Thoughts on Product-Led Growth Tooling

Thoughts on Product-Led Growth Tooling

This is a cross-post of some thoughts I shared with with Zachary DeWitt on his blog "Notorious PLG". I've gotten to know Zachary over the past couple years. He was one of the first VC's to really understand what we were up to. Here's his thoughts on the space:

I believe there will be many unicorns built that enable the PLG movement and Calixa has the potential to be one of them. One of the challenges for PLG companies is to make usage data actionable for GTM teams and Calixa is building a purpose-built application that helps find signal in product noise. Calixa is more than just an analytics dashboard as it allows users to take actions and create workflows based on user behavior. Thus, Calixa has the opportunity to become a system of engagement.

I highly recommend you all subscribe to Zachary's blog. Here's what I shared with him:


Calixa was inspired by my experiences at Twilio in the early 2010’s. Twilio saw a deluge of developer sign ups and needed some way to stay on top of it. None of the existing tools or CRMs could solve it, so we built our own. The tool quickly became critical to Twilio’s PLG success. The tool did a few key things:

  • Democratized product usage data
  • Gave full visibility into the customer journey
  • Centralized customer actions (eg extend trial, upgrade account)

Fast-forward to 2020. We still saw that customer tools were all optimized for the traditional top down sales approach. So we decided to fix that. Calixa’s goal is to be the one unified platform that Sales, Success, and Support use to power the product-led GTM motion.

As we’ve been building over the last 18 months, we’ve spoken to over 200 product-led companies. Here are some of the common insights and challenges from these conversations:

  • Your users are in control→ Central to a product-led motion is being user centric. Today’s users want to sign up and explore your product on their own. It’s your job as a company to figure out how to best inject your teams (Sales, Success, Marketing, Support) in this journey. This is often a combination of automated and human outreach in response to key customer milestones of adoption. It’s critical that companies are able to proactively reach out to keep users moving in the right direction.
  • One shared customer journey →  Product-led companies see the customer journey as one shared journey across Sales, Marketing, Product, etc. This enables a company-wide focus on getting customers to the “a-ha moment” as fast as possible. However, to tune and optimize their product-led GTM motion, companies need a single shared view across all their sources of data. This is often where companies struggle.
  • Humans in the loop → While the idealized goal is that customers sell themselves, reality is a lot messier.  You still need customer facing teams coaching customers to success and catching them if they fall. Product-led companies are redefining the roles of Sales and Success. The goal is a more consultative and product-focused approach that doesn’t necessarily stop with the first sale. The first sale is often the tip of the spear into a company. The true value of the customer will be realized as your product spreads internally.
  • Harnessing product usage data → In a PLG motion, customers are often using your product before you even get a chance to speak with them. Traditional CRMs don’t capture or display event data which often leaves customer teams in the dark. Product-led companies look to democratize this usage data so that they can prioritize and tailor customer outreach. Leveraging this data makes it easier to deliver more compelling, contextual 1:1 outreach which improves conversion.
  • Rise of the warehouse → There is a shared excitement across GTM and Data teams about the potential power of the modern data stack. GTM and data teams are excited to operationalize warehouse data because it’s seen as their gold-standard data. We’re seeing companies adopt a modern data warehouse earlier and earlier in their life. This is the big reason why we built Calixa to be warehouse-native from day 1… to get easy access to a company’s gold-standard data.

As you can see, there’s a lot that product-led companies want to be able to do that traditional customer tools don’t enable. We’re building Calixa to finally give product-led companies a product purpose-built for them. Calixa gives companies full visibility into the customer journey, easy prioritization with product usage data, and the ability to automate manual workflows.

We’d love to hear about any pain points other product-led companies are facing. If you have feedback on what we could build to make your life easier, just drop me a line (thomas@calixa.io).