When I joined CoderPad as CEO in late 2019, we had one product and ran a 100% self-serve motion (with no sales team) across a customer base of more than 1,500. But with thousands of monthly signups, in a market that’s less than 30% penetrated, I knew there was room to evolve our go-to-market (GTM) motion and drive product-led growth (PLG) at an even greater scale.
Flash forward a few years, and we now have two products, 4,000 customers, multiple buyer personas, and a dedicated sales team. As such, we’re continuously evolving our PLG motion to get folks into the funnel, understand the problem we solve, and find value quickly.
Here are four guiding PLG principles CoderPad follows to boost our product’s virality while driving deeper account growth.
Customers don’t fall down funnels that can’t meet their needs
To scale, you need to meet customers where they are. In other words: Someone won’t fall into your funnel if you can’t give them what they need. At CoderPad, this means adjusting our GTM strategy to accommodate different types of buyers.
CoderPad is built for engineering and talent acquisition leaders who want to run efficient interview processes and discern which candidates with the seemingly beautiful resumes actually have the right skills for the job. Our tools give them an integrated developer environment (IDE) to do paired programming, collaboratively solve problems, and work on code together throughout the interview process.
While we sell primarily to developers, we also sell to talent acquisition (TA) teams, who take a lot of heat when sending underqualified candidates into the interview process. In addition to this, our ideal customer profile (ICP) is software companies with 500-5,000 employees, so we also have to factor in a traditional enterprise sale. To this end, we’ve since expanded our funnel from one pure PLG motion to multiple motions that can support two buyers personas and two types of companies – these personas and company types can interact in a multitude of ways:
Developers seeking a self-serve experience that want to use CodePad immediately and pay via credit card.
TA teams who are more comfortable seeing a demo and asking questions vs. playing in the product themselves.
Small- to medium-sized software companies that prefer starting out on their own via a free trial but require sales support upon expanding.
Large software enterprises with multiple stakeholders, contractingRFP processes, and longer buying cycles - that definitely need to talk to sales before purchasing.
Remove the roadblocks in front of your high-intent customers
Bringing in 1,000+ monthly signups, our free trial is a regular source of scrutiny for what levers we can pull to increase our paid conversions. CoderPad runs a reverse trial, which offers unlimited access to features during the trial period and then downgrades folks to our freemium plan if they don’t convert to a paid plan.
The reverse trial approach works best for us because people typically have a candidate in hand going into the trial and, thus, get to peak value right away—80% of folks who activate in the product do so within the first hour. We recently expanded the trial length from 7 days to 14, which, at face value, seems counterintuitive based on how quickly folks activate. But here’s why it’s not:
- Our purchase cycle is much longer than the activation window. Because folks are often in the throes of interviewing when starting the trial, we have no issues getting them to activate in the product quickly. But there’s still the matter of handling logistics, such as getting a credit card on file, bringing in procurement, deciding on a plan, and so forth. Since the average purchasing cycle takes two weeks from the point of activation to when the deal closes, a 7-day trial simply doesn’t give people the runway they need.
- We put roadblocks in front of our highest-intent accounts. Not giving trialers enough time to purchase a paid plan or achieve product value caused unnecessary friction and human touchpoints for users who were going to convert anyway. While trialers could email us for an extension—something we initially viewed as a hot lead indicator—it ultimately slowed our self-serve motion and inserted sales reps into a process they weren’t needed for.
Navigate customer expansions using internal and external signals
Customer expansions are a key growth driver at CoderPad. We blend firmographic data with product behavior to uncover key signals, such as accounts that regularly hit their planned monthly capacities or usage. We also look at usage acceleration within an account, whether someone uses both products, and if TA and/or procurement stakeholders are added to an account.
To identify expansions in existing accounts, our reps focus on three key areas:
- Account consolidation. Consolidating accounts is one of our biggest expansion opportunities. It’s also where we see TA stakeholders the most since it often signals the need to standardize across all engineering hiring processes.
- Cross-selling products. Finally, while we’re best known for our live-interview product, we also have an upfront assessment tool that supports high-volume recruiting and helps TA teams vet whether candidates have the right skills during the recruiting process. Here, a strong signal is an account with a large number of open engineering roles.
In some circumstances, the best intel comes from information that isn’t readily available, such as how many open reqs are on a customer’s website. Say a customer churns due to a hiring freeze, but their website still shows 40 open reqs. Are they really not hiring—or are they going somewhere else? Or maybe we’re simply talking to the wrong person. Perhaps we’re talking to the head of mobile engineering, but all the growth is happening over on the API side. These are the types of external influences we have to be mindful of to grow the account.
The dollar you optimize for today won’t be there tomorrow
Finally, don’t optimize your PLG motion for the dollar today. Instead, focus on how and where you can do more to get people into your product. For us, this means experimenting with new channels and strategies to drive top-of-funnel growth, word of mouth, and product virality.
For example, community is an area we’re experimenting with a lot right now. While CoderPad has a community for leveling up interview skills and product knowledge in a fun and engaging way (Codingame.com), no engineer wants to actively participate in a community for technical interviewing—it’s simply a functional aspect of their job role. What we focus on here is where we can grow CoderPad’s presence within existing developer communities, whether those are language-based, framework-based, or topically-based.
Another unique value of CoderPad is that there is a candidate on one side of the interview process and an interviewer on the other. Whether that candidate gets the job or not, they will have experienced our tech and may need to eventually hire people in their next role. Because our end user is our future customer, we’ve always prioritized the candidate experience since it increases the virality of our tool.
The here and now is very much about providing value, which plays right into CoderPad’s sweet spot: making the technical interview process faster and easier. Right now, I see our future as being able to successfully reach and connect with all our buying stakeholders. For example, how can we support TA and recruiting teams who are currently constrained by budget and time?
We also have so many opportunities ahead of us. It’s always exciting to explore non-interviewing use cases, such as learning and development, but we also don’t want to lose sight of the core problem we’re solving. Most technical interviews are still done through screen share, Google Docs, or even a whiteboard, so our market is only 20-30% penetrated. So, while it’s easy to get distracted by the next use case and the one after that, we still have to finish the work we started.
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