What Wistia’s Product-Led Onboarding Can Teach us About PLG


This Product-Led Growth study refers to techniques that were in effect during the summer period of 2018. There is a case that some of those tactics may no longer be part of Wistia’s product-led onboarding strategy.  We would like to give special credits to the team members, who contributed to our Product-Led Growth research and shared with us their best practices on Product-Led Growth and onboarding.

What is Product-Led Onboarding?

In case you are not aware of the term, Product-Led onboarding (PLO) ™  is a set of data-driven product engagements that consider users’ behavioral notions and proficiency.

As a strategy, it avoids random feature introduction to users. Instead, it exploits historic data and considers users’ proficiency levels when exploring a product for the first time.  Contextual guidance substitutes its main pillar and enables organizations to double down on product experience and users’ workflow early on.

The term was coined by ReinventGrowth in the research publication The State of Product-Led Growth in April 2019.

This study is part of a series analyzing how Product-Led onboarding aspects are already deployed by SaaS organizations. And while there is not a standardized recipe leading to PLG, we strongly believe that the industry is all the more capitalizing the strengths of product experience. In Wistia’s case, those levers incorporate a concerted focus on activation practices, capitalizing on customer feedback and sustaining internal alignment across product-led onboarding activations.


In case you invest in video practices within your marketing and sales strategy, there is no chance that you haven’t stumbled upon the Wistia brand at some point. Serving over 300,000 customers globally, Wistia is rightfully among the leaders in the video services industry. Its product-led mission entails the delivery of customer-centric experiences and products that are simple and elegant to use.

Product-Led Onboarding ownership

One of the characteristics making Wistia’s product-led onboarding unique is the fact that ownership is dispersed across Marketing, Customer Success and Product Management and the team is compiled by executives with different competencies like a Customer Success Manager, marketing manager, product growth manager, product designer, UX researcher, and an engineer.

The onboarding team monitors user experience to understand if any bottlenecks prevent users from realizing value and assess product experience to understand the patterns behind. After the necessary conclusions are drawn, multiple experiments are being conducted to improve underperforming areas and deliver an iterative approach rather than overhauling product experience from scratch.

<img src="product-led-onboarding-team-1.png " alt="product-led onboarding team"/>

The Former Onboarding Strategy

Even before Product-Led Growth was a thing, Wistia’s user onboarding was focused on activation and eliminating time-to-value while seamlessly delivering value to users via a range of product engagements.

One of the challenges the former product onboarding approach entailed was that users did not have any kind of “control” in the process. In case the product tour was dismissed, there was no way to reactivate the product onboarding process. In addition,  users’ behavior differed significantly since some of them capitalized product engagements prior to reading any documentation while others navigated first to the Help Center.

The JTBD framework

In order to overcome that bottleneck, the team created a new product onboarding checklist helping users get started that also gave them some sense of control since they control the product tour per their preference. Something that increased engagement levels.

Even that alteration though, did yield the results the onboarding team was looking forward to since the ultimate goal was to deliver a tailored product onboarding flow fitting the needs of each user role. The first step to achieve this differentiation was taken with the conduction of a JTBD survey which asked users’ intention upon sign up.

<img src="product-led-onboarding-jtbd-1.png " alt="product-led onboarding jtbd"/>

For example, a marketer is more interested in exploring different things on the platform from a videographer. Eventually, the onboarding team asked users’ goals and delivered a different experience, by customizing the product onboarding checklist based on the answers collected on sign-up.

At the same time the communication channels, email onboarding flows, and sales strategy were following the same logic in order for internal alignment to be achieved and customer experience to be sustained. All those changes resulted in users getting value based on the survey’s results versus what the onboarding team thought it was necessary to show them.

Delivering a Product-Led Growth strategy

Being part of an industry that serves thousands of users, Wistia delivers a freemium model as part of its acquisition strategy. The plethora of sign-ups forces marketing and customer-facing teams to acknowledge beforehand the prospective organizations’ characteristics.

For that to be achieved enrichment services, are being used to evaluate the corporate domains the accounts are assigned on, along with those businesses’ objectives and size. Furthermore, the marketing team pays attention to the tools any prospective organization employs, by looking at the website tags and scripts installed. So based on that criteria, if a 500 company signs up, customer-facing teams are alerted to present their availability.

That being said both Sales and Customer Success present both onboarding options and don’t push buyers to be onboarded with the help of a CSM, in case they are in favor of self-serving their way into the product.

<img src="product-led-growth.png " alt="product-led growth"/>

Optimizing Product-Led Onboarding with in-product segmentation

Wistia’s success and wide adoption are a direct outcome of research and customer feedback which define every single aspect of user experience. After the onboarding team delivered the JTBD survey, it realized that its responses described users’ needs in different ways, but for the most part there were a lot of commonalities and trends.

The next step was to bucket those responses in six different categories, which ended up being the options presented upon sign-up. Eventually, the survey’s results not only optimized in-product segmentation but, as with Hubspot’s case, also uncovered the language-market fit and users’ goals are now described in ways they speak with their peers.

The team also capitalizes back-end enriching but for the most part, the automation taking off is based on the aforementioned question’s results. From there onwards many specifications like if the email used is from a free or corporate domain, or from a specific geographical area, route users in separate user onboarding flows.

Product-Led Growth Marketing

In regards to GTM positioning, the marketing team monitors the patterns behind conversions, which are mostly based on high-level trends and acknowledges that certain online behaviors indicate that some sign-ups are more valuable than others. If, for example, a prospect is looking at more pages or if there is social media engagement.

All in all, there are a number of brand interactions that end up being a tipping point internally. Something that remains interesting but not super actionable per se, as marketing always considers in-product behavior to find hidden trends and optimize the marketing strategy off of them.

Product-Led Growth Factor: Activation

Being an organization that its DNA is ingrained into Product-Led Growth, it resonates that Wistia’s North Star metric is activation – and that the onboarding team constantly conducts experiments to increase its levels.

One of the ways this is achieved is by capitalizing video practices into the core product. During our research, there were two different ways users could be onboarded:

  1. By having users uploading their own videos.
  2. By borrowing a video Wistia provided.

The latter option was presented to further allow users to explore product features before uploading any video and in an attempt to eliminate time-to-value in case the user did not have a video at hand.

<img src="product-led-growth-activation.png " alt="product-led growth activation"/>

Despite the fact that initially, the video did not showcase Wistia’s functionalities, product data revealed that users seemed to enjoy a lot that initiative and played it all the way through. So, the onboarding team doubled down on that approach and changed the video by turning it into a product tour. The experiment worked pretty well since activation levels were increased by 15-20%.

In regards to below the funnel activations, any Product-Led Onboarding strategy’s initial goal is the user to experience value on his own terms and retention in Wistia is associated exactly with that. Making users experience this value over and over again.

This is why the customer-facing teams reassure that every single touchpoint is friendly and approachable and product developments directly reflect customers’ evolving needs. Internally, a successful activation and retention strategy starts before users even create a new account by showing them that the team is made from people just like them, showcasing use cases that reflect on their needs and make them coincide with the brand’s personality.

Product-Led Onboarding for the Enterprise

Wistia’s Product-Led Onboarding strategy may differentiate when high-velocity customers come into play but the process is again favoring users’ needs. No matter the customer segment the product-led onboarding strategy aims to enable users explore the product by following their own pace.

<img src="product-led-onboarding-enterprise.png " alt="product-led onboarding for the enterprise"/>

Originally, Wistia did not employ a sales team as it is a strong believer in having the product doing the heavy lifting.  But, due to multiple requests from big organizations a team has to be created and help customers, for which their onboarding may also incorporate human assistance (video migration from competitive solutions or guidance in regards to their video strategy).

The Product-Led Onboarding mission

For the CS team internally, Product-Led onboarding incorporates the idea of partnering with customers and building a business relationship that has as a point of reference the value derived from the product itself.

It is important for the team to reassure that customers are aware that the CSM will embark on this journey with them and act as a member of their team. A member who will be using the product by considering users’ daily workflows, and can answer on how its capabilities are meant to empower them.

The customer success team acknowledges that in-product engagements, the solution’s experiential layers, are truly effective when users desire to learn the product on their own. But in the end, those techniques can’t answer the discovery questions following the enterprise and mid-market organizations. In addition, they don’t offer the capability on both sides to understand which stakeholders need to be involved throughout the onboarding process.

The Product-Led Onboarding Challenge

For the Customer Success team, it is imperative to reassure that the customer journey and onboarding touchpoints are mapped, in order to be held accountable and then pass this responsibility to the customer’s team moving forward.

The product-led onboarding challenge lies again on the difficulty high trajectory customers face when it is required to alter their workflow. In order for Customer Success to effectively deal with that, it invested heavily in an education process,  that reflects both on buyers’ and end-users’ needs.

The team constantly thinks about new means of communication with end-users, and how they need to differentiate from those used with buyers. At the same time, the CS team equips stakeholders with the required tools in order for their team to adopt Wistia’s products easier and hold them accountable for their involvement.

The Product-Led Onboarding Timeline

The onboarding process starts with a kickoff call where the key touchpoints along with the onboarding timeline are set. The onboarding period’s length is mostly dependent on customers’ goals and use cases. The CSMs role is not limited to just consulting on best practices but also driving customer’s teams in the right direction, by being transparent about existing pain points their strategy entails.

It is imperative for the Customer Success team to be upfront whenever it needs help from customers’ teams and stakeholders. And in fear of making the onboarding process sound an even more complicated task, CS needs to also pass the message that the customer’s organization needs to work for the whole procedure to be successful.  

Assessing users proficiency levels

Another factor affecting the onboarding timeline is end-users proficiency levels. Wistia is an intuitive product, with which users can familiarize themselves within a matter of days. But the learning curve period and the value derived during the adoption process, are not 100% standardized.

This is why the educational material delivered have the following characteristics:

  1. Are conditioned to meet end-users’ needs
  2. Consider users’ familiarity with products’ capabilities beforehand.
  3. Capitalize on context of usage (when, how and how often the product is being used) to make Wistia’s products part of users existing workflow

There are cases where customers have adopted the Wistia products because they’ve been big consumers of its content for years, while others don’t really know the extent of their capabilities at all.

<img src="product-led-growth-education.png " alt="product-led growth education levels"/>

Embracing Product-Led Growth

As a product-led organization that serves thousands of users, Wistia is ingrained into collecting and assessing all kinds of customer feedback. Its forms may vary from customer feedback and new feature releases to multiple requests concerning UX changes.

<img src="product-led-growth-strategy.png " alt="product-led growth strategy"/>

Delivering Product-Led developments

Wistia’s portfolio incorporates two products that serve SMB organizations, which their sales and marketing teams are looking forward to growing with video practices. For the video marketing platform, the main target is marketers.

In the past, the marketing team tried to attract other personas too since video applies to many different departments within an organization. Eventually, that approach did not yield the expected results since both marketing and product realized that marketers have vastly different needs from sales executives focused on the sales funnel and conversions.

Eventually, the product team doubled down on that feedback and a new product, Soapbox, was created to exclusively serve sales professionals. A product that since its inception, follows the success of the core offering.  This fact alone proves that product developments, solely driven by customer feedback, are the major advantage product-led organizations can capitalize on.

Making feedback collection an intentional effort

The customer success team has close-knit with product management and is essentially the first line of defense, filtering if whether or not those requests should move forward or not. Wistia has taken a strategic stance on being a product-led organization focusing highly on products’ mission. Thus, any feature release should both align products’ philosophy and apply to the majority of its user base.

The service’s very vocal customer base is feeling comfortable to share constructive feedback at any time. Internal teams employ NPS surveys assessing users’ satisfaction from the day they sign-up down to six months of usage. Feedback is also collected via the support team. Every ticket users submit is followed up with a related survey assessing the service provided and if their request was met.

In addition, the customer insights teams implement multiple actions like assessing customer satisfaction, gathering active feedback, conducting customer interviews, and putting customers in beta environments to test new releases.

Product-Led User Experience (UX)

When it comes to UX development requests, the required feedback is received from support tickets, categorized and segmented to the topic they concern. So, whenever the product team explores current issues or wants to launch a new feature release or UI change all associated tickets would be examined to realize if there are signs supporting what is currently under development.

Another factor affecting directly UX changes are customers joining beta environments and receive communication and product updates. The customer success team identifies the accounts that need to be involved in those environments while later on, the product team examines higher-level criteria like the amount of usage per key feature.

Key Takeaways

Reaching the desired Product-Led Growth levels is not something achieved overnight. It needs internal alignment, intentional effort and wrapping every tactic around the product itself.

Wistia knows that and this is why it has made Product-Led Onboarding, the direct driver of its PLG levels by considering users’ needs and delivering customer-centric experiences that will make them keep coming back for more.

Even beyond that Wistia acknowledges that segmenting user experience per product-qualified lead only aligns with the plethora of use cases the product is used for. This is also why ongoing user research and investment in exquisite product resources are the pillars following its success and wide adoption.

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Despina Exadaktylou

Despina Exadaktylou

Founding member & Director of Programs Product-Led Growth Hub, World's 1st PLG Academy

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