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ClickUp’s Product-Led Growth Strategy

Product-led growth is a hot and trending topic these days – but actually implementing it looks a little different for every company. That’s why I love talking to people from PLG companies and digging into the details – how are they doing it, and what’s working well for them? 

I had the pleasure of talking to Michael Revelo and James Labastida from the Growth team at ClickUp about their experiences working in one of the coolest product-led companies today. Here are my key takeaways from our chat. 

What ClickUp Does 

ClickUp is the ultimate productivity tool, created because the founders noticed that there were just way too many places work was getting done. They built ClickUp to combine everything teams need in a single, seamlessly integrated place so work gets done faster. 

ClickUp was founded in San Diego in 2017 and really started scaling up during Covid. The founders and early stage teams were obsessed with building a product that worked for themselves to begin. They worked to release features faster than most of their competitors could deliver, but also grew by leaning into community-led growth. That focus on speed, function, and community have all been a very organic part of the culture at ClickUp. 

They also deliberately focused on creating a truly customer-centric culture by leading with the value provided to customers by the product, instead of monetization. Money was always their lagging indicator. 

Instead they obsessed over the customer experience – for example, when they started, they chose to build a sales engineering team instead of a sales team, and then decided to build customer success before sales as well. All this led to a compounding snowball, which was a combination of PLG and community-led growth that just keeps getting bigger. 

Forget the Funnel 

To grow as quickly as they have, ClickUp decided not to focus on the traditional sales and marketing funnels, but on growth loops instead. This involved identifying lead indicators to customer success like onboarding, activation rates, and understanding key personas within their activation strategy. 

They opted not to drive just user numbers because while the metrics look good, many of those users aren’t really seeing value, which is bad for retention. And retention is everything in PLG. 

Instead, they have used an interesting mix of methods to create their growth – word-of-mouth referrals are key, especially on niche social sites, as well as off-line marketing like their billboards and airport ads. Yes, they’re a B2B company but they know that with PLG, their growth often comes from individual users within an organization who sign up, so they also use some B2C techniques to increase brand awareness and identity. 

Community-Led Growth

Both Michael and James talk a lot about the importance of community-led growth. Their team has been taking huge bets in this area that have paid off a lot. 

A cool example? Their Zoom backgrounds – when we chatted, it looked like they were at a rave. When Covid hit, everything moved online, so prioritizing memorable digital experiences became a priority. 

While it’s hard to quantify the impact of these kinds of experiences, the growth of ClickUp definitely indicates it’s working. They’re also trying to do things like make informative but relatable YouTube videos and other authentic content that combines with their offline marketing to drive more awareness. 

And they do some organic approaches to partner with product evangelists like people who have made really cool ClickUp pages on their own. Right now they’re just tapping the surface of unlocking these champions and still figuring it out, but they’re excited about where it will lead. 

Social media is one potential way to go, but it needs to be approached carefully. Don’t just hop down the rabbit hole and start throwing money at influencers to promote your product because that can actually turn into a negative brand experience for everyone involved. 

Currently, Michael and James are working to learn how they can outsource more support tasks to the community and help them create more resources to share, so they can focus time and money on reaching more people. One intriguing channel they’ve found is Discord, because people trust other people on there. These are markets they want to tap into but haven’t figured out the right move just yet – they need to scope that out more but it’s on the roadmap for the future. 

Hybrid Product-Led Growth Motions 

The growth engineering team at ClickUp has a really strong background, so James and Michael have found it easy for the team to leverage different technologies to create the segmented playlists they need to nail down the normal range of go-to-market motions. 

Primarily, they’re focused on expansion over acquisition. That’s why aligning sales and customer success is really important for them. 

So is a product-led CRM – it gives the structure and data needed to support that hybrid model. The data is especially essential to successful PLG, like tracking product thresholds such as the number of users someone has invited to the product or other triggers that cause that stickiness that leads to retention and growth. 

James and Michael have gone through all kinds of indicators that will help their expansion efforts and every time, they go back to the product adoption data – it’s always the most informative and effective. 

I loved their final point – if you’re going to be a modern-day SaaS company, your data infrastructure needs to be on point. Don’t just warehouse all the data you’re gathering from your product and stop siloing it – put it to use! 


Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash