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How does self-serve product impact product marketing function?

6 Answers
Christy Roach
Christy Roach
AssemblyAI VP of MarketingNovember 17

If you’re asking about how self-serve product teams impact my function:
I’ve never been at a company where there is a “self-serve product” team. There are some teams that are more focused on the self-serve experience, like a “first experience” team that’s really focused on getting customers up and running with the product. That team is, of course, going to optimize for the self-serve customer that doesn’t have a customer success or sales person there to help them get up and running, but they wil not define themselves as a "self-serve team" since the first experience touches all customers.

In general, the product teams I’ve worked with at companies that have a self-serve and sales assisted motion are often most focused on creating a simple, clear product where the majority of features optimize for the self-serve experience. Also there’s a huge emphasis on product usage metrics rather than ARR per product line or feature.

If you’re asking about how a self-serve product itself impacts my function:
Having a self-serve product means that the metrics I use to gauge success are much more closely tied to product usage than they are at predominantly sales-assisted company with a traditional demandgen motion. My team owns specific product engagement metrics and our focus is less on bringing in leads and ARR from closed won accounts, but instead on how quickly and effectively we can move someone through a self-serve funnel from signup -> adoption -> monetized customer -> expansion.

When I’ve worked on and led PMM teams focused on a sales-assisted product, our success was measured by some product metrics, but also by sales team readiness, satisfaction with the enablement materials created and a lot of internal feedback. I loved how much feedback our team got in this setup, but one drawback was that my team did not ‘own’ metrics the way my self-serve PMM team does now.

In a self-serve product environment I find that it’s much easier to show success, since you’re tied specifically to metrics, it creates a much closer partnership and relationship between product and PMM teams, and it makes you accountable for the entire self-serve customer journey, not just acquisition. 

1655 Views
Leah Brite
Leah Brite
Gusto Head of Product Marketing, EmployersSeptember 30

Three big impacts of having a self-serve product include 1 - there is no sales readiness & enablement that is part of the role. That also means you’ll rely more heavily on other methods to drive conversion and adoption. 2 - you likely have access to more data more quickly (larger lead base and shorter sales cycle). Lucky you! Take advantage by doing things like AB messaging tests on your website early to get signal that you are on the right track. And you probably are - you’ve got this!

762 Views
Anna Wiggins
Anna Wiggins
Bluevine Sr. Director of Product Marketing, Content, Customer ResearchJanuary 18

Whether you work on a self-serve or a sales-driven product will, in a way, define the type of product marketing you'll do. In a sales-driven organization, most of your product marketing activities will enable sales or account management teams. Your metrics will be focused on the sales team's success such as driving leads and ensuring wins over losses. This model benefits from a 1-1 customer-to-sales relationship since the sales team can convince hesitant customers to buy or explain tricky parts of the product. 

Self-serve is a volume-based business and product marketing looks different here. Your website and product UI have to do a lot more heavy lifting to make sure customers can successfully sign up and use your product, so you'll be spending time on developing and optimizing those channels. You'll be doing more funnel analysis, working with UX teams to ensure a frictionless experience that makes sense, and partnering with customer success teams on at-scale education resources. You'll be working much closer with the customers and your metrics will be focused on behaviors such as sign-up and activation rates and driving specific activities in the product.

378 Views
Claire Maynard
Claire Maynard
Magical Head Of MarketingFebruary 10

I believe it may be important to start out with how product marketing is the same across a self-serve/product-led motion and a sales-led motion. In my opinion, the core product marketing responsibilities remain the same:

  • Target audience and buyer definition
  • Positioning and messaging
  • Pricing and packaging
  • Product narrative and storytelling
  • Product and feature launches
  • and so on...

With either motion, you have to be an expert in your product, customer, and market.

Where the function starts to differ is how you design your GTM strategy. What is the main mechanism for bringing your product and story to market, attracting customers, and then accelerating a customer through their adoption journey? Is it via a sales team, marketing-led, product-led, or a combination of all three? In my experience, most companies use a combination of product, marketing, and sales-led approaches for different parts of the customer life-cycle, different types of audiences, or as their company or product matures.

Here are a few ways the product marketing function may differ with each type of motion:

  • The team(s) you enable with the customer, product, and market knowledge. In a sales-led motion, you are enabling a sales or demand gen team with the buyer knowledge, messaging, sales collateral, etc. so they can successfully describe the value to a customer and guide them to purchase. In a self-serve motion, you're partnering with your growth, content, or support team to design, what I like to call, an "automated sales journey" where an end-user can move through the same milestones without needing human touch.
  • Metrics you may be responsible for. If you work on a product with a sales-led GTM motion, you may focus on # of leads, revenue, close-rates, or effectiveness of the sales-enablement assets you create. You may look at traffic, brand awareness, or acquisition metrics in a marketing-led motion. Product-led (or self-serve) will focus on the entire funnel of product adoption metrics from acquisition, activation, retention, and referral. The focus is on how efficiently you move a user or customer through these stages.
  • Your target audience: Typically, in a self-serve or PLG motion, your target audience and how you reach them may look more like a consumer in the B2C world. They have the freedom to search for, select, and purchase software without needing a ton of oversight or permission. Your goal is to make this process as frictionless as possible and enable the user to spread the product organically themselves. If the product you're selling is intended for larger teams, is more complex, or has a long sales cycle, you're likely going to have a "top-down" motion and be focusing on reaching an executive or C-level buyer, or multiple buyers.

I typically recommend teams focus on product-led growth first. Make your product as intuitive and frictionless as possible, encourage viral sharing mechanisms, and add product hooks that keep users returning. Add marketing-led or sales-led motions to supplement or accelerate your growth as you mature.

507 Views
Mike Greenberg
Mike Greenberg
SurveyMonkey Director of Product MarketingMarch 13

As a partial answer, it's helpful to think about some of the things that Sales and CS roles might typically contribute to the customer journey or your understanding of customers, and how you can obtain that value in a proactive or self-serve way that's scaled and repeatable. As a self-serve PMM without the benefit of those roles, you need to be considering:

  • Do you have all the pieces in place to help people through the pre- and post-purchase customer journey without human intervention: Is your website clear and compelling? Are your conversion points helpful with decision-making? Do you have the right onboarding and tutorial content to drive engagement? Is your free > paid conversion rate healthy? Are you monitoring at key points to know where engagement is falling off? And so on.

  • How are you staying close to your customers and target market so that you can deliver valuable insights to your product team and optimize your GTM approach? Are you set up to measure customer satisfaction, solicit product feedback, etc., so you'll know what to do next? Remember, you can't go ask Sales.

  • Is your GTM strategy (and personal bandwidth) optimized for scale? Self-serve SaaS products tend to be at the lower end of the cost spectrum, so volume and virality are your friends. If my goal is self-serve business, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about webinars, for example, because they don't tend to attract enough viewers to move needles on a product that's priced at $50/month. PLG, SEO, and other scaled and efficient strategies are more effective at attracting the volume of users you need to sustain a self-serve growth machine at sub-enterprise price points.

  • On the topic of product-led growth tactics, work with your product team to develop a PLG strategy that puts your product and users to work for you driving awareness and expansion, and to ensure that your messaging reaches people at their moment of need.

734 Views
Madison Leonard
Madison Leonard
Marketing & GTM ConsultantDecember 7

Self-serve products are focused on the end-user rather than the buyer. Traditional product marketing in a sales-led organization focuses on positioning the product to buyers and enabling sales. However, self serve product-led organizations focus on positioning to individual users with specific use cases, and the enablement work can often times lean more heavily with marketing teams. 

299 Views
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