The Whiteboard

What is Product-Led Growth…and Why Does it Matter?

When VMware got its start, we hit the ground running. Technologists loved our first-generation desktop virtualization product. Word of mouth sparked explosive growth. We disrupted the industry.

Why? Because VMware Workstation was an amazing innovation. You got the product, and you could quickly and easily stand up a virtual machine (VM). You did not have to read a white paper or go through a tutorial to get started. It just worked. And it put us on the map. By 2002 — just four years after our initial release — we achieved our first $1M in bookings (which was a lot for a startup in those days!).

Fast forward 20 years to today. The scope and complexity of our mission, our products, and our services have vastly expanded. VMware is no longer just a desktop virtualization company. We have become a leading provider of multi-cloud services for all apps, enabling digital innovation with enterprise control. We are also heavily invested in research, machine learning, high-performance computing, sustainable technology, and blockchain.

What a difference a couple of decades can make!

Recently, in a keynote I delivered to thousands of VMware employees at our annual internal R&D offsite, I asked everyone to make a commitment to recapturing the essence of what we gave our customers back in the early days — ease of use and quick time to value — but updated for today’s multi-cloud world.  

This is the cornerstone of product-led growth, which Wes Bush, founder of ProductLed and author of “Product-Led Growth: How to Build a Product That Sells Itself,” defines as “using your product as the main vehicle to acquire, activate, and retain customers.” The goal is to create products that are so intuitive and deliver so much value that you don’t need to read a lengthy whitepaper or go through tutorials to use them. They should help customers accomplish their goals quickly, with minimum friction.

How is this done? By becoming obsessed with telemetry and leveraging analytics to understand how real people use our products in their daily work (and where they get stuck!). Everyone at VMware wants our products to be exciting, useful, and engaging. We want onboarding to be as easy as possible. We need to remember to always challenge ourselves to retain this mindset and to design, build, release, and iterate on our offerings with customer feedback in mind.

So, let’s start now. I invite you to share your thoughts with me in the comments.




2 comments have been added so far

  1. Nice “food for thought” .Thanks.

    Creating an engaging, intuitive experience for our end-customer, while solving the problem customer has at hand comes with deep understanding of customer persona. Experienced this with the products that i love to use on a day-to-day basis, at times they know my motivation to come to their platform, so deeply & solve it so precisely, amazes me !

  2. Hi Kit,
    Products are great but only part of the customer experience, procurement, ordering, activation, updates, billing and other processes are equally important to the customer. Customer obsession must include these elements as well because they can define the experience with products.

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