Staying one move ahead with product-led growth at Freshworks

Every SaaS organization needs a unique go-to-market (GTM) model and a product-led strategy to execute its vision, says Jose Morales.

The Freshworks CRO likens his role to that of a chess ‘Grandmaster’—researching cadences of various GTM models, market segments, product lines across geographical locations for the best way to reach, retain, and grow customers: “You are trying to think about what moves you’re going to make in the next four or five moves,” he says.

Thinking ahead is nothing short of a power move in the world of software, which has always experienced rapid and transformational flows since inception. Beyond sales and marketing plays, what attracts customers and keeps them delighted is a great software product—one that’s easy to buy, try, and use. And the approach of product-led growth plays to that effect.

Product-led growth doesn’t depend on how big you are as a company, nor how big your customers get. More than a decade ago, when Freshworks (then Freshdesk) forayed into the customer support market, we catered to smaller companies with simpler needs. As time progressed, richer features and better functionality have enabled us to also accommodate mid-size and enterprise level customers without compromising on simplicity. But what has remained constant is our approach: Regardless of size, at Freshworks we still believe that all of our customers deserve top-of-the-line product experience.

The bottom-up approach, where we move from smaller to bigger teams, is effective for product-led growth since it allows us to build simplicity into how customer journeys work. Jose explains that for companies that start with the Fortune 500 and then try to move down, the difficulty lies in trying to simplify the product for smaller use cases. On the contrary, we can witness much better growth and scale when we start with simple use cases and then add in layers of richer functionality that keeps end-users delighted.

At Freshworks, we build products that can translate really well from small teams to large teams.  As Jose puts it simply:

We build for the Fortune 5000 not just the 500.

In a chat with best-selling author and Forbes writer Micah Solomon, as part of the Freshworks series Fresh Insights, Jose Morales offers his views on product-led growth, go-to-market strategies, SMBs, and digital transformation, focusing on end-user delight regardless of the size of the company.

Edited excerpts:

What are the essentials for creating growth at Freshworks?

For us, we are trying to make great software that is easy to buy, try, and use. It is important that you take care of your end customer or end user, and that they like using your product.

As you zero in on product-led growth, what are the elements that are universal, regardless of the stage?

You want to make sure that you build great products because your customers are part of your marketing plan, and you want them saying good things about you and taking you to new companies. It doesn’t matter how big you get as a company. You want that same great out-of-the-box experience, and if you take your eyes off that, you will be punished by the users in the end. At the end of the day, you want your customers to love your product and take it to the next company. 

Has the pandemic changed the approach you take to building a business?

We haven’t had to rethink how we work, because we were already using chat products or video communication. It has been difficult not to be in an office setting and visit customers, but I think we’ve continued just fine. A lot of our customers have had to accelerate their digital transformation, due to being used to working in the office rather than remotely.

How did Freshworks start with SMBs and move into enterprises?

We started with SMBs because we wanted to provide the basic needs for a small company, and as time progressed, we were able to make the product richer in features. A couple of things happened that moved us into the mid-market. First, a lot of our customers grew, so eventually we just had mid-market companies. We have also been able to move upmarket while still servicing our smaller customers, without making the product too complex, and provide the full feature richness that mid-market companies really need. 

When you’re determining product-market fit, what are the keys to succeeding there?

The most important thing you can look at once you’ve sold your product is usage statistics. Then, in a customer with many users, is it expanding to other users and other teams? The product-led growth won’t actually fit if you don’t have product-market fit. We set certain types of KPIs that we can track, as well as getting feedback from our customers to make sure they’re enthusiastically liking our product. 

Check out the Fresh Insights page for Jose Morales’ complete video interview, as well as fascinating perspectives from Freshworks CEO and senior executives on culture, empathetic marketing, and a delightful customer experience.

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