Before we begin, here is our TL;DR, PLG tech stack if you’re short on time:
- Enrichment: Clearbit
- Pre-sales and post-sales CRM: Breyta
- Marketing automation and support: Intercom
- Data warehouse: Snowflake
- Product analytics: Mixpanel
- Product onboarding: Userflow
- Revenue: Stripe
- BI/Revenue intelligence: Metabase
- Customer data platform: Segment or Amplitude
Product-led growth (PLG) became something of a sensation in 2021. Numerous startups began clambering onto this model as the go-to-market (GTM) gospel.
PLG’s sudden popularity was sparked by a focus on the end-user and the higher potential for loyal customers and acquisition. While we agree that PLG is a superb growth model, it’s essential to filter the hype for a sustainable and prosperous GTM.
We also want to unpack the finer details of PLG as a GTM.
Funding has become excruciatingly hard to secure. The days of hiring and cramming large sales teams into your strategy are sadly over.
The beauty of a PLG strategy is that it equips lighter, more powerful teams with affordable and dynamic tools. We’re looking at a feasible and sustainable method that won’t tank if you can’t secure an angel investor’s blessing.
Not that PLG isn’t a great way to secure funding, and we dedicated a section to this sticky subject. More importantly, we want to ensure that your company can stand on its resources and accomplishments.
This sustainability is borne of the PLG tech stack - a comparatively affordable toolkit. PLG tools’ subscription models are dynamic. Companies pay for what they use instead of the traditionally pricy, one-size-fits-all demands of sales-led tools.
Too many startups crumble under the weight of their long-term commitments, typical of the sales-led approach’s deceptively glowing start. You’ve probably seen plenty of startups opting for PLG over the classic sales-led approach, and for good reason.
We will provide a definitive PLG GTM, mainly focusing on the associated tech stack. We want you to stand out from your competitors (and know exactly who they are).
Ultimately, PLG is about closing the gap between provider and customer with the correct data. We’ll introduce you to (or further familiarize you with) the leading tools in the PLG game.
“At this point in your business, there are two critical things that you are working on: figuring out product-market fit & sales. That's it!”Brad Rosen , President and Head of Revenue Operations at Sales Assembly
In case you still have any reservations, we want to definitively disillusion you with the sales-led approach.
The flaws in the traditional sales-led tech stack
“The traditional sales-led tech stack is opportunity-driven. Qualifying a sales opportunity is where most of a sales organization’s effort comes from.”Christian Sjøvold Blomberg, B2B SaaS Go-to-Market Advisor and Board Member
Every veteran team has its seasoned tech stack. If you've been in the game for years, you will have a battle-tested sales-led SaaS model.
So why all the hate?
A sales-led approach, in general, pours an incredible amount of time and money into chasing prospective customers and leads. The opportunity pipeline constantly steams as teams work it day in and day out.
Less talk, more action
“If you're just stuck in a legacy setup, you'll miss those early signals. You'll spend a ton of manual time combing through all this data to figure out which leads you should be talking to.”Christian Sjøvold Blomberg, B2B SaaS Go-to-Market Advisor and Board Member
The sales-led approach forces marketers and prospects alike to sift through the noise.
A prospect will end up on your website thanks to your marketing strategies but will be unable to test your software. Instead, a potential buyer has to request a demo and wait for someone in your team to get back to them.
A PLG approach will bring in conversions with minimal communication.
PLG tools provide you with usage data to quickly understand where and how you fit into the market. You can almost naturally identify the companies that match your market strategy and gap.
Product analytics services like Heap or Amplitude allow you to appreciate your tool’s user experience. These preferences are provided by detailed visualizations that serve as funnel reports.
You are no longer dependent on an analyst and can establish users’ roles and behaviors. Now you’ve cracked segmentation and know who appreciates your category of product the most, and who can be used in a land and expand strategy.
There are two benefits to this prioritization process:
- Your product teams know which of their features are firm favorites and can optimize them.
- Your growth teams see where they could improve the user experience to segue activation.
Once you have your signal list, time is of the essence.
How to turn free users into leads
A product-led growth model invites swarms of free users into your pipeline, but without the right tools, you’ll struggle to target the users that are most likely to convert.
Tools like Intercom have been proven to enhance the onboarding process. Moreover, you can identify your power users and your strongest potential growth points.
“Intercom, or maybe something basic like a simple Zendesk setup, can show when somebody is actually using your product. What are they using? Which features resonate with them? Are they converting? Which ones will you be targeting, and how do you talk to your customers day-to-day?”Ryan Nutley, Director of Sales Engineering at Datadog.
Sift your userbase and differentiate between trial accounts and active users. The latter group is where the money lies, and it’s what investors are looking for.
How PLG tech enables funding
A successful funding strategy ensures your efforts continue rewardingly and your benefactors maintain their support.
We spoke to Ryan Nutley, the Director of Sales Engineering of Datadog, about the first call of order for PLG startups. “I would say the biggest drivers for that are probably cost control scaling, and whatever can keep you lean.”
How we handle cost control has changed immensely in the digital age.
Seed-funded companies need to be wary of investing too strongly in tools. Talent acquisition and research should always take priority.
A tool (PLG or not) and its product features must provide flexibility to your company and sales team. When establishing your PLG tech stack, consider how a tool will help you fit into the market and sell well.
Broaden your market scope and eliminate blind spots
Tracking your user behavior and customer health is important, but Christian Blomberg, B2B SaaS go-to-market Advisor and Board Member, maintains that you need to extend your focus beyond your back end.
You need tools that will accelerate your surfacing.
Do you know which accounts are activating, and how do you define your activation parameters?
This granular visibility allows you to identify which accounts aren’t activating and how you can fix these delays.
These hiccups can often be resolved with automated communication, so long as you use this strategy with the appropriate accounts and their progressions.
Establish the intent behind your messages and find the medium that works best for your customers. Whatever you send out needs to be practical and should gently usher the customer along the lifecycle.
With your iron-clad strategy secured, it’s time to grab the tools to execute it.
Putting together the definitive PLG setup
While you can always investigate well-established PLG companies for a robust PLG toolkit, you and your team need to take a long, hard look at your product.
Before you subscribe to a single tool, it’s essential that you figure out what your company needs.
“There's always an internal exercise of gathering internal criteria. Talk to your product team and ask, ‘What are we able to track?’”Christian Sjøvold Blomberg, B2B SaaS Go-to-Market Advisor and Board Member
You also need to find out how to track user behaviors through whichever API you end up using and how to integrate this system.
Christian Blomberg wants you to ask yourself,
- How do we uncover user behaviors, and which API will translate that data into other tools?
- Which explicit tracking opportunities can we build upon?
- How does customer data allow us to build and optimize an ideal customer profile (ICP)?
- Which steps should our users work through before being activated?
- Which existing customer signals should CS teams focus on?
- Do we know how to identify churn risks or extension opportunities?
One of the key things an investor considers when assessing your tech stack is customer acquisition.
How much does a tool charge for every customer acquisition?
Will the customer journey prove to be bountiful enough to warrant the investment?
You need to prove to your backers that your tech stack is ultimately profitable and has a place in your sales funnel. A good starting place for your product-led sales platform and marketing team alike is a sturdy PLG CRM.
The point of a PLG CRM is to crystallize customer experience and product adoption data in the most actionable way.
With a PLG CRM like, salespeople are directly fed real-time and rich product use data and the accounts with the highest transactional potential.
There are five critical services that PLG CRMs offer:
- Summarize your pertinent customer feedback and general data: your helpdesk ticket data, behavioral data within your product, lead enrichment tools’ demographic and firmographic data, billing information, and usage-based pricing models.
- Establish your high purchasing intent benchmarks: the previous point’s data summary allows you to create good benchmarks to qualify your product-qualified leads (PQLs) or help you identify when you should reach out to a prospect during a free trial or POC.
- Notify GTM teams once PQLs are identified: use Breyta or your communication platforms to prompt your GTM reps of potential customers.
- Seamless handover to customer success post-sales: easily continue working with the customer post-sales in the same CRM to provide the best possible onboarding experience and identify churn and upsell opportunities with your sales data.
- A single source of truth for customer data: data warehouses’ optimal data transformation and integration capacities make them your official SSOT. This consolidation lets you readily report to your investors on a situational basis.
Next, you need to ensure that your onboarding flow is streamlined, regardless of company size. New users must be treated like the captains of their ships and shown the ropes.
“Focus on the user. Make sure you introduce them to the tool in the best possible way and activate them.”Christian Sjøvold Blomberg, B2B SaaS Go-to-Market Advisor and Board Member
By this stage, you have enough evidence to show your investors that your pipeline is flowing. You get bonus points if you can demonstrate your current sales trends and full marks if you have users.
Once you reach Series A and have completed a fair number of sales, you’ll need a data warehouse like Snowflake to support your product data analysis and reporting.
Snowflake’s Data Cloud is an international network of highly mobile data on a titanic scale. This leading data warehouse doesn’t sacrifice performance and sense for its enormous reach.
Snowflake allows for infinite worksheets and straightforward SQL query runs. On the topic of queries, you can easily track a run on any node, regardless of complexity.
These cloud storage spaces are ideal for accumulating unrefined customer usage data. Consider a data warehouse as your go-to reference for product usage and signups.
A data warehouse allows you to differentiate between your sales and PLG data, where you can conveniently hoard your product and user data.
Best alternative - BigQuery: if you deal with complex and constantly updating datasets with multiple rows and columns, BigQuery is ideal for crunching monster spreadsheets.
Another BigQuery benefit is its limitless historical reach. We like to work in the moment with a PLG approach, but having a massive data repository at hand is excellent for revising potentially missed insights and opportunities.
ETL and Reverse ETL tools
Securing fluid ETL and Reverse ETL accessibility is the next big step for your Series A success. Your investor-friendly data won’t get very far without the right connectivity.
A data warehouse is only as valuable as your ETL and Reverse ETL tools. Extracting, transforming, and loading your data into your data warehouse provides uninterrupted piping.
A reverse ETL tool will inject your product data into third-party tools. Try a Reverse ETL tool like Hightouch and an ELT tool like Fivetran.
Best alternative - Airbyte: this ELT tool has an incredible data source variety and reach, translating your findings into a personally workable format. You can also quickly and simply create dashboards for speedy insights into your performance.
Airbyte saves you much time you would otherwise spend digging into different data sources’ admins, beyond data warehouses. Having a flexible tool that covers all your data access needs is essential.
Customer data platform or not?
Segment or Rudderstack are firm favorites for data collection. The data collection service is particularly PLG-friendly, allowing you to generate leads without much outbound groundwork.
We’d recommend that startups begin with Segment’s entry-level package. The Connections service will enable you to hoard and sync data on the go.
There’s also the customer data platform (CDP) route if you’d prefer to bundle.
A CDP takes the event and behavioral data syncing power of a customer data infrastructure (CDI) and adds straightforward identity resolution and audience building.
Best alternative - Amplitude: last May, Amplitude launched its insights-driven CDP. The beauty of Amplitude CDP is that it collects and analyzes event data without needing third-party analytics connections.
Sales-led approaches and tools often rely on analysts to derive product insights. A tool like Mixpanel lets your team members establish how your users spend their time with your product.
A few of Mixpanel’s best features include:
- Visualizing and organizing engagement trends
- Constructing funnels while locating vital retention drivers
- Monitoring the results of simulations and product launches
Product analytics tools create detailed funnel reports that become increasingly accessible with a progressive data flow.
Business Intelligence (BI) tools allow you to build on your product analytics successes. Product analytics tools are excellent for product details, but don’t forget your sales and marketing data needs.
You need specific product and customer insights from your BI tools and the ability to ask the right questions.
A BI tool like Metabase finds sensible and actionable answers to your pertinent data-related questions. This straightforward and collaborative reviewing process allows you to manage your accounts and enable GTM teams’ strategy optimization.
On the topic of data-related questions, you’ll also want a reliable revenue intelligence tool. A revenue intelligence tool like ChartMogul lets you understand your subscription data in a growth-driven manner.
Revenue intelligence tools analyze your subscriptions to uncover profitable insights. ChartMogul can integrate with your data warehouse to crunch any revenue data.
You’re probably familiar with a tool like Clearbit, but are you using it to its full PLG potential?
This phenomenal data enrichment tool provides everything you need to know about your users. Combining this firmographic data with rich product usage data further enables your reps’ understanding of the hottest PQLs.
You can further evaluate your customers by integrating Clearbit with Breyta. Our customer fit scoring lets you combine your enriched usage data to create tailored ICPs according to your most desirable values.
Best alternative - ZoomInfo: this GTM intelligence platform is ideal for B2B sales and gives your marketing teams a more competitive edge. ZoomInfo is optimized for locating and tracking potential customers.
This platform’s millions of rich sources update in real-time according to technology shifts, product launches, and new onboardings to stay on top of any pivotal shifts in your target market.
The way PLG companies handle revenue and customer control differs from a sales-led approach.
Product-led teams require a bird’s eye view of each account they’re dealing with, and leads are defined as the most actively engaged users.
Billing, like any aspect of PLG design, has to be tailored to your users’ individual needs. Pricing models can become difficult to manage when every user has a different idea of what and how to pay you.
Stripe is our go-to payment processing tool as it accommodates and enables the quick creation of any pricing model.
Usage-based pricing (UBP) is the new standard for SaaS pricing models.
In contrast to standard subscription pricing, UBP allows users to pay at a rate that fairly reflects their current usage.
With UBP, you get exactly what you pay for, and users can scale their subscription costs accurately according to their increasing use of your tool.
Best alternative - ChartMogul: if you need to get deep with your payment system, ChartMogul is superb for measuring and understanding your revenue. Automate your vital SaaS metric reporting like LTV, MRR, Churn, and ARR for informed revenue system changes.
ChartMogul’s subscription analytics guide you toward any potential missed revenue opportunities. All your efforts within this tool go toward optimizing your business’s income.
In-product engagement and onboarding
You’ll also need help ensuring that your users are happy with your product. Product engagement tools like Pendo and Appcues provide guides and tutorials for fresh users.
You can also create detailed demos and interactive product tours to speed onboarding up.
Userflow is a perfect onboarding solution, especially if you don’t have much coding experience. You can quickly build surveys, in-app tours, and checklists with plenty of guidance.
Best alternative - Appcues: we would recommend Appcues for teams big on product adoption. This tool lets you showcase any new feature along with detailed guides.
Appcues provides associated and automated stats and insights so you can target your ICPs with the perfect experiences.
Leading PLG companies and their tech stacks
We’ve provided our optimized tech stack for PLG companies, but let’s see which tools our leading counterparts prefer.
Application and Data:
- Amazon Redshift
- Google Analytics
- Twilio SendGrid
Salesforce Marketing Cloud
Application and Data:
- React Native
- Apache Spark
- Apache Beam
- New Relic
- Google Kubernetes Engine
Application and Data:
- Apache Impala
- Google Analytics
- Amazon Route 53
- Amazon SES
- G Suite
- Clara Labs
Application and Data:
- Google Drive
- Amazon S3
- Amazon Route 53
- Twilio SendGrid
- Visual Studio Code
- Intellij IDEA
- Android Studio
- Amazon CloudWatch
- G Suite
How to synchronize your PLG tools
“There's no way we've peaked, but the market's very competitive. Everybody has an equal advantage if there's a tool providing this PLG information and everybody uses it. It has to improve somehow.”Ryan Nutley, Director of Sales Engineering at Datadog.
We’ve outlined an expansive PLG toolkit with a comprehensive data set. You might now be wondering how to integrate all these tools and make sense of this rich real-time product usage data.
Before you send us the bill for this hefty list of PLG tools, let us show you a more convenient way to handle the flood of data these tools provide.
Breyta integrates your PLG tools. The tools we listed work well in tandem, but you need a platform to connect everything properly and sensibly as a single source of truth.
This synchronization provides you with single customer views, regardless of account complexity.
Our Segment integration keeps your vital product event data on hand, from real-time actions to old onboardings. This readiness equips you with everything you need to handle a specific workflow, regardless of how much data you have.
Breyta will help you find your product's often subtle customer queues that allow you to maximize satisfaction.
Segment data is fantastic for boosting your retention efforts. Our integration will allow you to stay on top of any otherwise worrying pre-churn signals.
You won’t always have enough data flowing into a tool like Segment to know when a customer is on the brink of churning.
Breyta allows you to pick apart complex SaaS customer lifecycles with surgical precision to find potentially at-risk accounts and high-reward opportunities.
Segment data provides usage insights, and our Stripe integration highlights renewing processes and revenue generation opportunities. This combination of the most significant data points allows you to segment your users until you have a definitive signal list.
Reestablish yourself in a competitive market
“Many up-and-coming SaaS companies are looking at PLG tools as the way forward. It's almost like tools are being built to build tools - it's a bit meta.”Ryan Nutley, Director of Sales Engineering at Datadog.
Ryan Nutley believes that PLG tools will initiate “the next wave of disruption.”
As listing and observability become increasingly powerful, connecting with customers becomes critical with your clean, enriched, and integrated data streams.
PLG tools provide you with invaluable information and insights to the point that you can build better tools than the PLG favorites.
The possibilities seem endless, but Ryan Nutley advises against overenthusiasm.
A Series A investor might be wary of pledging millions of dollars if they know that a large percentage will go into funding a massive data warehouse and other licenses.
It all comes down to establishing the tradeoff between the cost of purpose-built tools and the profitable edge they give you. Consider how much you’re spending on customer acquisitions versus profit.
You also need to be sure that a customer will continue to use your B2B enterprise software offering for a profitable and extensive period to justify a hefty investment in a PLG toolkit.
Breyta provides a terrific overview of your PLG product offering. Nail your internal champions and ideal customer journey with the most insightful and actionable toolkit possible, all integrated within a single platform.