PLG Interview Series w: Shay Howe (VP of Marketing & Design, ActiveCampaign). Featured image for blog post.

Introduction

After two great interviews with Melanie Crissey from User from FullStory and Nikki Elbaz from Copyhackers, we come back with another great interview with one of the most talented individuals when it comes to Go-to-Market strategy (GTM Strategy) and Design.

It is no other than Shay Howe, the VP of Marketing & Design of ActiveCampaign.

So, what can the VP of Marketing Strategy & Design of a company like ActiveCampaign can tell us about Product-Led Growth?

Read this interview and you will find out.

Who is Shay Howe?

As a designer and front-end developer, Shay has a passion for solving problems while building creative and intuitive new products.

Shay Howe, VP of Design and Marketing at ActiveCampaign.
Image Source: Twitter

He specializes in product design, interface development, and organizational leadership, areas in which he regularly writes and speaks about. 

Currently, he is the VP of Marketing and Design at ActiveCampaign, helping companies grow with intelligent marketing and customer experience automation.

Why such a big discussion about Product-Led Growth? 

Shay:

For many, this isn’t necessarily a new discussion but a name to the Go-to-Market strategy (GTM Strategy) they’ve been executing for years.

For example, ActiveCampaign grew to more than 50,000 customers before investing heavily in a sales and marketing efforts.

ActiveCampaign Homepage. Screenshot.
Image Source: ActiveCampaign

We got there by focusing on our product—letting target customers try it, making it easy to use, creating in loops for growth and adoption, and building a platform to turn leads into loyal potential customers.

We maximize the results from this strategy by keeping the complete customer experience and value proposition top of mind.

ActiveCampaign Features. Screenshot.
Image Source: ActiveCampaign

This spring we even announced our focus on Customer Experience Automation because we want to introduce that mindset, and a platform to deliver on it, to our target markets.

Free trial, Freemium model or Demo request? How would you choose the most appropriate and how? 

Shay:

In my experience, getting people into the product as soon as possible is the best way to run a Product Led Growth strategy. 

In my experience, getting people into the new product as soon as possible is the best way to run a Product Led Go-to-Market strategy (GTM Strategy).

More commonly than not, that’s from a free trial or a freemium model.

Freemium is interesting, although tends to be pretty noisy.

Unpaying potential customers will have support questions, product development requests etc.

ActiveCampaign Pricing. Screenshot.

That could all be good feedback, although even better if coming from paying target customers.

When you offer a free trial, you need to develop your product in a way that shows its value proposition immediately for your target customers, and free trials help you focus on time-to-value.

Then, once customers are in the door you need to retain them by focusing on the total value.

Going this route forces you to focus, all the while earning revenue from paying customers.

What are the principles one needs to follow when building a user onboarding process for a SaaS business? Which mistakes to avoid? 

Shay:

Focus your onboarding on use cases, not just feature functionality and lead generation.

People don’t want training or app cues that simply showing them where buttons are located within your product (hopefully it’s easy enough to use already).

People want to know how to use your product to accomplish their goals and address their pain points.

At ActiveCampaign, we offer automation recipes for this exact reason: better customer acquisition.

ActiveCampaign for SaaS. Screenshot.
Image Source: ActiveCampaign

You can login and within a single click, create an automation that will take work off your plate and create a customer experience that will drive sales or improve retention.

What should be the relationship between Product, Marketing, Sales and Customer Success in a Product-Led company? 

Shay:

First up, we should all be talking to our potential customers, intimately knowing their goals and use cases for our product.

Then, as hard as it may be, Product teams, Marketing teams and Marketing efforts, Sales teams and processes, and Customer Success should be aligned without any separation between these functions. (For good measure, I’d add Engineering and Design to this conversation too.)

The closer these groups are with one another and the closer they are to the customer, the faster you can innovate and create real tangible value for your customers. The action plan, the marketing plan, the pricing strategy, all need to be aligned together.

How the future of Product-Led Growth looks like? 

Shay:

The future of Product Led Growth will be about improving the entire customer experience.

It will expand the idea of being focused on the sales and conversion funnel or from features and functionality to thinking about the product you’re building in terms of the way you interact with a target customer across the entire customer lifecycle.

Doing so will require creating personalized experiences at all ends of the roadmap.

Customer Experience Automation. Screenshot.
Image Source: ActiveCampaign

Treating everyone as the same and providing them with the same customer experience isn’t going to work long term as a Go-to-market plan.

We need to be more intelligent in how we work with our target audience across marketing channels, providing personal value to them (and knowing that will likely be different for everyone).

Good news, the future is exciting and we’re building the tools to help you provide personalized customer experiences at ActiveCampaign.

About the Author: Aggelos M

Aggelos M
I have over 8 years experience in Digital and Growth marketing. Currently, running Growth Sandwich, a London based Product Growth Lab. Before turning in Growth Marketing and Product Growth, I had the chance to pass by head marketing and head digital positions in Athens and London, work with numerous tech startups but also build and run companies. In my spare time, I am consulting ambitious startups about their Growth and Business strategy.