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Wes Bush on product-led growth

Patrick Campbell Sep 27 2022

I get high all the time.

No, not from any substances. I’ve actually never done any drugs, which is really interesting. It was something that my father ingrained in me, and then when I worked at NSA, I just kinda missed the boat on trying all of those fun things. 

I start this way because I want to tell you that I get high when I see an advertisement that hits me in just the right spot — I know, I’m wired very differently, but I promise I’m a phenomenal party guest — like car commercials that align with my personal values or a soft drink ad that makes my mouth water. But there’s nothing that puts a damper on that high more than when I actually try the product and it fails to meet expectations.

In B2B SaaS we promise experiences all the time and when we can’t deliver on those experiences, that sour taste builds up and, ultimately, can destroy our companies. So the challenge becomes hyping the product, whether through marketing, sales, onboarding etc., and ensuring the experience matches those expectations. You’ve tried sales-led and marketing-led growth, but have you tried PLG or product-led growth?

Today’s guest, Wes Bush, literally wrote the book on product-led growth. We were fortunate to get a chance to speak with him a couple years ago at a talk moderated by Paddle’s very own Peter Zotto. They go into detail on how this process works and what you can do to implement it into your business.

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To me, product-led growth is nothing new. But it's just really aligning your business with the way that people actually like buying.”    

–Wes Bush






Key term:

Product-led growth

Product-led growth is a business methodology in which your entire organization leads with its product. It’s a “go-to-market strategy that relies on using your product as the main vehicle to acquire, activate, and retain customers.”

With competition in SaaS growing exponentially, acquiring customers is becoming more and more expensive. The way customers shop and decide to purchase has also dramatically changed. Customers are not only self-educating, but wanting to try a product before they buy it. And this is true for all business sizes.

A product-led growth strategy will help you face all of these challenges, which is essential if you want to grow and survive in the world of SaaS.



What to do today: 

  • Follow Wes Bush.
  • Schedule a time to meet with your leadership team to discuss whether a product-led growth strategy is right for you.

What to do next:

If you’ve determined that product-led-growth is right for your business, then get started on developing your own PLG strategy.

So, how does the PLG model work? Well, Wes Bush literally wrote the book on product-led growth, so we included some initial steps to take directly from his book to help you get started with your own product-led growth strategy. But be sure to check out his book for a complete and in-depth guide on PLG.


Choose Your Product-Led Growth Model with the MOAT Framework

The MOAT Framework:

  1. Market Strategy: Is your go-to-market strategy dominant, disruptive, or differentiated?
  2. Ocean Conditions: Are you in a red- or blue-ocean business?
  3. Audience: Do you have a top-down or bottom-up marketing strategy?
  4. Time-to-value: How fast can you showcase value?

If you’re confident that Product-Led Growth is right, you need to decide between a free trial or freemium model. 

Having helped hundreds of business owners make this difficult decision, I created a simple quiz to help you pinpoint which model is best for you. Go to and answer a series of questions to see which makes sense for your business. Share it with your team and see if they get similar results.

One thing to note is that you can answer these same questions at a different stage in your business and get completely different results. I’ve built the quiz to adapt as your business and market matures.

Regardless of whether the quiz tells you to use a free trial or freemium model, consider whether a hybrid model might work, too. Below I outline three of the most common hybrid models.

  • Hybrid Model 1: Launch a new product
  • Hybrid Model 2: Go freemium, with a trial
  • Hybrid Model 3: Go free trial, follow with freemium


Build a Product-Led Foundation

Whether you’re considering launching a product-led model or you want to build a stronger product-led business, you’re about to learn what it really takes to make it happen. In this section, we’ll go through the UCD framework, which shows you how to build a solid foundation for your product-led business.

As you can see in the graph below, each step builds on the other:

  1. Understand your value.
  2. Communicate the perceived value of your product.
  3. Deliver on what you promise.

UCD framework

The real value of the UCD framework is that you can apply it to any of these scenarios:

  1. You’re just launching a business and want to go down the product-led path.
  2. You’re starting a product-led arm of an existing company.
  3. You’re transitioning from a sales-led to a product-led business.
  4. You want to relaunch your product-led model because it's currently underperforming.


Read the book for a complete and in-depth look into product-led growth, including detailed information on each step of the UCD framework mentioned above: Product-Led Growth: How to Build a Product That Sells Itself

Take it a step further and sign up for the training program.


What to do within the next year:

Begin to implement your product-led growth strategy in stages. As with any new strategy, you'll need to closely monitor the process and the output. 

Because this type of growth strategy requires your entire organization to shift its approach, you need to ensure all teams are doing their part.


Who should own this? 

Your product team will likely lead; however, sales, marketing, success, and engineering teams will all play a significant role to ensure a seamless experience for the customer.


Who's up next week?

Next week, Eugene Levin gives an inside look at the IPO process.

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Part of the way we measure success is by seeing if our content is shareable. If you got value from this episode and write up, we'd appreciate a share on Twitter or LinkedIn.


This is a Paddle production—the first media network dedicated entirely to the SaaS and subscription space.


By Patrick Campbell

Founder & CEO of ProfitWell, the software for helping subscription companies with their monetization and retention strategies, as well as providing free turnkey subscription financial metrics for over 20,000 companies. Prior to ProfitWell Patrick led Strategic Initiatives for Boston-based Gemvara and was an Economist at Google and the US Intelligence community.

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