How to Build a Product-Led Go-To-Market

Posted on September 22, 2020

In this episode, we talk to Elena Verna, a growth advisor to many great companies and a Reforge lecturer.

We talk to Elena about how most founders struggle to set up a growth function within the company.

We get into the most common reasons companies build a self-serve model, how to turn more of your self-serve business into enterprise revenue, and why your product champions are a critical part of selling into large companies.



Time Stamped Notes:

[1:40] – Elena talks through the process of turning her go-to-market knowledge into a course with Reforge.

[4:25] – There are three pieces of advice Elena gives founders when they’re starting to plan out a growth function:

1. Growth has to be an evolution and not a revolution. You need to grow into the structure vs. trying to create it overnight. 

2. Growth means different things to different people; you need to understand what problem you’re trying to solve and structure the team around that mission.

3. It’s easier to find a growth leader from your internal team than to find an external leader.

[7:00] – We talk about the history of growth and how it started in the product org. One of the challenges with creating a growth team is there is no consistent structure for it. It means different things in different companies.

[9:30] – There are different flavors of growth you can create within a company that depends on the company’s go-to-market. To be successful, you should establish the growth team’s mission and align it with the companies’ business model.

[11:00] – Adding a self-serve SKU to your business is becoming commonplace for B2B companies. Elena recommends having a clear goal for why businesses who are sales-led would add a self-serve SKU to their go-to-market:

1. SMB Engine: Do you want to create a better engine for the SMB portion of your market that’s not reliant on humans, and instead can be structured around a touchless experience.

2. Bottoms Up: A business focused on attracting buyers may want to start marketing and acquiring end-users of their product.

3. Competition: A bottoms-up strategy is a way to differentiate your go-to-market from the competition.

[15:05] – We ask Elena if there should be two separate marketing teams in bottoms up companies – one for acquiring end-users and a separate one for acquiring buyers.

[17:25] – The key to turning self-serve customers into enterprise customers is identifying your product champion within the companies you’re trying to sell too. You need to find ways to enable your product champions to help you sell into larger companies. Your product champions need to be in love with the product. They need to help sell it.

[20:00] – You need to find the usage patterns that both help you identify your product champion and help you engage with them around selling an enterprise package into their company.

[21:30] – We talk about how to determine your product champion; they’re usually power users of your product. It’s a mixture of both quantitative and qualitative data.

[23:30] – Your product champions are generally pioneers for your product; they’re an early user and help spread that product within the company. They can be different from your buyer, but still critical in helping you sell into enterprises.

[25:30] – The next wave for growth teams is creating an enterprise pipeline from the self-serve business. There is a significant investment in both data science and ops needed to make that successful.

[29:20] – Companies who want to start with a product qualified lead/product qualified account-model should first identify what product usage (engagement) they think indicates a user is interested in talking to sales. 

Elena recommends segmenting this by company size – SMB, Mid-Market, Enterprise, as it will be different per company segment.

Lastly, Elena recommends companies think of this as an iterative process. The first iteration will be wrong, accept that, and make improvements over time.

[31:30] – Something growth teams are great at is optimizing for learning, not for success.

They’re not trying to be right all the time, but they’re always trying to learn.


– Elena on Twitter / LinkedIn
– Kieran on Twitter / LinkedIn
– Scott on Twitter / LinkedIn