The Revenue Engine

Product Led Growth as a Mindset with Esben Friis-Jensen, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Userflow

October 21, 2022

The Revenue Engine

Each week, Revenue Operations expert Rosalyn Santa Elena shines the spotlight on founders, CEOs, and Revenue Leaders from hyper-growth companies and dives deep into the strategies they implement to drive growth and share their learnings. Rosalyn brings you inspirational stories from revenue generators, innovators and disruptors, as well as Revenue Leaders in sales, marketing, and operations.

Product-led growth (PLG) is such a hot topic right now. But how do you know if this product-led motion is right for your business?

In this episode of The Revenue Engine Podcast, Esben Friis-Jensen, the Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Userflow, shares his perspective on how to set up a PLG motion for success.

Esben is a huge champion of the power of product-led and shares best practices around a PLG motion - and explains why it is not just a motion - it’s a mindset.


Connect with Esben on LinkedIn, or at the Userflow website.

Follow Rosalyn on LinkedIn.

The Revenue Engine is powered by Outreach.

The opinions expressed in this episode are the speaker's own and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Sales IQ or any sponsors.

Rosalyn Santa Elena
Host @ Revenue Engine Podcast + Founder & Chief Revenue Operations Officer @ The RevOps Collective.

[00:00:00] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Welcome to the Revenue Engine podcast. I'm your host, Rosalyn Santa Elena, and I am thrilled to bring you the most inspirational stories from revenue generators, innovators, and disruptors, revenue leaders in sales, in marketing, and of course in operations. Together, we will unpack everything that optimizes and powers the revenue engine. Are you ready? Let's get to it.

Product led growth is top of mind in such a hot topic right now, but how do you know if this product led motion is right for your business? How do you get started? How do you build. And how do you set it up for success?

[00:00:50] Sponsor: Today's podcast is sponsored by Outreach is the first and only engagement and intelligence platform built by revenue innovators, for revenue innovators. Outreach allows you to commit to an accurate sales forecast, replace manual processes with real-time guidance, and unlock actionable customer intelligence that guides you and your team to win more often. Traditional tools don't work in a hybrid sales world. Find out why Outreach is the right solution at

[00:01:29] Rosalyn Santa Elena: In this episode of the Revenue Engine Podcast, I am joined by Esben Fries Jensen, a two time founder, currently building Userflow as the co-founder and chief growth officer.

Userflow is a product first company for product first companies. Esben and his co-founder are building a solution that allows you to quickly and easily build highly customized and dynamic onboarding flows, product tours, and in-app help guides. Esben is a huge champion of the power of product led and share's best practices around a PLG motion.

But he also explains why it's not just emotion, it's a mindset. So please take a listen and learn from this two time founder. So excited to be here today with Esben Friis-Jensen, the Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Userflow. Userflow allows you to quickly and easily build highly customized and dynamic onboarding flows, product tours, and in help guides.

So welcome Esben. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm super excited to share your story and just learn from you.

[00:02:42] Esben Friis-Jensen: Thank you. It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

[00:02:45] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Awesome, Awesome. So let's start by talking a little bit about your journey maybe before Userflow, because I saw you were a consultant at Accenture.

You were also already a co-founder and chief customer officer at Cobalt. So maybe can you share more about your backstory, you know, your career journey? Prior to Userflow?

[00:03:02] Esben Friis-Jensen: Yeah. So I'm, I'm, but I'm based in San Francisco, but originally from Denmark. And my first job out of college was as a consultant in Accenture.

Basically just doing big software rollouts as they do in those kind of companies, for, for more old school corporations. And that was fun for a while, but I really always wanted to build something myself and be an entrepreneur. So I met a, a colleague in Accenture who had the same dreams and, and ambitions

And we joined forces together with two other of our friends to basically start Cobalt. Back in 2013. Cobalt was a security company or security software as a service company, basically, where you could do penetration testing as a service. And yeah, we built that out. Was there, I was there for eight years.

And today I think there are at least 200 plus people, maybe 250 plus people and still going strong. But I left it operationally. Back in 2021 to basically join my co-founder Sebastian and do a use flow.

[00:04:03] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Got it, Got it. That's great. So second time founders, so it'll be interesting to hear some of your lessons learned there as well.

You know, I think oftentimes when I talk to founders on the podcast, I often find out that they, you know, a company got started, you know, with, they faced a problem, they faced some kind of challenge, you know, something that they're trying to solve. Or maybe there's just some kind of, you know, aha moment or some event that happens.

Was this the case for a Userflow? Like what led you and your co-founder to start the company?

[00:04:29] Esben Friis-Jensen: So it was my co-founder, Sebastian, who got the idea for Userflow. He had actually built another product something I always, always also wanted to build, which was A product where you could basically rerecord video.

So you could basically do, let's say you did a product demo video of your SaaS product. Then you could basically do it in a way so you could easily rerecord it if, let's say some colors changed or similar. So it basically became an easier to. Product, video, demo. But what he realized was he wasn't seeing a lot of traction on that.

And then he had built, as part of that product, he had built a product tour and people kept asking him, How did you build that? And then he started analyzing. He had built in himself, he's a developer. So he started analyzing the market a bit and saw that there were definitely a lot of players doing.

Product chores and in-app guides and so on. But they were all, all pretty hard to use for, for non-developers. And he thought that he could do it in a, in a better way. And that's how the. Userflow originated. So yeah, so basically he pivoted his business to, to build Userflow.

And then he convinced me to join him on the journey to help lead basically the, the growth and, and customer success and these kind of parts of the business where he could then focus on, on the product. Got it. Got it.

[00:05:51] Rosalyn Santa Elena: That's great. Yeah. It's funny how somebody developed something for one purpose and then it.

People are interested in some other part of the, the functionality. That's awesome. Yeah. So, you know, being able to make potential buyers really aware of your product or offering Right. And teaching them without ever actually talking to someone live. Right. Has opened up this just huge market for product led growth.

In fact, you know, as we were talking about a little bit earlier, I mean, everyone is talking about product led mm-hmm. , I think PLG has become such a common term that it's almost like, it's almost become a buzzword a little bit. But what is, I guess, product led mean to you? And maybe from your perspective, what are some of the things that businesses should be thinking about, Right.

To determine if PLG is even right for

[00:06:32] Esben Friis-Jensen: them? Yeah, no, so. First of all, I'm a, I'm a big fan of product led growth in Cobalt. We, we, and that's how I actually, one big reason why I decided to join Sebastian was in Cobalt we went on a journey to transition from the more sales led approach towards the more product led approach.

And Userflow is a born product. And also you can say, solves a problem that a lot of product led companies wanna solve for namely product onboarding. But what product led growth means to me is basically that you always think product first in everything you do. . So it's really a mindset and a, a culture that focuses around the product.

That means basically everybody from sales, customer success, marketing basically the entire organization needs to think product first in everything they do. So instead of thinking, how can we hire more sales people, To grow our business, then maybe think how can we have the product due to selling for us or enhance our free trial process to convert more customers and so on.

So it's a different mindset. It doesn't exclude the possibilities to have people involved. It's just that you always. Kind of prioritize the product over adding big people teams.

[00:07:42] Rosalyn Santa Elena: That makes sense. What about like for businesses, like they're, if they're thinking about going into plg, like what are some of the things maybe you think they should be thinking about, whether, you know, is it even right for them?

[00:07:51] Esben Friis-Jensen: Yeah, I think it's, it's really you can come from two worlds, right? One world is that you are brand new startups starting out. Then I think you should just do it, especially if it's a fairly. Established space like some space where you don't need to educate the buyers on, on, on, on, on the market and the problem and so on in those kind of well-defined spaces.

Product like growth works very well and it can be a competitive advantage for Early estate startups to have that, to use that model. Cause many of the older businesses, older software businesses, they don't have that model and it actually limits their capabilities to grow, in my view. But then if you are a, a larger SaaS business who might have had a sales led approach for a while and you're thinking about, you heard about this product, Growth concept and you're thinking about it I definitely also think you should jump into it.

But it's, it's going to be a bigger. Journey because it's really a big culture change for your company. And that's something you'd really need to think about is like, how do we change that culture? And a lot of that comes from the management. Of course. They need to buy into it 100%, otherwise the company is not gonna buy into it.

You, it's really hard to do these things bottom up. So it needs to come from the management. And then when you have that management buy-in, it's a constant kind of cross-functional. Effort to drive this this transition in your company. And it's not easy but, but you can, you can gain a lot from doing it.

I, I've seen many companies do this with great success, so yeah.

[00:09:23] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Yeah, yeah. I love that. It definitely is a big culture shift, right? Moving from sales led to product led, because I mean, the entire motion is different. I mean, the companies I've worked for where we've had. It has been very, you know, from an operational perspective and more so even just from a mindset perspective, as you mentioned, it's very, very different, right?

It's marketing always wants to kind of jump in and they wanna get leads and get all the information, start putting them in a campaign. And this is more of a much more of a farming kind of harvesting, you know, type of business where you sit back and wait right until things are ready and I guess ripe and ready to be to be harvested.

[00:09:57] Esben Friis-Jensen: Yeah, you can, yes, you can say so, but it's also. That you are proactive with your product instead of proactive with people. Yeah. Right. You're kind of building your product towards that journey instead of having people do it. I like that. Product, they've made this nice overview. If you go to their website where you can basically see how.

This process of product led versus sales led, right? Where you basically say, Okay, in the sales led world, you have a customer coming to your website. And then they request a demo, then they get to speak with a PDR or whatever, some junior salesperson, and then they get transferred to a senior salesperson, and then they discuss back and forth.

Then they maybe do a contract and then they get to try the product. Right? Where product led growth is really a big part of that is simplifying that process that you, a user gets to your product, they sign up for free or free trial and they get convinced to use your product by looking at the product, trying the product.

And then they might even buy a cell service, right? Or in a more complex. Procurements that are, they will reach out and, and speak with a salesperson, but then they at least have tried the product before they, they bought it. Right. Yeah. It, it's a, it's a new way of thinking.

[00:11:11] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Absolutely. So I guess once an organization decides, That, you know, the PLG motion makes sense for their business or maybe one area of the business, Right.

If they have both con different types of sales motions mm-hmm. and helping the user get onboarded quickly is obviously critical. Right. To helping realize that value quickly. Yep. So maybe from your perspective what should businesses be thinking about really to help onboard users in that most frictionless way?

[00:11:34] Esben Friis-Jensen: Yeah. There, there are a couple of different things. One can think about Yes, onboarding is super important, especially if, let's say you have a free trial or free or even post-purchase if you wanna retain your, your customers. But let's say in this free trial scenario you really want to drive users to see the value.

In your product as fast as possible. Some people refer to that as aha moments where they basically, that's where they kinda realize okay, this is a great product. I want to try it more. Typically there's not only one aha moment. There's really many aha moments. But, but there, there will be some.

Initial aha moment that you want to get them to as fast as possible. So really when you build onboarding, that's what you should have in mind. You should figure out how can I drive my users to experience that moment as fast as possible, right? And as frictionless as possible, because that's the other thing, if you had too, Early stage friction.

You, you might not show them the value and, and they get annoyed by that, right? On the other hand, you can add good friction, which is where you ask them to do something. But with the result of is that they experience the value, right? So, so really what we recommend is typically just really baseline onboarding is some kind of welcome message, and then an a, a guidance towards an initial aha.

And then you can compliment that with a checklist that might drive the user towards one or two, three additional aha moments that you wanna drive them towards. And it's important to make it very action driven. So many and you're probably gonna ask me how, how do people do, what do people do wrong?

I think what you see many do is really that they do these kind of boring. Next, next, next tours. You enter the product and then it's like, okay, this is what this button do next. This is what this button do next. And yes, you can have a simple flow like that maybe in the beginning, but really what you should have on top of that is some kind of flow that drives towards action, right?

Like you really want the user to do something with your product so they experience what your product can do and what the value is you bring instead of having them read about. What the product goes right. So, so I think those are some of the important things.

[00:13:51] Rosalyn Santa Elena: I like that. I mean, we've all had those demos where you just kinda go, you do something and you go next, next, and you're just more focused on just clicking the buttons than actually, you know, experiencing the product.

Yeah, that's great advice. So once they are onboarded, they're using the product, like do you, what should businesses be doing to now start to drive that better adoption and increase usage? Right. You talked about sort of. Creating multiple aha moments. Are there other things that businesses should be doing?

[00:14:19] Esben Friis-Jensen: Yeah, I think the way we always look at onboarding at use flow is like, onboarding never ends, right? You really you, you really should have. But I would, but I would also say onboarding is more intense in the beginning. And then it should become less intense over time, right? Because you should expect that customers have gotten to know your, your product and they, they kind of understand it now, right?

And then you move more towards, I would call the self-help face or the self-discover phase where you might have something like a resource center widget or something similar to that where you are allowing users to search for help themselves. They can go and look for knowledge based articles or they can maybe even start in app guides to learn about something.

But it's very on demand. It's not something popping up in their face necessarily. And then you can combine that of course, with a chat functionality. I do. Even though you can do a lot of stuff with automation, I still believe there should always be a. So you can reach an actual human being when you need.

So and, and that, that's something I think a lot of product like businesses. Or think that they, or they might have too big of a vision that the product needs to run everything. But really you still want to have that human touch. You just wanna make it the last resort. It should be something that they, they kinda, when they.

Tried everything to help themselves. They should still be able to find a person. Right. We all been in that scenario where we know we've tried, we looked online and we know we cannot find the solution, and then we come to a chat, and then the chat tries to give us the knowledge base one more time.

Right. And you just get annoyed by that because you know, I already looked at world as why, why you showing me this again? Right. Yeah. At that point, you just wanna talk to a human being. So that should be available as well. So, so that's kind of the OnDemand help, which is kind of ongoing always on.

And then on top of that, you can adopt course to new feature announcements, right? You can announce whenever you do a new feature or. Or if you see a certain unused feature, you can try to highlight it a bit more and guide users towards these newer functionalities so they know they exist. That was, I know a big problem we had in COBAL and, and in any other SAS business, I think is driving attention to new features because people tend to just get.

Kind of focused on their core use case, and then they miss out on a lot of great things that could make their workflow more.

[00:16:47] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Yeah. Yeah. I like that. I like that. Yeah. You know, I think you know, realizing that value. You know, it's really critical, right? To be able to ultimately, potentially convert these users to potential longer term customers or if they're in that kind of freemium model, you know, converting them potentially to a paying customer.

[00:17:04] Esben Friis-Jensen: Mm-hmm. .

[00:17:04] Rosalyn Santa Elena: What are some of the ways, I guess, that you've seen organizations do this really well and you know, to your point earlier, maybe. The ones that aren't doing it, as well as also .

[00:17:13] Esben Friis-Jensen: I'm not gonna bad mouth anyone. No, I think there are many organizations doing onboarding well. I think good examples.

Web Flow is a great example of a complex platform where they have a, a great kind of use case driven onboarding. You sign up, they ask you about a simple question about your use case. You fill that out and then it basically shows you how. For instance, build their website according to that use case, right?

And really get a initial understanding of their builder. One thing they don't try to do is explain you every single functionality in their builder, because that would be insane. And, and people would just get like, what is going on? Right? But they really try to focus on the, on the core parts. And that's also something we do ourselves at Userflow, right?

We are also a builder and we also just focus. As the first thing when the user signs in, it's like, okay you should learn how to build a flow with us. So we show them how to do that, right? And they get to build a flow within the first minute of them visiting our website, right? So in that way we are driving them to an action that should make them realize, okay, this is super easy.

This is great. I like it. Right? And so on. Another thing we do, which I can use an example to reduce friction is in many platforms and just like use flow, in order to install Userflow for end users, you need to install some kind of JavaScript code in your application. And it's the same for analytics providers and many other.

Tools out there. But what we have done is we have created a Chrome extension, which means you can actually preview content in your app before you install that piece of code. So it's just running locally on your machine. Right. In that way we are removing a friction point that is that they had to ask a develop.

To install that code before they could actually see the value. Right. And many of our, the customers coming to us are really, you know, customer success managers or product managers. They don't have like the, the, the possibility to just go and add some code in that product. Right. So that's an example of how you can remove friction in a scenario where eventually that friction is needed, but you don't want to have that friction in the beginning, right? Cause you want to convince them that this is a valuable tool before you ask them to do something more complex.

[00:19:27] Rosalyn Santa Elena: There other things that maybe you was. Suggest for organizations to do to sort of, you know, shorten that time to value.

You know, you already, I think you already touched on quite a few things on how to help highlight the value to the user. Mm-hmm. . Are there any, is there anything else that you would add maybe to that?

[00:19:41] Esben Friis-Jensen: I think, I've talked a lot about in-app guidance, I've talked a lot about all this stuff, right?

But really what it comes down to, and this is what the, the thing I love most about product life growth is it's about having a great product, right? A product that solves a real problem in a, in a smart way. And there's no way to hide that in a product like growth world, right? Because you're really putting a, the product in the hands of, of the customer from day one, right?

So that's the number one thing. Yes, all the guides and stuff helps and you should definitely do those. Alright? I recommend that. Really what it comes down to is you building a great product and having a focus on ux. As, as a number one thing in Userflow. Us as a born product led business, UX issues is something we take extremely seriously and we probably spend.

You know, close to 50% of our development time on just making sure the UX is top notch, right? And, and, and that's something you should always keep in mind. And that includes removing friction, removing things that users don't understand, and, and making things crystal clear. So, so, so they quickly can, can kinda use your product and, and realize the value.

[00:20:57] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Yep. I love that. I love the attention to the user interface. I mean, it's, it's such a big part of, you know, of the user experience because just getting to the value of the product, being able to have to understand what you're looking at, be able to understand how to use the product is half the battle, right?

Yeah. Especially, you know, I think about us as buyers and consumers, right? We are much smarter, we're more informed. We have all this information at our hands, but we. Much more demanding, right? Yeah. We wanna try a product, we wanna use it, engage it, you know, engage with it, and then we may or may not decide to purchase it.

We do this through sort of the Freeman model that you were talking about. There's all this try and buy, there's self-serve, right? There's all these ways for us to start to use a product. But I think the key from a market perspective is knowing, you know, when or how to start to engage. You know, what are your thoughts, you know, here.

You know, since I know you run all of this part of the business as well on top of everything else mm-hmm. , but what are your thoughts here on how, you know, revenue leaders should really be thinking about, you know, when do we engage a client from a go to market perspective? And then how do we best leverage sort of the self-serve model to help you know, identify those potential buyers, Right.

And start kind of moving. Through the funnel.

[00:22:09] Esben Friis-Jensen: Yeah. Great question. So there's, there's a concept called product qualified lead that's gaining popularity in, in the sales and marketing world. And basically what it is, is that you use the product to determine when a lead and typically that's somebody who has done a free trial of freemium, but it can also be somebody who just did some kind of self-serve.

Demo on your website. Depends on your criteria. So that becomes like, okay, a product qualified lead which is a lead we should take more seriously because they are more likely to convert if we. Just push them in the right direction. But it's a general balance because some of these product qualified leads are also just gonna buy themselves without anybody interacting with them.

So I think it's, it's kind of the first thing is really understanding what is a product qualified lead to you. Right? In Userflow. We started with a symbol. Kinda equation for that. We basically said it's a ICP that spent more than 30 minutes building flows in our product, so doing 30 minutes in our trial.

It's a builder product, so it's something if you don't engage with it and start building, you're not really engaged. Right. But it might be something else for, for another product. Right. So, so that's just one example and I, I'm a big believer in starting symbol and then you can always make it more complex use more advanced analytics rules as you learn more about these users.

Right. And they're starting to become they're starting to be a whole industry around. PQL monitoring. I think we call, they, they, in the beginning they were called product led CRMs, but it's starting to move more towards being called product led revenue. Cause they were not really truly CRMs, but more like a PQL tool, right?

So, so there's a lot of tooling for that. But you can also just start symbol and, and look at that. So define your peaks, and then you should really define. When should sales, if we want sales to engage with customers. Cause you can do a lot of automated emailing, right? Or automated touchpoints.

So, so you can have a lot of proactive automated touchpoints and I think you should already. Have them from, you know, the beginning of the trial or beginning of when they sign up for a product. You can do a lot of automated emails that if they respond to them, you can of course respond. But then whenever a actual salesperson should engage is probably when it's a PLL that has kind of, you know, or something that's close to a peak girl.

Maybe they didn't fulfill all the criteria. But they, they kind of spend a bunch of time in the trial and maybe the trial expired and now you're kind of okay ready to engage, right? But the proactive engagement from sales is always a bit risky. And typically what you will see in product led instead is reacts of engagement.

The customer will actually reach out with questions. The only thing you need to do is make yourself available. As a per either via support channels or via a single email or something. So they know there's a person that exists that we can reach out to, right? So let them, instead of being like pushy and like writing to them all the time on all channels, then try initially to get them to engage first.

So let them kind of drive the conversation, right? So they try the product. You make aware you are there and then they can ask questions if they like. Right. That's typically the process you see in product led much more than the more pushy. Kind of sales led approach.

[00:25:32] Rosalyn Santa Elena: That's great advice. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. You know, as I think about the revenue engine and this podcast, I'm always hoping others will be able to learn how to accelerate revenue growth and literally power that revenue engine. Yeah. So maybe from your perspective, you know, what are the top couple of things, maybe two or three things that you think all revenues leaders should really be thinking about today, Right. To help accelerate and grow revenue?

[00:25:55] Esben Friis-Jensen: Yeah, I think we should, to stay on topic. Do you have a product led motion today? If not, should you have one? Right? And I think most software as a service businesses especially no, almost anybody should answer yes to that question unless they're in a market that's very uneducated on the problem space.

Right. I'm still surprised that I see whole industries. Where it, it's in software as a service where they, all the vendors in that space have request a demo. Right. And it's just like, Why do you do that? Right? Like I'm a I'm an educated buyer. I come to your product, I want to try it. Right? So it just means when I'm just, and I'm just one person, I then there must be more than me, right?

And that's a mistake. I think it's a mistake that you still live in that world where everything required a demo to, to sell something, right? I think we're way beyond that with the. The end user era as some coined the term, but also, you know, it's just SAS has matured, right? I think software as a service was really immature in many ways.

It was not ready. To do self-service all the way, but now we live in a world where software as a service is ready for that. And you, you should you should have a product led motion to, to compete in the future. And, and I think it's almost, yeah, it's very few spaces where you couldn't do it.

Have some kind of product like motion.

[00:27:21] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Yeah. Yeah. I love. I love that. Well, thank you so much for joining me. But as we wrap up, and before I let you go, I always ask every guest two things. So one, you know, what is the one thing about you that maybe others would be surprised to learn? And two, what is the one thing that you, you really want everyone to know about you?

[00:27:40] Esben Friis-Jensen: Oh, good questions, I mean I lived, I lived in Tanzania through my youth, so I, I was truly as I like to say, born global in, in Africa, , and then moved to the US from after living in Denmark for a while. So I've been a bit over, all over the place and, and also traveled a lot of the US recently living in different places.

So, yeah, I lo I, I love being on the, on the road and, and, and visiting and living in different places. What I would like most people to know, I don't know if there's anything I would uh, that, that I'm, I'm so selfish that I would love people to know about me, but But no I much rather want people to know about the company that I'm building, Userflow together with my my co-founder spa. We wanna of course bring that to the world and, and have more customers use that. So yeah, much more interesting.

[00:28:28] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Love it. Love it. Well, thank you so much for joining me. I'm so happy that we were able to do this, and I can't wait to just go back and listen. I think there's just so many great insights and tips for, you know, the audience to hear. So I really appreciate your time and very grateful for you sharing your story.

[00:28:43] Esben Friis-Jensen: Thank you. Thank you. My pleasure.

This episode was digitally transcribed.

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