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What is Customer-Led Growth + Who Needs It?

Simply uttering the words “customer-led growth” to most business owners — hell, even most marketing teams — is the fastest way to learn all about how well (or not) that business is performing according to customer satisfaction surveys or how exceptional (or not) that business’s customer support is.

But that’s not what customer-led growth is.

Here’s the thing…

Good customer service doesn’t make you customer-led.

Giving your customers everything they want doesn’t make you customer-led.

Grinding for better NPS or CSat scores doesn’t make you customer-led.

So, what the hell is customer-led growth, really?

What is Customer-Led Growth?

Customer-led growth is the difference between giving customers faster horses and giving customers cars.

According to my friends at Forget the Funnel, Georgiana Laudi (Gia) and Claire Suellentrop, customer-led growth (CLG) is

“a strategic approach that leverages customer insights to qualify and quantify customer value, then operationalize and optimize the end-to-end customer experience.”

— Forget the Funnel

Sounds a little complex, doesn’t it? Truthfully, though, CLG can be broken down into three things:

  • Customer discovery
  • Jobs-to-be-Done
  • Customer experience mapping

Let’s talk about each of those things a bit more.

Customer Discovery

Customer discovery is all about finding out what struggle the customer was facing that prompted them to look for a solution like the one you’re offering. This data helps you with positioning, messaging, and knowing what KPIs (key performance indicators) to focus on.

Jobs-to-be-Done

Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) is a framework for identifying why people choose the solutions they choose. The idea behind it is that customers “hire” products to help them solve a problem. That problem is the product’s “job” that the customer “hires” it to do.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

This quote by Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt is JTBD in a nutshell. People who buy quarter-inch drills are “hiring” the drill to do the “job” of giving them a quarter-inch hole.

It also helps you understand why customers “fire” one product and move on to another.

CX Mapping

CX mapping is a visual representation of the relationship your customers have with you and your product and how they move from acquisition to value realization to growth and expansion.

“We just needed more leads.”

Over their years of developing the CLG framework, Gia and Claire have had many clients tell them that they only needed more leads. Everything would be fine if they could just get more leads.

And, sure, “more leads” is a great goal if the “more leads” you’re attracting are your best-fit customers. And if you have a way to keep those best-fit customers.

But, as Gia says, “there’s no point in driving more leads if you’re leaving money on the table post-acquisition.”

Instead of “more leads,” what businesses really need is a deeper, better understanding of their customers and their needs.

Who is Customer-Led Growth for?

While CLG is most often used by SaaS businesses and works really well for them, it can work for any business. If you’re…

  • Considering a rebrand
  • Have an established and loyal customer base
  • Experiencing a lot of churn
  • Considering a shift toward a freemium product
  • Thinking about product expansion
  • Want to break into a new market
  • …and more

Customer-led growth can help.

Help your customers achieve value faster

What could your business do if everyone was on the same page about what your customers need? If data was available to everyone on your team (and they were expected to look at it and understand it)? If customer feedback was shared with the entire company?

I already know what your business could do because I’ve seen it happen. Better retention. Better positioning. Better roadmaps. Better messaging.

“Gaining clarity on — and operationalizing how — our best customers received value, and achieved their goals, led us to reach ours.

— Gia Laudi

And the most important thing? Your customers get value faster.

All of this is why I decided to become a certified Customer-Led Growth consultant. And why I trusted Forget the Funnel’s approach to CLG and the certification process.

Customer-Led Growth vs. Product-Led Growth

Okay, despite what the headline implies, CLG and product-led growth (PLG) aren’t really at odds with each other. If your business embraces PLG, you can still use CLG. If you’re enterprise-first, you can still use CLG. If you’re sales-led or marketing-led, you can still use customer-led growth.

Wild, right?

It’s almost as if any business could benefit from customer-led growth. What a surprise.

How Customer-Led Growth supports Product-Led and Anything-Else-Led Growth

PLG relies on products to scale. The products bring in users that turn into paying customers. PLG tends to rely on new features or new integrations to drive growth, which is incredibly taxing on development and engineering teams.

With customer-led growth, these PLG companies have the opportunity to learn more about their users, how they use the product and its features, how they can keep more of those users, and how the business can grow its user base effectively. Plus, they can find ways to do it without placing more work on an already-taxed product team or forcing the product team to shift focus and resources.

Customer-led growth helps PLG businesses find the right place to focus their development efforts and informs go-to-market decisions while improving the current customer experience and reducing churn through better onboarding and product adoption.

These benefits are available no matter what business model your company uses. Sales-led growth and marketing-led growth businesses can use CLG to reduce friction, improve product-market fit, shorten sales cycles, boost conversions, and more through scalable product walkthroughs, test environments, identifying product gaps, etc.

Are you ready to find and connect with your best-fit customers?

As a certified Customer-Led Growth consultant and conversion copywriter, I use CLG to help you do more than just uncover the gaps in your growth strategy — I help you bridge them. Schedule an intro session and let’s talk!

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