Wes Bush, founder and CEO of ProductLed and bestselling author of Product-Led Growth

Episode Summary

On this episode of Capital GEEK, we geek out with bestselling author and creator of the ProductLed community, Wes Bush. Wes and I speak about our love for PLG, why PLG is having such a huge impact upon the SaaS market, and the best tools to use as you're scaling up using product led growth.

Episode Notes

Wes Bush is the founder and CEO of ProductLed. He is the bestselling author of Product-Led Growth: How To Build a Product That Sells Itself and is one of the most sought-after product experts in the world. After working for some of the world’s fastest growing companies in the world, today he trains teams around the globe how to turn their product into a powerful growth engine.

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Episode Transcription

Josh Stephens  0:03  

Hello, everyone and welcome from here in the capital city of Austin, Texas. This is Capital Geek, a podcast dedicated to the founders and operators that create the products we love and turn them into fabulous companies with meaningful exits, whether you're raising your first round of capital, or racing toward an IPO. This is where we deep dive on the lessons learned from seasoned industry veterans, geeks of all types, the experts leading product and engineering teams operations and finance or sales and marketing, and will both learn from their mistakes and celebrate their successes, while providing a roadmap for you to accelerate your own journey towards success. My name is Josh Stephens, CTO at Elsewhere Partners, and I am the Capital Geek. On this episode of Capital Geek, we geek out with best selling author and creator of the Product Led Community, Wes Bush, Wes and I speak about our love for PLG why Product Led Growth is having such a huge impact upon the SaaS market, and the best tools to use as you're scaling up using product lead growth. This is a super fun episode. And I really hope that you have as much fun listening to it as we did recording it. Let's get to it. Wes Bush, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on.


Wes Bush  1:21  

How are you? Thanks for having me, Josh.


Josh Stephens  1:23  

I'm super excited about this. In case there are people out there that don't know you maybe can start with just giving us a little bit of background about who you are.


Wes Bush  1:32  

Yeah, absolutely. So my background really is in B2B, SaaS, and I came from the old world, I refer to as sales led companies who are all about, you know, while still growing an amazing SaaS business at the end of the day, but the way they do it is totally different. And so for my background, I really was like the hired gun for these B2B SaaS companies of figuring out like how to grow them as fast as possible. And traditionally, like, you just do that, you know, with the lead gen, get a bunch of people going through your white papers and download the content and send those leads to sales. And I look back at that, and I'm just like, that's how people buy products. Even I'm surprised by that when I was doing it. And then when I was at videocard, we finally launched this freemium product, which have like amazing success really quickly. And that kind of like tunes me to think about, the way that we sell products is actually changing pretty quickly. And the way I thought about a product traditionally was like it's something you sell, which is still true to this day. But it's also something much more than that. It's how you serve people, it's not just what you sell. And so that kind of has led me to my journey around product led growth. And really helping people understand that your product is a growth engine for your business. And so ever since that first premium product, I've been literally obsessed about this stuff, and wrote the book on product led growth since then, and have helped 1000s and 1000s of people learn just what it takes to build a product that business.


Josh Stephens  3:06  

That's awesome. I think we could talk about how much we love product led growth for the entire hour. I think I think my first exposure to it was in the late 90s, we were running a company doing consulting and network performance monitoring. And it was like an early stage SaaS offering. So it was managed server, but it was on prem, we managed it remotely. And just like you said, very sales led, services led, you know, very long sales process. And we launched Solarwinds. And we launched it by just giving away tools for several years before we even started selling anything. And a big win for us was that Cisco's Technical Assistance Center started giving out our free tools, which then led people to having a great amount of brand affinity. And it's just been a fabulous, you know, 20 plus years for me getting to know, product led. And you know, now that we have a name for it, I mean, I've heard it called, you know, high velocity sales or high transaction velocity and so many other things. What are some of the other names that you've heard used to describe? And what most of us call Product Led Growth today?


Wes Bush  4:14  

Yeah, like bottoms up self serve. Just free trial, freemium models, as like a label. And I think there's still a lot of miscommunication around like, what is product led growth? Because a lot of people think like, Oh, you got a free trial, your product led? And like, I've still seen sales led companies have a free trial. So it's interesting.


Josh Stephens  4:32  

Yeah, I think it's super interesting. We talked a lot about value led growth that Elsewhere Partners, but I think the reason I love product led growth is as an engineer, right? If you think about the purity of building a software product, to solve a problem, that a problem that you yourself, have experienced and you're building a tool to make that easier. You know, really, if you think about it from a from a micro business perspective, a software developer builds a product Nirvana is that people find the product, start using it for free onboard themselves start paying, like you ask yourself as a developer, like, do I really need sales? Do I really need marketing? Like, at what point do I have to hire those people? And to me, it's just a, it's a very authentic way to build and sell software.


Wes Bush  5:19  

Yeah, definitely. Because it is like a decision, like, do you need sales? If your sound like a $10 product a month kind of thing. But it's like, if it's just that for the entire company, maybe not. But if it's like $10 per use, or like Slack, it's like totally like, you can just break into some of those big accounts, and provide a ton of value for sales.


Josh Stephens  5:36  

What do you think are some of the top misconceptions that people have about product led growth?


Wes Bush  5:42  

Yeah, well, we touched on like the big one here, which is just sales. And because like, you're you pointed it out, like the Nirvana is you have a product that can sell itself? And that's like, the Nirvana. Like, that's what a lot of us want. And we hope to get there one day, but it's also like, Well, okay, if the product sells itself, do we even need sales? And so for some companies, I guys alluding to earlier, like if your ACV super low, like it probably doesn't make sense. Like, I don't see Netflix having a sales team and calling up everyone's sisters and brothers and be like, upgrade your sister like this? No, it just wouldn't work. It wouldn't be ethical either. It's so there's like many cases, it just doesn't make sense. But then if you're talking about like B2B SaaS, and really maximizing your leverage within each of those accounts, it's beautiful. Because you can already see like, how many people how many departments are using this product already. And who is most likely to be like the champion of this internally and really get us if it's like slack expand to the rest of the teams and everything else. So there's a huge potential for it. But it's also one of those things that I think sales folks are resistant on, because they don't quite understand how it all fits into what they're currently doing.


Josh Stephens  7:01  

Yeah, I could see that too. You know, I got my first experiences with product led growth with on-prem products. And so, you know, we were trying to send data back and make it act sort of Saas-y. But the movement to SaaS has been a giant leap forward in terms of the analytics and the data you get back and how you actually facilitate the product led growth. I always tell portfolio companies when I'm advising them, that not to think of it as a binary thing. And to me, it's a lot like, you know, don't move into an agile development methodology from waterfall like nobody's pure agile, everybody is some sort of a hybrid. And I feel like with PLG, it's a similar thing, like, there's a nirvana where everything is pure PLG. And maybe that's a good way to think about a baseline. But, you know, we all have things about our business that caused us to define ways to show the process to make it smoother and faster.


Wes Bush  7:54  

Yeah, and I think you're totally right. Like, I don't think this would have stuck like it has in the market. If it was something completely new, completely revolutionary. There's always like, it's that one step above what we're currently doing, like even today, like I was talking with a group around like market qualified leads versus prodcut qualified leads. I'm like, take everything you're doing with market qualified leads, but just like start looking at the product data now and make it better and more useful for other teams. So it's more of evolution, not a revolution as far as how this product led growth moving is and how it's really taking hold in SaaS.


Josh Stephens  8:30  

I love that quote, you know, more of an an evolution, not a revolution. I think that's a great way of looking at it. Where are you from?


Wes Bush  8:38  

Hamilton, Canada,


Josh Stephens  8:40  

Hamilton, Canada, and you're still in Canada today. Right?


Wes Bush  8:43  

Yeah. Enjoying this town.


Josh Stephens  8:46  

I bet. Well, we had a little bit of snow here in Austin last week to enjoy, but I don't think many of us enjoyed it very much.


Wes Bush  8:51  

No, it sounded crazy from the sounds a bit on all the news outlets.


Josh Stephens  8:57  

Yeah, it was really an insane week. You know, West when you think about product led growth, and just sort of what excites you? Like, what, what's driving you right now, what motivates this passion that you have around this subject?


Wes Bush  9:10  

Yeah, I think what got me into it was definitely the curiosity around Product Led Growth. Because I had been doing it like you Well, before it was defined as like, Oh, this is product led growth. Interesting. That's kind of what I was doing already. So for me, it kind of started with that gap between someone signs up on the website, too, like what happens to them in the product? There was a lot of questions initially. So I started digging there. And finding out there's like this huge gap between people signing up and people actually getting value. So I was like, let's focus there and really dig into it. And so at the moment, that was like, okay, that's what I thought product led growth was it was just more like top of funnel kind of activity. But then as I started researching it more I got excited because I was like, Oh my goodness, there's every team really has to think differently. Your marketing team could use the product Much, much more effectively to help hit their goals, your sales team, if they even started looking at this product data, how much more informed and how much better? Would they be at their job? Same thing for support and success. And so what kind of got me and sustain me here is just this fascination with like, how far could it go? As far as building this go to market strategy. And when I think of like a sales led, go to market playbook, it's well defined, like, knows, like, there's SDRs, and BDR, there's aids they all pass the deals over. And from there, they take it. And so like with product led, I think it's still being defined. And that's what's really cool to see. And I think the next five years, hopefully, are going to help create what that playbook is for everyone.


Josh Stephens  10:43  

Yeah, it's fascinating. I love that you're helping create playbooks, we're doing some playbooks as well, on my end, you know, both Elsewhere Partners with my company Scale Engine, it's really fascinating to me, because there are now a lot of products on the market that can help you along that product led growth journey, I mean, tools like Heap, and Pendo some of those, they didn't exist, you know, 10 years ago. And so the  data that you're trying to get from the product was, was a huge mountain to climb in order to get that analytics.


Wes Bush  11:18  

Totally. And I still argue like, there are still huge gaps in the tooling of product led businesses because you think of like a sales like company, where you typically have at the core is like a CRM with the deal flow. It's like, for if you're studying enterprise for a lot of products that come because it's like, great, you will still need that. But there's a lot of data outside of that, that you do need to either pipe in somewhere or have like a central view of like, what is this user doing? And what are they doing within that account? Because it's not just like a lot of analytics to us I know of are more just tracking the user versus the account.


Josh Stephens  11:54  

Yeah, really great point. Okay, so if I were running a company out there, and I called you, and I needed some advice, I'm thinking, you know, this PLG thing sounds super interesting. I'd like to dip a toe in the water. What advice would you give some to someone who was just getting started with that movement?


Wes Bush  12:14  

Yeah. So what kind of business would they have going into it? Is it like no business? Or


Josh Stephens  12:19  

No, as soon as an existing SaaS business, they've got a sales led or services led business. And now they're thinking, Okay, let's, let's add velocity, let's be more product led, let's start moving that direction. Where would you tell him to start?


Wes Bush  12:32  

Yeah, so the first part is the vision for sure, is like, you're not going to get on this journey alone. Within that company. I've seen other folks try this. And I've been one of those people. 1 point too, or is just one person. And it's really hard. Because it's you need to get the leadership on board, you need to get your team on board. And so just getting people to think about two different areas. And I actually, like tried to make it easier for people to like, figure out what are the two main reasons why you want to go down this path, and like our free certificate I recently put together but there's basically these two things going on. The first one is like, Okay, what are the trends that are contributing to this rising popularity of product led growth, and a lot of them, when you look at it, it's like they, they're not specific to product led growth, they've just always been a part of SaaS, like the lower customer willingness to pay for software. Like, that's always been the case for technology, it's always been there. If anything, though, it's accelerating, especially with COVID. And then you look at the rising cost of acquisition costs. That's really just because it's become so much easier to create software these days, that there's so much more companies competing for the same customer. And so there's a lot of these things contributing to it, where it's like, if you don't change anything, these costs are going to go up, your profitability goes down. What are you doing as a business? And then on top of that, it's like, well, people actually, when they're polled, they would rather try before they buy that just purchase it upfront, like anyone would. And we've seen it in so many other industries like Cologne, perfume, it's a huge do want to try it before you buy it. And same thing with cars like test drive. So I think it's really just back to that evolution. Like this is the way we're headed. Either you're going to like figure it out and smarten up and like decide, okay, we need to have some sort of PLG component, maybe it is still being hybrid, like you mentioned earlier as well. But then there's the other side, which is the poll, like what's motivating you to go down this direction. I think there's some fascinating reasons why like even big companies like HubSpot decided, like let's actually cannibalize ourselves a bit and go down this path. Because long term, it's going to be successful. And so a big one is like you can just have much better customer acquisition costs. There was a company in Saskatoon, Canada actually, their customer acquisition costs before like when our sales like company were $13,000 per customer. When they were a product led, two years later, it's 3000. And so it's just like night and day difference from a customer acquisition perspective. And it's like, as for that company, or that CEO, or that founding team, like, what would you do with $10,000 per customer? Could you invest three in product r&d make that product even better? Can you invest more in like helping these customers become successful, it just creates this like repeatable competitive advantage, where you can over invest in your product. And that's honestly, when you look at like the public product led SaaS companies, they are putting that extra savings into their product to create that moat for their business long term. And so those are some of the big things I would start considering. If you are early on in this journey. Just start taste testing, like, what is this vision for us? Why do we want to go down this and try and get as many people on board with this as possible? And then the second step is really just try and find like, what is that first quick win? First thing you could do to get moving get that momentum? Because like anything in business, it's all about momentum?


Josh Stephens  16:06  

You know, I, love your answer. They're a big part of what I'm about is being an advocate for technical people, you know, the whole tech community. And so many of the people I've I've worked with over the years, you know, I've grown up sort of in tech, it's a great career field. And what I love about PLG is, the purity of the best product should win. And, you know, we've sort of democratized the acquisition of technology. And the idea that an executive would choose a technology platform for their team members to use without that team having an you know, a board to say about it always felt foreign to me. And so what I love about PLG is, it's it's user driven, the people who are in that company that are actually doing the job, and should have, you know, a lot to say about what tools they use, they go out, they find the tool, they start using it, they love it, they get budget approval, and they go forward. And I love your analogy about you know, being similar to test driving cars, at Solarwinds when you're building Orion. I used to always tell customers, I'd say Listen, I want you to test drive three, when I do buy a car, my personal rules, I'm going to test drive three, before I buy one, even if I think I know what I want. That's it, I want you to test drive our product and two others. And if you'd like there's better than that's what you should buy. But I'm confident enough in what we've built, that I think you'll like what we build better. And investing that money to make the product better, makes everyone's jobs easier, whether you're in sales or marketing or engineering. It is to me just a much more natural and authentic way to run a software company.


Wes Bush  17:47  

Yeah, and like the secret of PLG success, I always tell people is like your users success will eventually become your success.


Josh Stephens  17:55  



Wes Bush  17:55  

Like most product companies have a like operationalize that is a product qualified led metric or something where they're monitoring like how many people or users that are signing up here are actually getting value from the product. And how many teams could be really tracked by their success based on that, like the marketing team, like how many PQL came out of like all those signups and campaigns you created. Same thing for sales, how many PQL's do to close, same thing for support, and we're really just trying to look at that metric. As a defining factor for that company. It really aligns everyone's interests together, for sure.


Josh Stephens  18:30  

When it comes to missteps in a product led growth initiative, what are some of the common mistakes you've seen people make?


Wes Bush  18:39  

Not understanding the customer is probably the biggest one. And I'll tell you an example of that, too. So whenever you think of like, Alright, we're gonna go from sales that are product led. One of the steps you're probably thinking is like, okay, you need to have some sort of free offering people can get value easily. But what I see a lot is like, some people might even go down that far. And then they don't even understand like, what is the main job to be done that somebody needs to do in this product? They think, alright, if we show people the products that will sell them, and we just will go through the product, maybe it's a product or have like a, you know, makeshift demo of what this looks like. But in reality, it's really just about how can we get this person to experience the core value of the product. And when they do that, the chances of them becoming a paying customer, and not just any customer but a happy paying customer skyrockets because they understand the value that you just direct them and they understand, okay, this product can actually deliver because nowadays, it's so easy to whip up a website, create some copy and say, You know what, we're gonna promise you above and beyond and just sign here and pay for our part. It's like, no, this is risky. We've all been told if it's too good to be true, it probably is. And in SaaS, I think a lot of marketers lean too much on the far side of And over promise and under deliver. And being product led really just make sure that like you do have to be honest and really create an experience where hopefully you can over deliver. But at the end of the day, you want to make your users figure that out on their own.


Josh Stephens  20:14  

You know, it's interesting, I love what you said there. And so many people in sales and marketing get intimidated by a product led growth initiative. And I hope that, you know, if you're in those career fields and listening, you know, if you think back to your last few jobs, it's really difficult to run sales and marketing with a product that users don't like. But if you don't have a great product, it's it's so much harder. And I think that the key here is that when you have a great product that people like to use, and you apply the right sales and marketing investments to it, you add velocity, and you just go really fast, which is what we're all after. Yeah. What are your thoughts about companies that don't think they're a fit for PLG? You know, traditional enterprise software companies that that are that they're just said, you know, that's not for us? What would you What would you tell somebody like that?


Wes Bush  21:09  

Yeah. So there's always going to be companies that are not a fit for Product Led Growth. And I'll give you an example of like, what that might look like. So there's, when you think of like, your main growth strategies, you could decide, okay, we want to be the dominant player, that's, that's a good option, hard to pull off because you really have to be like the best product, best price, and really over deliver for what you're doing. And then there's like, Okay, if we could be the disruptive products, that's, that's probably even harder when you think of like Canva versus Photoshop, like, hey, maybe it doesn't do everything. But it's like, it's so much cheaper. And same thing with Google Docs versus Microsoft Word, it's like, it's really hard to do that in sometimes you got to have different business model, or some other main core product where you just give this other one for free, as part of getting more users into your ecosystem. So like, those are the two plays. But then if you're differentiated play, that gets kind of interesting, because you might think to yourself, Well, hey, if we go on this, like elephant hunting train, we can get some really big enterprise clients. But they might need a few different modifications for our product to really suit their needs. Now, those enterprises, they're excited to pay you actually, because you're solving their unique problem that a lot of these other one size fits all dominant players, just don't have the time for them. So you can make a great business in that area. But you need to understand what game are you playing? And when I see a lot of people make these mistakes, they just don't understand what game they're playing.


Josh Stephens  22:42  

Yep, no, it makes a lot of sense. You know, I I love it. When I find companies to invest in or work with, that are founded by people that really understand the problem, that product solves what they lived the role of their user or their customer at some previous time. And, and they're building a product that, like you said, maybe a disrupter may be cheaper and easier to use. And that can be the only disruption you really need. Right? If you can be cheaper and easier to use. I mean, I love Slack. I use it every single day with all of my portfolio companies. And, but really, what does it do? Right? I mean, it does instant message and screen sharing, it does things that I could have already done and I CQ, or, or HipChat or WebEx, but it doesn't in an easy to use very comfortable, collaborative way. And, you know, people are super passionate about it. I'm one of them a super fan.


Wes Bush  23:36  

Yeah, but like, even on that note, too, like as far a Slack, like, we could have recorded this in slack. But it's like, there's certain limiting features. And if you realize like, okay, for Squadcast, they're going differentiate play of like, okay, it's just a podcasting market. That can still be a massive market where you still need a product led motion. So it's really just thinking about in your space, like, how big is it? And how much of it Do you really think you could realistically bite into? And that might help you define like, what is that go to market strategy that will work best for you?


Josh Stephens  24:08  

I love the idea that in the future, well, we'll have are many, many, many more small to medium sized tech companies that run great products like a Squadcast or Slack, and less giant technology companies that you know that that own a super space, it's hard to break into. I often say that I spent the first part of my career helping to create a lot of billionaires and now I want to create 1000s of millionaires. I want to see every technologist out there find a way to understand how to grow a product how to build a product led growth momentum. And I think it's it's just something that we should be teaching in colleges, you know, as we're thinking about how tech can change the world because these principles apply not just to IT tools, but to technology tools of all types.


Wes Bush  24:59  

Yeah, Absolutely.


Josh Stephens  25:00  

When you think about PLG, and the benefits that it brings to the product, in terms of how it how the sales motion or go to market motion, helps to improve the product itself over time, maybe we could just spend a minute talking about that.


Wes Bush  25:16  

Yeah, and so I think the biggest thing, where you're gonna see a lot of companies invest in is just user experience. And it sounds pretty simple. But when you start improving that, and really creating that faster time to value, there is a lot of other interesting benefits outside of the product that you start to take advantage of thinking about it from even like a support perspective. I know, like the CEO of Atlassian. Like he really treats a lot of these support requests as bugs, like, hey, they're keeping, they're requesting the same thing, like something's wrong here. Why are they doing this? And so you start to look at it from that perspective, and saying, like, hey, like, Why do people need to talk to other people regarding using our product? And it's like, it sounds like, Oh, they don't care? but actually they do. Because why would you need to, like reach out if you're actually enjoying using the product, getting a ton of value. So like, from a support perspective, I truly believe like a lot of product led companies that's one of the things that like they're usually not prepared for whenever they make this transition. Let's say they open up freemium, they're like, holy cow, there's a ton of support requests today. How are you going to sort through all this? And so you really do have to be proactively like triage, and finding, okay, where are the majority of these coming from and what problem can be solved, and be proactive about how you build your design, how you help your users become successful? Because that ultimately is going to create a less bug free, easier time to value product, which has tons of benefits for the product itself?


Josh Stephens  26:48  

Do you have a, you know, a favorite list of tools that you recommend or that you see your PLG companies using that you'd like to share?


Wes Bush  26:57  

So like that plg kind of ideal stack?


Josh Stephens  27:00  



Wes Bush  27:01  

Yeah. So I really will bucket them into like three main groups. One of them is like the underlying data layer, you have to have this or else you just don't understand what's going on. So like the main players, right now, at least for product analytics, or like your Heap, your Mixpanel, or Amplitude. What I'm seeing though, is you need more than that. Nowadays, for a lot of product led companies you need some like customer data platform, on top of this and out whether that's like Hole or Mparticle or something like that, you just need to get a full picture of what's really going on across all these different tools. So that's kind of like layer one base layer. Now, if you were to add another layer of tools onto your product or company, what I would suggest is I call this the product bumper. So how can you figure out how to guide your users faster without a ton of development time. And so whether this is like a tool like App Cues, or to like Pendo it's gonna say User Pilot, there's there's tons now


Josh Stephens  28:02  

Walton is another great one.


Wes Bush  28:04  

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And so there's tons of ways you can guide your users and learn like what do they really need to succeed in the product. And so that's helpful, because at the end of the day, like, I think if user onboarding a lot like bowling, and when you think of like, the first time someone plays bowling, like that, they're probably going to get in the gutter, because they don't know the game, it's easy, it's kind of hard to throw it right down the middle and knock down all the pins. That's kind of the allure of the game, too. But they want to, they want to get a strike whenever it's your first time. And so whenever it's your product, it's the same thing, like people come to it, they want to strike out, they're often going in the gutter, but you got to bump them back into the middle of the line so that they can strike out on their own. And so that's the second kind of layer of tools. So start with the data, then move to the product buffer, and then we can move on to is I call it the conversational bumper. And that is really looking at Okay, when you have that data look for like the biggest drop off moments, if someone's in the middle of a process or something like that, maybe, let's say it's Drift or Google Analytics, or something like that, like they signed up. But they haven't installed the JavaScript on their website, make it easy for them, like send them an email with a script that they could just forward to the developer or upload to their site or something like that. Just make it stupid, easy to get them back onto the straight line so they can strike out faster. And so whether use like, or even Userlist, there's like tons of different email tools. You can even use traditional sales letter ones for this too. But the main thing you want to look for is just how can you pipe in that product data into this tool. So it can be more smart trigger based, versus just, you know, someone sign up for the trial, they get the seven day, same seven emails, because we all know it's like, Alright, this company doesn't actually like look at what I'm doing here. And they're not paying attention to their users.


Josh Stephens  29:59  

Yeah, that's really Fun hearing you talk about that because as a PLG advocate and a technologist, you know, someone who buys and uses a lot of products. When I when I have to deal with a non PLG company, as a consumer, it's infuriating, right? I mean, there's there's no prices on the website, you you can't use the product or try it out. And they gate it with like a sales executive, you have to talk to somebody in order to learn more. And it always reminds me of sort of driving to a car dealership. And as you're driving around your car looking, there's like three or four salespeople kind of chasing you trying to get between you in the car. So they can, you know, try to make a deal. I think that for technical users, we've just lost patience with products and companies like that. And if, you know, I always tell customers that, you know, when you're selling to a technologist, you have to remember that most people that are in technology roles don't have budget control. And they really have two accounts to pull from they have their time and their reputation. And if they don't want to take time out from their day to evaluate a product and take a look at it, and maybe recommend it. They're putting both their time and their reputation on the line. So you've got to provide an experience that makes them want to be an advocate and sort of put their own, you know, their weekend time, their free time, maybe their reputation on the line. Because in these roles. I mean, it's great to have a college degree, maybe computer science as an MBA or something like that. But you kind of set that down when you get into tech, because the on ramp of learning is so significant.


Wes Bush  31:38  



Josh Stephens  31:40  

So talk to us about you know, your community site, I've explored it quite a bit. Some of the people listening probably haven't maybe he talked about it just for a moment and where you're going with that?


Wes Bush  31:53  

Yeah, absolutely. So it's evolved over the years. But one of the main things that's always been at the core is the community. And so that's really one thing. Whenever you're going through this transition, whether it's from sales at a product led , you're just figuring out how to build a product led business there is a ton of questions along the way. And I know even for myself, as I was doing that there was never like community or place, I could just go in and say like, hey, like, what do you think about this stupid idea. And I wish people would say that's a stupid idea Wes you should have done. But in my case, it wasn't, it was just like trial and error. I was like, oh, shoot, that was an expensive mistake. So yeah, you can learn a lot faster by just like interacting with other colleagues. That's the core of the business. But we're also layering on other areas where you can have like accelerated courses and cohort based learning, and really just like figure out how to do this much faster. Because I truly believe like, if you have a lot of different products led companies in your same category, it's a race because they have a more efficient go to market model than you. So you really need to prioritize this is one of the biggest growth levers for your business.


Josh Stephens  33:05  

It's really fantastic. I think I'm always a big fan of any movement that is helping to transition tech workers into tech entrepreneurs. And I think teaching people the business of product led growth. And much like I do on this podcast, trying to teach people the business of venture capital and investing understanding how growth capital works, is a big part of the challenge. And I found that when the whole company understands what you're trying to do from a go to market initiative perspective, and you know, your engineering team, your product team, they understand how integral the product is to what the company's success. And when everyone understands sort of how the game works, then everybody makes more money, and it's a more successful endeavor. I had a Twitter follower for the show, reached out to me the other day, and they were asking for advice about working for consulting firms versus working for startups. And one of the people that follows the show replied and said that they'd been in 10 startups so far, you know, a few years and each one, and never had a success never made any money. And I was just sitting here thinking, wow, you know, we, we really don't teach people how to interview an employer to be able to assess whether or not it's a real, it's an opportunity as a company, or it's just a job. And I hope we can teach more people about that. Because if I were interviewing for a product management job or entry level sales job or even a marketing role, I would want to understand what their PLG strategy is, do they really understand it? Or are they moving in that direction? Who are they backed by? Are those investors usually successful? Like, all those things, have a huge bearing on whether or not those stock options would be worth any money or not?


Wes Bush  34:47  

Yeah, absolutely. It's important to pick your job


Josh Stephens  34:51  

Iti is. Wes if you were going to get a PLG tattoo, what would it say?


Wes Bush  34:59  

I mean, the first thing they do came to mind is like your user successful return success, but that'd be pretty long.


Josh Stephens  35:06  

Maybe down a norm or something like that. Yeah, I love it, you know, Solarwinds I had, I had some customers get Solarwinds, tattoos and send pictures, and it was always a big flattering thing. But for me, it would probably say something like, you know, it's all about the product. Because, yeah, if you have a great product that people like using, they are going to use it. Now whether or not you make money from it. You know, there are a lot of factors in that. But and one of the most frustrating things for me as an investor is when I find a company with a fantastic product that the users just love, and management team that just can't seem to get together and figure out or growth strategy. And I think those are the types of companies that could gain a lot of value from joining a community like And, and learning more about it because it is, you know, it's it's not just an evolution within the company, it's a movement, it's a way for us to say, How can we be more authentic in our goal to provide great technology for technical users to accomplish their jobs? In better ways? When you think about 2021 and beyond, you know, what's coming up for you?


Wes Bush  36:21  

Yeah, I mean, like, I'm all in on So like just growing that, but I think like the bigger PLG space, the one thing that gets me pretty excited, is just seeing more teams use the product to grow their business. And so I'll give you an example, the one I like that, I think we're gonna see a lot more of this kind of goes back to that disruptive game. And so ConvertKit, they're like this email marketing platform, doing really, really well. And then it's, they just launched a free landing page product. And what I love about that is they don't have any intentions to monetize it one bit, is just completely free. They're going into this, like frothy space. That's like, you know, it's been around for a while now. But there's a lot of enterprise players like I know, Unbounce is going up market, Instapage, same thing, all these companies are going out market, and then what they're gonna realize is that it's okay that a lot of these disruptive players are coming in and just offering these free tools, and taking that audience, and now growing them into their email marketing platform. So I think a lot of SaaS companies, if you want to survive and thrive in the future, you're going to have to figure out some of these disruptive strategies to bring people into your main product. And I think it's going to be really spicy, and interesting, whether it's through acquisitions of some of these companies that how they get there faster, or just building these products, instead of like doing the old playbook that everyone knows, like, let's read 1000, you know, blog posts about landing pages, they could have done that. But it's like, what is actually more helpful to reading a blog post, or creating a landing page, or just creating a template of something that has all the best practices in there, and you just plugging your logo and you're good.


Josh Stephens  38:02  

You know, it's great. But what I think some people misunderstand about, what you just said, is that in order to do what you said, you have to really understand how to provide a solution to that problem, and you'd understand the space, it's pretty easy to hire someone to write some blog posts for you. But if you're going to actually provide a free tool that provides value, you have to deeply understand the problem set it I hope that, you know, in my career, I'm able to stay down market because I love early stage companies and I love Product Led Growth. But I do think that there's a natural cycle of as companies grow, they tend to move up market gradually, because you know, the bigger you get, the bigger your revenue number committee is for the year, then the harder it is to achieve with small deals. And I think that while in some ways, if you're working at one of those companies, you know, it can feel a little odd that you join this scrappy startup is doing a lot of PLG. And then five years later, it's an enterprise company selling to other enterprises. But I think that that cycle creates opportunities down market for a lot of startups. And that cycle is, is what keeps a lot of us going because it's fun to work at a young company. You know, it's fun to work in early stage company, and really see things start to take off.


Wes Bush  39:16  

Yeah, absolutely.


Josh Stephens  39:18  

Wes, I've really enjoyed this conversation today. I'm hoping to have you back for a panel discussion soon on the evolution of Product Led Growth. I think we've seen some really interesting evolution so far. And what's exciting to me is products, like the ones you mentioned, really didn't exist, you know, seven years ago or so or even five, and now they're becoming commonplace and, and there's great competition. In each of those segments. You mentioned that three areas of product led growth tooling, and that competition fosters more development and, and rapid progress. So it's super cool. Anything else you'd like to add before we wrap up?


Wes Bush  39:54  

I think that's that's pretty much it. I did actually put together like if you are on the fence right now. Are you wanting to like learn more about the like fundamentals of product led growth and like if this is even right for you, and some of those main benefits we're talking about, I just launched, like completely free and gated certificate on this. If you go to, I think a lot of your audience will find it helpful.


Josh Stephens  40:17  

I checked it out last week, by the way, happy late Happy birthday.


Wes Bush  40:21  



Josh Stephens  40:21  

And it's fantastic. So for anyone out there who doesn't know, Wes, you know, visit him at And the website you just listed for the free certification program was What again?


Wes Bush  40:34  



Josh Stephens  40:35


Wes, thanks so much for showing up. Hope to do this in person someday post COVID. It's been a joy having you on the show. I'm looking forward to talking to you again soon.


Wes Bush  40:46  

Likewise, I eventually need to get to Austin.


Josh Stephens  40:49  

Come down. We'll have a good time. I'll take you out.


Wes Bush  40:52  

Yeah, definitely.


Josh Stephens  40:54  

All right. Cheers.


That's it everyone. And thank you for joining Capital Geek. Subscribe via Apple, Stitcher, or any platform where you usually find fantastic podcast. Tune in again soon for another great episode of Capital Geek.