5 ways to boost conversions with PQL marketing

Tracking PQLs is just the start. The best PLG companies run marketing on their PQLs to convert more into paying customers, faster.

Fred Melanson

July 28, 2022
·
4
 min read

If you're new to product-qualified lead (PQL) marketing, it can be hard to know where to start. What's a PQL? How does that differ from an MQL? How do I think about PQL vs MQL? And how do I set up a PQL marketing initiative? 

If these questions sound familiar, don't worry: We're here for you! 

This post is an introduction to how you can market to PQLs and how these marketing initiatives should convert leads into paying customers.

New to PLG? If you need a refresher on PLG as a whole, check out this in-depth article.

Your product-led future

In the "utopian future" of PQL marketing that’s waiting for you and your team, your company has successfully implemented a lead scoring system that targets and qualifies leads based on:

  • Their level of realized value from your product
  • Fit with your target buyer profile 
  • And readiness to make a purchase 

As a result, your company is able to focus its marketing efforts on individuals who are most likely to purchase your product, resulting in:

  • A higher conversion rate
  • Lower customer acquisition costs (CAC)
  • Less churn
  • And more revenue

But before you can realize this future for your company, let’s first take a look at how others are doing it today. 👇

Notion's PQL marketing tactic

Notion is a great example of how to do PQL marketing well.

Notion’s note-taking application is entirely community-driven. Users can create their own templates and share them with others, but they can also contribute to the templates other people have shared. 

Screenshot of notion templates

Notion’s user-generated template gallery.

These power users are able to earn money from the contributions they make to the Notion community. This PQL marketing strategy allows Notion to build on their existing community while also encouraging power users to be even more bought in to the product.

Notion's approach is similar to what other SaaS companies like Buffer and Groove have done in the past. The difference here is that Notion is not just asking for free content from its users; it's also asking them for feedback on what features need improvement, so that they can make sure their products remain relevant for as long as possible!

In Notion’s case: PQL marketing = rapid product growth + more successful users. 🚀`

Wait: What’s a PQL again?

Ever played whac-a-mole? Or tried to find a light switch in a dark room? 

That's what it feels like to have a sea of qualified leads to go after. You're doing a lot of outreach, alright. 

But the metrics aren't there. 

PQLs solve this problem for sales teams at product-led companies by combining signals from both your potential customer's product usage and their profile to identify your most promising leads. 

PQL definition: Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) are leads that exhibit both strong signals of engagement with your SaaS product (often through a freemium pricing model) and the potential to be a good fit for your ideal customer profile (ICP). 

PQLs are identified by analyzing both buying intent (how your users or accounts are interacting with your product) and fit (whether they are the right type of buyer for your product).

Venn diagram of PQLs

By focusing on PQLs, you can target prospects who are already actively engaging with your product and are more likely to be receptive to sales outreach. 

With this approach, you’re spending the majority of your selling efforts on users who have already experienced that aha moment with your product. 

How to build a PQL engine

As a result, PQLs tend to convert at a higher rate (5 times better) than Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and can be a valuable tool for driving growth in a product-led growth business model.

Here's a full breakdown of the illustration above (how to create a PQL engine).

Why should a company use PQLs instead of MQLs?

Let's get real: PQLs reign over MQLs for product-led businesses.

Sure MQLs can have potential but the probability them being the right person, at the right time, with the right need is much slimmer than someone already engaging with and getting value from your product.

Product-qualified leads, on the other hand? They've already taken a huge step toward understanding their needs and desires, and are ready to make a purchase.

There are several reasons why PLG companies use PQLs instead of MQLs:

  • PQLs are more likely to convert
  • PQLs are further along in the product journey
  • PQLs require less time and resources to convert
  • PQLs are a better use of sales reps' time

How to run PQL marketing tactics

Below is a quick guide to getting started with an effective PQL marketing strategy, broken down into a 5 concrete strategies.

1. Segment your PQLs  

Before you start marketing to your product qualified leads: it’s important to note that not all PQLs are created equal! 

The marketing strategy you pick from the list below will vary based on where your user fits within the scope of your PQL criteria. Here are the 4 most common PQL types.

PQL score in Calixa

If you look at product usage, here’s a matrix to understand which type of marketing engagement is best: 

Product usage qualification matrix

If you look at both product usage (Intent) and fit with your best customers (Fit), here’s a handy reference: 

Lead engagement matrix

2. Use in-app messaging to boost conversions

In-app messaging is one of the most effective ways to nurture product-qualified leads, and it's an important marketing tactic for product-led growth companies. This tactic should take an integrated approach with collaboration between the marketing, sales, customer success, and product team. 

Below is an example from Slack’s product team marketing a new feature to users 👇

Screenshot of Slack in-app notification

When you're striving for a product-led adoption, you need to be able to engage with your customers in a way that helps them understand your value proposition without having to talk to sales. 

In-app messaging allows you to do just that by giving you an opportunity to interact directly with your user and deliver personalized content at the right time.

Here’s a few ways to boost conversions with in-app messaging:

  • Provide real-time support and assistance to users who may be experiencing issues or have questions about your product. This can help resolve any roadblocks that may be preventing users from converting.
  • Showcase new features or updates that may be relevant to your user and encourage them to take action.
  • Highlight limited-time offers or promotions that may incentivize your user to convert.
  • Send personalized recommendations or suggestions based on your user's past activity or behavior within your product.
  • Provide educational content or resources that help your user understand the full value and capabilities of your product, which may encourage them to convert.
  • Collect feedback from users and use that feedback to make improvements to your customer experience.

3. Speed up paid conversions through social media awareness 

Social media awareness is an important marketing tactic for product-led growth companies because it allows you to build a community around your brand and product

This community is an essential part of your growth process, because it gives people who are interested in what you're doing a place to interact with one another and share ideas (think back to the example of how Notion shares their power users’ templates to drive engagement). 

Calixa case study Netlify

Here’s a few ways to drive conversion through social media awareness:

  • Utilize targeted social media advertising to reach PQLs.
  • Showcase the value and benefits of your product through customer testimonials and case studies with past PQLs. 
  • Offer special promotions or discounts to followers, which can incentivize them to convert.
  • Share user-generated content, such as reviews or photos from satisfied customers. This can help build social proof and encourage others to convert.
  • Use social media to gather feedback from customers and use that feedback to make improvements to your product.

🎯 Pro tip: Track the impacts of social media awareness on your PQLs’ usage of your product. This way you can see real-time impacts of your PQL social media marketing. 

4. Encourage successful users to share wins and review

As a product-led growth company, it's important to encourage your successful users to share their wins and experiences with your product. Not only does this help build social proof and credibility, but it can also inspire other users to achieve their own success with your product. 

Jasper testimonial

Remember: PQLs are successful users! 

And because they’ve already gotten value from your product, they're more likely to participate in the initiatives below and share deep insights.

A few ways to encourage successful users to share their product experiences:

  • Make it easy for users to share their successes by providing in-app sharing tools or integrations with social media platforms.
  • Showcase user-generated content, such as reviews and testimonials, prominently on your website and marketing materials.
  • Offer incentives or rewards for users who share their customer journey, such as discounts, exclusive access to features, or merchandise.
  • Create a community or ambassador program that rewards users for sharing their successes and promoting your product to their networks.
  • Utilize email marketing to reach out to successful users and ask for their feedback or to share their experiences with your product.

By actively encouraging successful users to share their experiences and wins, product-led growth companies can drive conversions and inspire others to achieve their own success with your product.

Example: Hugo

Hugo is a note-taking app recently acquired by Calendly. They engaged their PQLs by asking them to promote meeting templates they’ve created on the Hugo website. 

Hugo templates

The result was better relationships with their most qualified users (who eventually converted at a higher %), and free marketing for Hugo because PQLs were proud to make the list! 

5. Layer in sales at the right time 

Sales can be an essential part of converting PQLs, especially ones with high-revenue potential! 

Some PQLs need a human touch to feel comfortable committing to being paid customers, and having a sales team integrated into your PQL marketing strategy ready to upsell can make a huge difference.

It's important for PLG companies to track PQLs closely. This allows sales to focus on the qualified opportunities and leave the self-serve users alone, so they don't waste their time.

In this approach, sales acts as a special unit of the marketing team. Equipped with context on how the user is using the product, sales can send case studies, share tricks, suggest new approaches, and more. This is a great way to start a conversation with users and build trust without being overly promotional. 

Email to a product qualified lead

Revenue's on the table, go get it!

Having a well-structured PQL marketing strategy is key to your PLG motion. This includes leveraging your product to drive conversions, integrating sales and marketing efforts, and using data and machine learning to continuously optimize and improve your strategy.

When run effectively, PQL marketing has the potential to drive significant revenue growth, increased customer retention, and a strong GTM competitive advantage. 

Ready to get started? 

Check out the The Product-Led Sales Blog to go deeper and learn more. 

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Advice for Growth

5 ways to boost conversions with PQL marketing

Tracking PQLs is just the start. The best PLG companies run marketing on their PQLs to convert more into paying customers, faster.

Fred Melanson
|
Director of Content
|
Calixa

Subscribe to High Intent

Your PLG roundup in 5 minutes.

July 28, 2022
ReadTime

If you're new to product-qualified lead (PQL) marketing, it can be hard to know where to start. What's a PQL? How does that differ from an MQL? How do I think about PQL vs MQL? And how do I set up a PQL marketing initiative? 

If these questions sound familiar, don't worry: We're here for you! 

This post is an introduction to how you can market to PQLs and how these marketing initiatives should convert leads into paying customers.

New to PLG? If you need a refresher on PLG as a whole, check out this in-depth article.

Your product-led future

In the "utopian future" of PQL marketing that’s waiting for you and your team, your company has successfully implemented a lead scoring system that targets and qualifies leads based on:

  • Their level of realized value from your product
  • Fit with your target buyer profile 
  • And readiness to make a purchase 

As a result, your company is able to focus its marketing efforts on individuals who are most likely to purchase your product, resulting in:

  • A higher conversion rate
  • Lower customer acquisition costs (CAC)
  • Less churn
  • And more revenue

But before you can realize this future for your company, let’s first take a look at how others are doing it today. 👇

Notion's PQL marketing tactic

Notion is a great example of how to do PQL marketing well.

Notion’s note-taking application is entirely community-driven. Users can create their own templates and share them with others, but they can also contribute to the templates other people have shared. 

Screenshot of notion templates

Notion’s user-generated template gallery.

These power users are able to earn money from the contributions they make to the Notion community. This PQL marketing strategy allows Notion to build on their existing community while also encouraging power users to be even more bought in to the product.

Notion's approach is similar to what other SaaS companies like Buffer and Groove have done in the past. The difference here is that Notion is not just asking for free content from its users; it's also asking them for feedback on what features need improvement, so that they can make sure their products remain relevant for as long as possible!

In Notion’s case: PQL marketing = rapid product growth + more successful users. 🚀`

Wait: What’s a PQL again?

Ever played whac-a-mole? Or tried to find a light switch in a dark room? 

That's what it feels like to have a sea of qualified leads to go after. You're doing a lot of outreach, alright. 

But the metrics aren't there. 

PQLs solve this problem for sales teams at product-led companies by combining signals from both your potential customer's product usage and their profile to identify your most promising leads. 

PQL definition: Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) are leads that exhibit both strong signals of engagement with your SaaS product (often through a freemium pricing model) and the potential to be a good fit for your ideal customer profile (ICP). 

PQLs are identified by analyzing both buying intent (how your users or accounts are interacting with your product) and fit (whether they are the right type of buyer for your product).

Venn diagram of PQLs

By focusing on PQLs, you can target prospects who are already actively engaging with your product and are more likely to be receptive to sales outreach. 

With this approach, you’re spending the majority of your selling efforts on users who have already experienced that aha moment with your product. 

How to build a PQL engine

As a result, PQLs tend to convert at a higher rate (5 times better) than Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and can be a valuable tool for driving growth in a product-led growth business model.

Here's a full breakdown of the illustration above (how to create a PQL engine).

Why should a company use PQLs instead of MQLs?

Let's get real: PQLs reign over MQLs for product-led businesses.

Sure MQLs can have potential but the probability them being the right person, at the right time, with the right need is much slimmer than someone already engaging with and getting value from your product.

Product-qualified leads, on the other hand? They've already taken a huge step toward understanding their needs and desires, and are ready to make a purchase.

There are several reasons why PLG companies use PQLs instead of MQLs:

  • PQLs are more likely to convert
  • PQLs are further along in the product journey
  • PQLs require less time and resources to convert
  • PQLs are a better use of sales reps' time

How to run PQL marketing tactics

Below is a quick guide to getting started with an effective PQL marketing strategy, broken down into a 5 concrete strategies.

1. Segment your PQLs  

Before you start marketing to your product qualified leads: it’s important to note that not all PQLs are created equal! 

The marketing strategy you pick from the list below will vary based on where your user fits within the scope of your PQL criteria. Here are the 4 most common PQL types.

PQL score in Calixa

If you look at product usage, here’s a matrix to understand which type of marketing engagement is best: 

Product usage qualification matrix

If you look at both product usage (Intent) and fit with your best customers (Fit), here’s a handy reference: 

Lead engagement matrix

2. Use in-app messaging to boost conversions

In-app messaging is one of the most effective ways to nurture product-qualified leads, and it's an important marketing tactic for product-led growth companies. This tactic should take an integrated approach with collaboration between the marketing, sales, customer success, and product team. 

Below is an example from Slack’s product team marketing a new feature to users 👇

Screenshot of Slack in-app notification

When you're striving for a product-led adoption, you need to be able to engage with your customers in a way that helps them understand your value proposition without having to talk to sales. 

In-app messaging allows you to do just that by giving you an opportunity to interact directly with your user and deliver personalized content at the right time.

Here’s a few ways to boost conversions with in-app messaging:

  • Provide real-time support and assistance to users who may be experiencing issues or have questions about your product. This can help resolve any roadblocks that may be preventing users from converting.
  • Showcase new features or updates that may be relevant to your user and encourage them to take action.
  • Highlight limited-time offers or promotions that may incentivize your user to convert.
  • Send personalized recommendations or suggestions based on your user's past activity or behavior within your product.
  • Provide educational content or resources that help your user understand the full value and capabilities of your product, which may encourage them to convert.
  • Collect feedback from users and use that feedback to make improvements to your customer experience.

3. Speed up paid conversions through social media awareness 

Social media awareness is an important marketing tactic for product-led growth companies because it allows you to build a community around your brand and product

This community is an essential part of your growth process, because it gives people who are interested in what you're doing a place to interact with one another and share ideas (think back to the example of how Notion shares their power users’ templates to drive engagement). 

Calixa case study Netlify

Here’s a few ways to drive conversion through social media awareness:

  • Utilize targeted social media advertising to reach PQLs.
  • Showcase the value and benefits of your product through customer testimonials and case studies with past PQLs. 
  • Offer special promotions or discounts to followers, which can incentivize them to convert.
  • Share user-generated content, such as reviews or photos from satisfied customers. This can help build social proof and encourage others to convert.
  • Use social media to gather feedback from customers and use that feedback to make improvements to your product.

🎯 Pro tip: Track the impacts of social media awareness on your PQLs’ usage of your product. This way you can see real-time impacts of your PQL social media marketing. 

4. Encourage successful users to share wins and review

As a product-led growth company, it's important to encourage your successful users to share their wins and experiences with your product. Not only does this help build social proof and credibility, but it can also inspire other users to achieve their own success with your product. 

Jasper testimonial

Remember: PQLs are successful users! 

And because they’ve already gotten value from your product, they're more likely to participate in the initiatives below and share deep insights.

A few ways to encourage successful users to share their product experiences:

  • Make it easy for users to share their successes by providing in-app sharing tools or integrations with social media platforms.
  • Showcase user-generated content, such as reviews and testimonials, prominently on your website and marketing materials.
  • Offer incentives or rewards for users who share their customer journey, such as discounts, exclusive access to features, or merchandise.
  • Create a community or ambassador program that rewards users for sharing their successes and promoting your product to their networks.
  • Utilize email marketing to reach out to successful users and ask for their feedback or to share their experiences with your product.

By actively encouraging successful users to share their experiences and wins, product-led growth companies can drive conversions and inspire others to achieve their own success with your product.

Example: Hugo

Hugo is a note-taking app recently acquired by Calendly. They engaged their PQLs by asking them to promote meeting templates they’ve created on the Hugo website. 

Hugo templates

The result was better relationships with their most qualified users (who eventually converted at a higher %), and free marketing for Hugo because PQLs were proud to make the list! 

5. Layer in sales at the right time 

Sales can be an essential part of converting PQLs, especially ones with high-revenue potential! 

Some PQLs need a human touch to feel comfortable committing to being paid customers, and having a sales team integrated into your PQL marketing strategy ready to upsell can make a huge difference.

It's important for PLG companies to track PQLs closely. This allows sales to focus on the qualified opportunities and leave the self-serve users alone, so they don't waste their time.

In this approach, sales acts as a special unit of the marketing team. Equipped with context on how the user is using the product, sales can send case studies, share tricks, suggest new approaches, and more. This is a great way to start a conversation with users and build trust without being overly promotional. 

Email to a product qualified lead

Revenue's on the table, go get it!

Having a well-structured PQL marketing strategy is key to your PLG motion. This includes leveraging your product to drive conversions, integrating sales and marketing efforts, and using data and machine learning to continuously optimize and improve your strategy.

When run effectively, PQL marketing has the potential to drive significant revenue growth, increased customer retention, and a strong GTM competitive advantage. 

Ready to get started? 

Check out the The Product-Led Sales Blog to go deeper and learn more.