue side of the org, I'd say Pavilion and RevGenius are both really great groups to join. If you're curious about more product-led growth topics, there's Product-Led. There's the Product-Led Growth Hub. So, a couple different spots where you can get involved, and we will be soon launching a Correlated community. Today we just do some biweekly calls with other revenue leaders in the product-led space, but we are going to launch a community for more conversation there. So, that'll be called Product-Led Revenue. So, keep an eye out.
That's neat. And how does one find those Slack channels?
I found a lot of them through LinkedIn, but basically the way you would join it is if you went for instance, Pavilion or RevGenius, you could just type those in online on. On the website, you'll see usually up in the right hand corner. Where we would look for the demo button, you'll usually see like Join Slack Community up there.
Awesome. Well, thanks so much Breezy. This was a great episode of SaaS Backwards. If folks want to reach me, I'm on LinkedIn or KL@AustinLawrence.com. Subscribe where you get your podcasts, please. And until next time, thanks so much.
Thanks for listening to the SaaS Backwards podcast brought to you by Austin Lawrence Group. We are a growth marketing agency that helps SaaS firms reduce churn, accelerate sales, and generate demand. Learn more about us at www.austinlawrence.com. You can email Ken Lempit at email@example.com about any SaaS marketing or customer retention subject. We hope you'll subscribe, and thanks again for listening.