How do you approach building a land and expand strategy?
I can’t speak for how a team at a company I haven’t worked for but here’s how I’ve seen land and expand work well in the past. The TL;DR is that your land strategy should be very focused on the initial purchase/use of your product and your expand strategy should focus on building on momentum from the existing product and making clear that expanding the use of your products will provide exponential value for your customers.
With a “land” strategy, the big goal is to start small/manageable, especially if your customer is a small team. A land strategy is focused on getting the first foothold in a company. For us at Airtable, our “land” happens with the first use case that you decide to use Airtable to help you manage (ex: content calendars). When I was at Envoy, our focus was landing in our first product line, Visitors, and expanding from there. Tactically, the things you need for the “land” portion of land and expand is a strong acquisition strategy, an onboarding process that is as easy and frictionless as possible, and, as much as you can, messaging and information that tells the user up front that there is more to your product for the customer to discover so you can seed expansion from the get-go.
For the expand strategy, the key is to make it easy for your product to spread. You can do this via a sharing and collaboration model, like Airtable, where you invite more team members to join you in the tool, via a feature-gating model where you incentivize customers to upgrade to higher tier plans for access to more advanced features, or via multi-product where you try to get your current customers of one product to start using another of your available products.
There are two major ways expand happens:
- Natural, easy growth within one team or company: The goal here is to make it so the user doesn’t even really think about expansion. Make it easy in your product to add more teammates, or to quickly try a new feature for a period of time that’s on a higher tier plan. You want the customer to expand because they’re seeing increasing value from the product, and all the communication you send via email or in product upsells are focused on the value and what someone can do with the product, rather than a hard upsell.
- Viral growth and consolidation: At larger companies, you often have ‘pockets’ of usage of a tool across teams or locations. Usually, these teams have signed up for your product independently of one another without knowledge that anyone from their company is using the product. Once that growth becomes large enough, a sales team can come in and chat with a decision maker (often IT) to consolidate the use of the tool and give administrators more control over usage.
I cannot speak to how the Slack team built their land and expand strategy but I can speak to how I understand and think about the strategy at Atlassian.
We have two methods of land and expand.
1) Product expansion - a user, let's say a product manager, lands in one product, Jira, and finds a ton of value. They then discover that Atlassian also offers Confluence, a knowledge management product that they can also use, so they expand into that. Then they discover one of the new products in our portfolio, Jira Product Discovery, designed specifically for product managers, so they adopt that. In this case, the same user expands from product A (Jira) to product B (Confluence) to product C (Jira Product Discovery).
2) Team/Company expansion - Let's say a product team is using Confluence to write up their product specs. They share a spec with their product marketing counterparts to consume for an upcoming launch. The product marketing team quickly sees how they may be able to use Confluence for their own needs such as writing messaging or sharing customer interviews. In this case, Confluence has expanded from team A (product) team B (marketing) and so on.
This is Atlassian's bread and butter and it doesn't happen by accident. All teams including product, marketing, sales, and CS are aligned and focused on accelerating this motion.
On my new products team specifically, we think a lot about our land and expand strategy. Many of the products in my portfolio were built by thinking through our existing audience needs and jobs to be done, and how we could solve for them.
When I was working on Confluence, we thought a lot about how we could extend the use-cases of the product to not only meet the needs of technical teams but increased the breadth of use cases to non-technical teams like HR, Marketing, etc.
A few concepts come to mind when thinking about building a portfolio:
- Adjacent jobs to be done (JTBD): Think about your existing product. What JTBD does it solve and for what audience? Does that audience have another JTBD that you could build for? An Atlassian example: Product teams need project tracking so they need Jira > they also need project documentation so they need Confluence.
- Adjacent audiences: Think about your existing audience. What other teams does this audience work with? What other audience has the same pain as your existing audience has? An Atlassian example: Product teams use Jira for project tracking > Marketing teams also need project tracking.
Once you have the product strategy, here are a few ways to think about accelerating motion:
- Use cases: have a variety of use cases and examples on how real customers are using your products in different ways. On Confluence, we built a giant template library so that any type of team from Product to Marketing or HR could get started with a use case that was related to their job. Also, have customer use cases that describe how your customers use your products together to solve an overarching JTBD.
- In-app cross-sell: We talked about this earlier but the best expand tactics we've tried are in-product. Think of how you can create contextual experiences in your product to help take a user from one product to another within their workflow. For example, one of our best expand experiences in Jira is the "Pages" tab in the sidebar that takes a user to Confluence in one click.
- Feature-limit vs user-limit: You want as many people using your product and getting value from it as possible. If you limit the number of users who can use your product, you're limiting the spread. Instead, think about limiting the features they can use and implementing a free tier so existing users can share with as many folks they like.
Land and expand is music to my ears!
Growth for PLG companies focuses on word-of-mouth and peer-to-peer sharing, both organic and strategic.
Example of organic word-of-mouth sharing = mentioning slack in a product marketing discord group.
Example of strategic peer-to-peer sharing = slack prompting me to invite users during onboarding, and I do.
However, this can be utilized internally as well for a bottoms-up adoption movement!
I call these folks "champions" - they are deep lovers of the platform and want others to benefit, too. We can leverage these champions through in-product growth loops (e.g. prompts to invite your coworker) as well as strategic expansion initiatives such as CS-led adoption campaigns or change management support.
The truth is, this takes a long time to do effectively so strap in for the long haul!
The best metric I can recommend for expansion is called product-qualified-lead. This is essentially a scoring system that is determined using the following information:
- Size of the company
- Persona/ICP match
- Usage triggers
Using Slack as an example, let's say that Pam is a product marketer at Salesforce. Pam created a Slack workspace and added her product marketing team. As she continues to use the product, she's finding that her workflow is inhibited by context switching between meetings/email and Slack - this makes it difficult for her to stay on top of product teams as they are nearing a launch in addition to wasting time relaying this information back and forth.
Pam decided to add Jim, her product management counterpart, to her Slack Workspace since they are a few weeks out from a product launch. In that time, Pam and Jim experience the value of contextual conversations in Slack. Jim tells the rest of the product team and they join the following week.
Pam and Jim match Slack's ICP criteria. And while they only have about 10 folks on Slack right now, using enrichment data we can see that they are part of a massive enterprise organization. Lastly, they are using primary features of Slack that indicate upgrade-readiness.
These things in tandem push an automatic notification to Sales and Success teams to begin expansion playbook (also developed in tandem with product marketing teams).
- Identify your ideal customer, company size, and usage triggers to indicate expansion readiness
- Implement an automated way to pass this information over to Sales/Success teams
- Launch an expansion playbook to simplify change management, bottoms-up internal selling, etc.