Nov 04, 2022 Paul Sullivan

How to build a PLG marketing strategy

As PLG consultants, we assume that you already have a PLG platform or are at least considering it, maybe moving from a sales-led platform, we’ll leave the mechanics of platform design to you as founders. I wrote a separate article, a guide to product-led growth for saas leaders, which is also worth a read and looks at PLG more broadly.

To get into the marketing strategy piece, I will focus first on non-enterprise PLG SaaS. But I want to preface that this strategy should be viewed more as a growth model or a growth strategy framework. Rarely will marketing alone suffice as much as sales alone won’t suffice. 

A framework for growth will consider a number of channels and cross-functional alignment to build a flywheel process that spins harder and faster, delivering more results as you feed it. 


The HubSpot flywheel, their progression from the funnel approach, delivers this well as you take strangers, solve their problems, educate them on how your product or service improves their life and lead them into a buying conversation.

However, instead of stopping at the sale, as the funnel approach does, you leverage your customer success teams to continually improve their lives and turn those buyers into avid fans, upselling them along the way.

So, in this case, a growth model, much like a financial model, is centred around a set of measurable metrics. In the case of a marketing growth model, your metrics will be based on conversion, referral and click-through rates.

Identifying growth opportunities

There are different types of growth levers for PLG companies. By identifying your options early you can start to build your hypothesis around which channels might work and what tests you will run to measure their impact. 

Executing marketing activities like blogging etc is easy enough, but if you have no metrics by which to measure then all you are doing is executing, not marketing. I cover marketing KPIs in this article, giving you 12 key KPIs to focus on in your marketing campaigns.

So what are your levers for growth?

  • Content
  • Virality
  • Paid Social
  • Partnerships
  • Monetisation
  • Retention
  • New markets/verticals

By adopting this growth framework, product-led companies can go on to achieve sustained success, depending of course, on how they apply it. The growth optimisation process has four key stages. We’ve laid them out below:

Ideation → Prioritisation → Execution → Learnings 

By aligning your initiatives to the growth optimisation framework, you can build a model that is both repeatable and scalable allowing you to pull the right lever at the right time.

So why don’t we dive into the initiatives you can use for each lever?

Content initiatives

There are three initiatives that you can focus on from your content:

  • New user registrations
  • SEO and search engine rankings
  • Viral uptake

Viral initiatives

When focusing on virality, the initiatives that you want to target are:

  • New registrations
  • Invite colleagues
  • Click invites

Paid Social initiatives

There are four paid social initiatives to focus on, these are:

  • New user sign ups
  • X% of budget to this initiative
  • Buy more ads
  • Action from ad engagement

Monetisation initiatives

When it comes to monetisation of your product, there are four layers to follow:

  • Product: Value proposition (product/positioning/narrative)
  • Model: Alignment to market/vertical
  • Price: Metric, value and structure
  • Direction: Conversion path to customer

Retention initiatives

Finally, we have four initiatives in order to help retain your customers:

  • Trigger: An emotional cue that triggers an action
  • Channel: where your trigger is delivered (email, social etc)
  • Reward: the reward the recipient gets for engaging with your trigger
  • Action: the action you want your user/recipient to take when they respond to the trigger

With these initiatives now clearly defined, it’s time to focus on the execution of the digital marketing strategy. Below we now walk through both the aligned and unique requirements of enterprise and non-enterprise SaaS companies.

A Product-led growth marketing strategy for non-enterprise SaaS

There are four main drivers for non-enterprise PLG SaaS, marketing, sales, onboarding and the cross-sell/upsell strategy. For your PLG marketing strategy to succeed, all four need to be well aligned. These are in addition to or to include the growth levers previously identified.

Firstly, you must have a strong understanding of your target customer and a compelling position and narrative that will resonate with your buyer after you drive them to your website and into the app. You can adopt several channel strategies, but for me, you need to use combination strategies delivered to great effect.

The first is Inbound Marketing, a combined strategy of

  • Persona-led content marketing
    • Blogs
    • Videos
    • Podcasts
    • Vlogs
    • Infographics
  • Email marketing
  • Landing pages
  • Thought leadership materials
    • Ebooks
    • Webinars
    • Whitepapers
    • Case studies
  • Social media marketing
  • Events

Of course, there are more content types, this list is not exhaustive, but it does show you how to focus your solo channel efforts around a single goal. Additionally, you will need a paid marketing budget, which can include any of

  • Paid Social Media
    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • LinkedIn
    • Reddit
    • Twitter
  • PPC 
    • Google
    • Bing

By identifying these channels it’s not to say that this is how you will spend all of your budgets. You need to build out your hypothesis for each channel and understand your expectations for each test, audience segment and expected result. 

It’s only by adopting this approach can you really understand what works and what doesn’t. 

Additionally make a note that just because a channel isn’t working today, it doesn’t mean as your marketing matures that overlap into those channels won’t become viable and make more sense. Growth is always iterative; you must be where your audience is and where they are most responsive.

Let’s quickly dive into a hypothesis framework example.



Hypothesis Ideation

Comparable products
Subject matter experts
Prior experiments
User research

Data and analytics



ICE Scoring (Impact, Confidence, Ease)


Experimentation architecture
Streamlined process


Standardisation experimentation

Secondary metrics

Win/Loss themes

Picnic in a graveyard

How to develop an onboarding strategy

Onboarding whilst not a marketing strategy is a huge factor in how well your marketing improves the bottom line. If your onboarding can’t retain the freemium users that’s a big problem, if you can retain them but struggle to move them up into a paid subscription, that’s another big problem. 

Neither of those situations can be solved by better marketing; a better product solves them. If you find yourself stuck in that situation, read my time-to-value (ttv) article and dig into that problem hard.

To build yourself a framework, use the steps I set out in this article on how to evaluate your onboarding process. You can use it to design your process as well as audit it.

In my professional opinion, there are four stages of onboarding for non-enterprise PLG SaaS (and one stage of enablement for enterprise SaaS, which I’ll get into shortly):

  • Marketing onboarding: taking strangers and making them familiar with your product
  • Platform onboarding: having your website visitors explore your product trial/freemium
  • Value onboarding: having freemium users find great value and upgrading to paid user
  • Peer-led/peer-to-peer onboarding: finding those users who found so much value they onboard new users on your behalf

Nail these four stages of onboarding and you have lift-off. 

A Product-led growth marketing strategy for enterprise SaaS

The missing piece I feel all PLG companies overlook is that if you have a PLG platform that has an enterprise offering too, then you have to enable your influencer or champion to sell your platform internally.

Think about this logically. The C-Suite rarely search for solutions, they delegate down the chain to find things. Those that are sent to find those solutions proudly offer up their findings to the senior management and your job is to enable that transaction with digital assets like PDFs video explainers etc. In fact, you’re only enabling the buying experience for your prospect which is exactly what ABM is all about.

Therefore enterprise PLG has 5 stages of onboarding:

  • Marketing onboarding: taking strangers and making them familiar with your product
  • Platform onboarding: having your website visitors explore your product trial/freemium
  • Value onboarding: having freemium users find great value and upgrading to paid user
  • Champion onboarding: enabling internal alignment for your prospect
  • Peer-led/peer-to-peer onboarding: finding those users who found so much value they onboard new users on your behalf

So when you sell to the enterprise in SaaS with a product offering over 20k per annum, the go-to choice of approach is an account-based strategy or ABM. You can rapidly reduce sales cycles and increase revenues by strategically targeting the right fit accounts and using the deals you’ve closed in that sector vertical industry as proof.

To dive into the mechanics of an account-based marketing strategy, take a look at this article we recently published, the account-based strategy playbook

I hope you enjoy reading this article and if you came here directly without reading the post I wrote preseeding this one, then take a look at Laying the foundations for a product-led growth marketing strategy.

As an avid fan of things PLG and the alignment of marketing and sales, these topics are close to my heart and my mind. I love to think about strategy and tactics and how each company can use multichannel and multistrategy approaches to grow in their vertical incrementally.

I’m always open to sharing thoughts and ideas, so feel free to reach out here on social media, particularly LinkedIn and let’s see where that conversation goes.

Published by Paul Sullivan November 4, 2022
Paul Sullivan