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Alberto IncisaProduct and Growth at June

10 May 23

Data is your competitive advantage in Product-Led Growth

Elena Verna, a business growth guru with a sparkling track record at companies like SurveyMonkey, Malwarebytes, MongoDB, Maze, Miro and Netlify, recently shared a wealth of knowledge in the June Podcast.

Elena is well-known for her expertise in Product-Led Growth (PLG).

During the interview, Elena shared her insights on several critical business topics, including the importance of data-backed decision-making, effective strategies for customer acquisition, fostering product development, the significance of customer personalization, and crafting optimal monetization models within the PLG model.

In summary, here's a simplified yet comprehensive breakdown of the valuable insights that Elena shared during the five-part discussion.

The Intersection of Data and Decision-Making

In the initial part of the discussion, Elena set the stage by digging into the pivotal role that data plays in formulating business strategies and guiding critical decisions. From her vast professional experience, she emphasized the profound impact of how a data-informed approach can potentially make or break business strategies.

However, as enlightening as data can be, Elena cautioned against becoming too dependent on it. She spoke about the trap that businesses often fall into, which is the tendency to over-rely on data, treating it as the be-all and end-all for decision-making. She argued that such an approach can lead to a narrow viewpoint, blinkered by numbers and potentially overlooking the human element.

Elena proposed a more balanced, comprehensive approach - a blend of data, intuition, and experience. She explained the roles these elements play in decision-making: data serves to highlight the 'what', the concrete facts, figures, patterns, and trends that are quantifiable and observable. However, when it comes to the 'why' - the underlying reasons and motivations behind these patterns - data often comes up short. This is where human intuition needs to step into the picture.

The magic happens when data and intuition come together. By complementing the cold, hard facts from data with the contextual understanding provided by intuition, businesses can gain a more rounded perspective. This, according to Elena, leads to more informed, effective, and holistic decision-making.

It's not about choosing one over the other; instead, it's about recognizing the strengths of each and utilizing them in harmony to drive strategic decisions.

Customer Acquisition

The second part of the discussion with Elena was focused on customer acquisition, product development and the concept of Product-Led Growth (PLG).

Elena, with her rich experience from MongoDB, Maze, and Netlify, underlined the importance of understanding customer lifetime value (LTV) in the context of customer acquisition. While LTV is a crucial metric, she cautioned against an excessive focus on it. Instead, she championed a more comprehensive approach, considering factors like product evolution, market dynamics, and user behavior.

She challenged the industry notion that all acquired users must be immediately profitable. For Elena, some users might not bring instant profits, but they offer valuable insights for product development and strategy refinement. This is when understanding of user behavior becomes crucial in guiding the growth and evolution of a product.

As the conversation shifted to product development, Elena emphasized the role of product managers in understanding the customer journey. She pointed out that product development is closely tied to growth, as the two are often interdependent. A deep understanding of the customer journey helps product managers develop features and services that resonate with users and stimulate growth.

The conversation then turned to Product-Led Growth (PLG), a business methodology that leverages the product itself as the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion, and expansion. Elena took this opportunity to share some fascinating insights about personalization within the PLG landscape.

As per Elena, personalization can play a significant role in enhancing the user experience, making the product more appealing, and driving user engagement. It can help in tailoring the user journey to meet individual needs and preferences, thereby improving customer satisfaction and retention rates.

However, she also brought attention to a critical roadblock in the path of personalization within PLG - the issue of technical debt. The term 'technical debt' refers to the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing quick and easy solutions now instead of using a better approach that would take longer. In the context of personalization, it points to the complexities and challenges that arise when trying to tailor a product to individual users at scale. These could include increased development time, higher costs, and potential difficulties in maintaining and updating the personalized features.

Because of these complexities, personalization in PLG is not as widespread as one might expect. Elena's practical advice to businesses was to approach personalization selectively, choosing to personalize only those areas that are feasible and make sense in the larger context of their business model and customer journey.

For instance, she suggested areas such as email lifecycle - where personalized communication can significantly improve customer engagement - and sales enablement - where tailored resources and tools can empower the sales team to better address the needs of individual customers. By focusing on these areas, businesses can leverage the benefits of personalization while minimizing the potential risks and costs.

Elena also explained that while personalisation it's a powerful tool, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, she argued that personalization might not always be the best strategy, especially for smaller companies with limited resources. Instead, she recommended focusing on creating a high-quality product that meets user needs and then selectively personalizing when it adds value.

Unpacking Monetization Models in PLG

In the last part of the episode, Elena deep dives into the monetization models within Product-Led Growth (PLG).

Elena began by highlighting the significance of understanding the value metric that a business is capitalizing on. The value metric is a measure of the perceived value of a product or service that the customers are willing to pay for.

For a software company, for instance, this could be the number of users, the amount of data stored, or the number of transactions processed. A clear understanding of this metric is key to developing an effective monetization strategy, as it allows the business to align its pricing model with the value that it delivers to its customers.

Next, Elena identified three critical points in the monetization model that every business must pay attention to. These are awareness of the model, conversion rate friction, and the actual monetization model changes.

The first point, awareness of the model, refers to how well the customers understand the pricing model. A clear and transparent pricing model not only builds trust but also empowers customers to make informed decisions, thereby increasing their willingness to pay.

The second point, conversion rate friction, involves identifying and mitigating barriers that might prevent users from transitioning from free or trial versions to paid plans. Elena emphasized the importance of creating "healthy friction" in this process. This could mean making certain features exclusive to paid plans, or implementing gentle reminders about the additional benefits of upgrading. The goal is to encourage users to move towards paid plans, without making them feel forced or rushed.

The third point involves changes to the actual monetization model. Elena underscored the necessity for continuous experimentation and adaptation in this area. Market trends, customer needs, and competitive landscapes are always evolving, and businesses must stay agile and flexible to keep up. This might involve periodically reassessing the value metric, tweaking the pricing, or introducing new pricing plans or models.

Elena's key takeaway was that all these elements of monetization should be managed within the framework of a product-led strategy.

In a PLG approach, the product itself is the main vehicle for customer acquisition, retention, and expansion, and the monetization strategy should align with and support this approach. This means delivering real and tangible value to the users, providing a seamless and enjoyable user experience, and ensuring that the pricing and monetization models reflect and reinforce the value delivered by the product


Elena Verna's interview provided a ton of insights and actionable advice for B2B SaaS startups. By understanding and implementing her guidance on data-driven decision-making, customer acquisition, product development, PLG, personalization, and monetization, businesses can be better equipped to succeed in today's competitive landscape.

Check out Elena's website, and follow her on LinkedIn for more tips!

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