There really aren’t enough PLG magicians to hire. Not yet.

I recently had several different conversations with founders who are looking to hire “PLG experts”. One wanted to hire “Mr/Mrs PLG” to make their product more viral. Another wanted a “VP of PLG” to complement their marketing efforts. PLG, or Product-Led Growth, can mean so many things.

Everyone would prefer a product where 50% or more of the leads come from the product itself. Where there is a viral boost to acquisition. Where the collaborative nature of the app itself attracts the next generation of leads.

And by all means, go build this. Even a slightly “viral” app, even an app with just a partial PLG movement, can give you a huge boost. Even if only 20% of your customers are primarily created from your app, that’s a huge boost not just today, but an incredible one over time.

Here is my only suggestion. It is too early in this PLG cycle to hire a “VP of PLG”. This cross-functional wizard does not yet exist. In place:

* Hire a great product VP with strong freemium experience. They know all or most of the PLG playbook. Everyone from Trello to Webflow to Asana to Calendly to MongoDB to Elastic are running different parts of this. Hire a really great product manager from here, ideally a director or higher, and they’ll know how to add or improve your self-service and product-focused features. Arguably, PLG is just freemium with better instrumentation. That’s Aaron Levie’s point here:

* Hire a great VP of Marketing with a strong SME and growth background. They will know how to leverage signups, free users, drip marketing, and in-app conversion to grow your customer base.

* Hire a great VP of Sales who has worked in a “hybrid” environment of self-service and inside sales. They will know the cadence, how to operate the free base for paying customers, how to recruit staff, etc.

In a few years, there may be a ton of product-driven growth VP hires. For now, find that expertise in your VP of Products, Marketing, and Sales. Probably in that order. Rather than looking for a magician with PLG in the title.

For a great discussion of how freemium and PLG have – and haven’t – changed over the past generations of SaaS software, check out this large scale SaaStr Calendly CMO Deep Dive:

Posted on February 24, 2022

Brian L. Hartfield