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Scaling from $50M to $500M with a PLG Motion

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Carilu Dietrich

Product-Led Growth

Product-Led Growth (PLG) is viewed as a new Go-to-Market motion by many - but to Carilu Dietrich it was her reality as the Chief Marketing Officer for a pioneer in PLG - Atlassian, developer of JIRA.

Carilu was the driving force behind making developer products cool while helping to scale Atlassian from $50M ARR to over $400M leading to an IPO!

Before Atlassian, Carilu started as an enterprise sales professional, and then started cross-training, including being responsible for the initial digital advertising for the launch of the iPad. Today's discussion centered on the journey of scaling a PLG company from $50M ARR to $500M ARR.

What's the role of Marketing in a PLG company? It's much more of a B2C model, which included Atlassian's strategy to invest one-half less on Sales and Marketing and invest that saving in building the world's best product that sells itself! By hanging out in communities where the target buyer personas discuss the benefits of using the product, the primary source of new customers is inbound, versus requiring the expense of outbound sales investments.

Atlassian was boot-strapped, which enabled the executive team to continue their "PLG" Go-to-Market motion even when others were strongly encouraging them to add in an enterprise Sales led motion. The real challenge is how to add in sales while maintaining the core focus of Product-Led Growth. The two models will inherently compete for constrained resources, especially financial and human capital.

In a focused "PLG" environment, the primary goal is to ensure new users can experience the core value of the product, and translate their initial experience in a trial environment to a paying user.

At Atlassian, Marketing was primarily responsible for awareness and top-of-funnel development while the "Growth" team was responsible for points of user engagement following hitting the "trial button" and nurturing new customers and converting them into paid users and ultimately paid enterprise customers. Initially, Atlassian focused on the "individual users", and progressing them from free users to paid users through up-sells and cross-sells which was primarily driven by Marketing. Sales was primarily responsible for paid user renewals, and over time sales then expanded their focus on converting a group of individual users to a company-wide, enterprise agreement.

Next, we discussed hyper-growth at scale from the $50M to $500M level. As a small, early-stage company it is hard and even not advisable to hire people who have "seen" the movie at a higher level of scale. In the early stages, companies are looking for Product Market Fit and then in the next stage after they have repeatable sales they increase investment in Marketing to generate more top-of-funnel demand. Ultimately, the goal is to look for "step-ups" such as new product introduction, expanding into new global markets or even changing financial models to prepare for a larger financial return. At each step of the journey, executive leadership needs to continuously review and evolve the corporate strategy that provides the north star for the next phase of the journey.

One of the techniques that Atlassian used was continuous experimentation. Beyond A/B testing for tactical enhancements, the need for additional market research to understand how the market is evolving, including competitive presence and user expectations.

If you are preparing for the next stage of growth, and on the path to maintaining hyper-growth at scale, this conversation with Carilus is a great listen!

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